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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Golf from the Grass Roots

Over the past year Nigel and I have undergone an amazing (or so it seems to us) change. Instead of being somewhat daunted by the responsibility of running a golf course, we find we love it.

Lochranza Golf Course has its assets that are also its challenges. It’s dominated by huge shoulders of mountain in three directions, and in the fourth opens out to the castle and the sea. Sometimes the sea floods in at the lower end of the course, leaving tide lines of debris. The golf course grass is irresistible to red deer who make mud baths, not to mention droppings that have to be swept up. Until May, the lease is shared with hill sheep and as I write this, little black-faced lambs are appearing everywhere.

What then has brought about the change in us? Of course when you find yourself in the deep end it takes a while to start swimming, but I think it’s got more to do with that, by working with it, we are getting to know every corner of the course intimately, as well as the trees and plants, birds, animals and insects it supports. It’s satisfying and rewarding work; you can see progress when you’ve cleared a ditch or shaped a fairway to make it pleasing to the eye and an enhancement to a good game of golf. Now when I look at golf courses I see the skill of green keepers.

So, although we’ve been here a year, working on a golf course is still a bit amazing to Nigel and me. It wasn’t part of our career and lifestyle change wish lists, but all I can say now, with the benefit of a little experience is, if you love the outdoors and the land, I’d strongly recommend it.

Replacing a dated and crumbling bunker with a more natural looking turfed hollow.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Och, it’s nothin’

This is my favourite saying in Scotland. I have now heard it said many times. Just when it’s raining so hard you think it can’t get any harder- but it does- if you complain about the weather to a Scot you’ll be told: “Och, this is nothin’ ”. It’s a big tribute to Scottish resilience. This week I remarked on the number of trees that blew down in the gales of early February. Apparently, this was nothin’ compared to most winters. Question is: is it a comforting statement or not?

After the dazzle and glitter of snowy December, we have experienced a succession of Atlantic depressions in February. The air is filled with the sound of water rushing down steep hillsides. Otherwise, the only noise you hear is an occasional car shifting gear up the Boguillie Road. The north of Arran exploded into being as a volcano way back in geological time, reacting to the fateful collision of Scotland and England on their slow paths from opposite ends of the world. The steep hillsides are a reminder of the island’s dramatic beginnings.

At the campsite, we’ve been painting everything that doesn’t move ready for March 1st opening. We’ve had lots of bird visitors in the meantime. Today’s callers have been a buzzard, a treecreeper, a dipper, a wood pecker, a heron and a curlew (helpfully aerating the grass).

Rino and Val are busy moving into the Stags Pavilion cafĂ© next door. We are looking forward to seeing what’s on the menu in 2011.

Signs of spring: the burn behind the campsite

Last day of February: here comes the sun!