History of the Highlands, Living with Nature, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

The Drowned Land

New Year’s day is almost balmy- I have worse barbeque nights at the height of summer. I feed the animals first thing wearing neither hat nor gloves. The cattle feel a spring lightness: Holly and Alice are cavorting round the yard, playing tag like month old calves.
I take a holiday, walking the Nog up the hill in the middle of the day. The sky has patches of blue with drifts of cloud blowing in on a faint easterly. My neighbour is taking advantage of the calm to tidy some windblown trees, burning the brash. The smoke rises in a thick pungent column, turning gently to glide towards us. It catches in the throat even at the top of the monument mound where I stand to look down on the farm.
Water is in the air, gleams from low fields and ditches. Badenoch is starting to justify its name – the Drowned Land. The valley floor was drained and improved with ditches and banks. Many acres of barley were harvested when I was a lad. There is no arable now within the parish: the grey partridge has gone with the grain, and the trout have left the silting river. The land is reverting to its natural state, one of browns more than greens.
Uvie is different. My soil is light and stony, combed by granite teeth from the glaciers grinding over them. Only the Aspens has the heavier waterlogged soil dominating this view, the other fields look green and dry from where I stand beside the obelisk. I have come calling on Sarah Justina Macpherson, whose stone proclaims her residence here ‘upwards of fifty years’ ending with her death in 1883. I look over the houses to the wooded ridge that borders my view on the farm. Larger horizons open as the mountains appear behind this ridge, first patched with snow and then rising to unbroken white that merges into cloud.
Later this winter the slope will run with water filling the wells and burns for the summers ahead, but not today. The Nog and I feel something of a heifer’s lightness as we drop down to our familiar habitat.

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