Early start in the dark, & I am now waiting for Cathy to tow the quad to the village. The animals are picked out by the quad headlights, and all seems well. Holly is still nesting in the shed and Moira is looking broody but as usual is staying quiet in the background, as if having no horns has dicatated her position in life.
The day grows revealing a clear morning with a light frost and thin broken cloud; my day uncovers its tasks.
The village is disadvantaged by its location and topography from many services including major broadband suppliers, so we decided to use our mountains to advantage by broadcasting a signal from Kingussie, 10 miles away, to relay it round the village. A number of promontaries are now decorated with a tracery of scaffolding poles, dishes and small wind turbines for power. It works beautifully and now this community provider has the mapority of households dependant on it- all good unless..
It’s simple enough – properly sourced and specified- the only problem is that the sourcers and specifiers have not taken Highland weather into account. The recent gales first ripped the turbines apart, then fried the batteries. We only found out about the batteries once the turbines were fixed. Today is about replacing the batteries.
Once towed to the village, we load the quad with two batteries front and back and, while Al and Morag set off on foot through the glebeland behind the old Manse, I ease the machine up the angled track to the football pitch above the school, and skirt round to join them at the hill gate. I leave them behind now as we head for the new road zigzagging steeply up the Gaskbeg hill on the lower slopes of the Monadhliath Mountains. I nurse my load up the road and across the old peat cutting to the rock sporting its aluminium stubble of poles and cables.
Batteries offloaded, I stand watching the view. The valley floor is green and watery, the higher slopes pure white, but from this vantage I can appreciate the land in between, the middle ground. From here the valleys open out to the west towards Fort William and Skye; north west through the Corrieayrack pass, south to Drumochter pass and the finally the wide strath of the river Spey draining peaty water towards the whisky country to the east. Closeby, small valleys appear of the middle slopes, hidden and dramatic suggesting roads and floods, glacial thoroughfares hidden from the daily traffic of the valley below-
– and we are here with communications technology, and cold fingers.