Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Army Camps and Squirrels

This is my first blog so you will excuse me if I ramble. I know it’s supposed to be about short breaks, and just for the record we still have a couple available this year in the Bobbin Mill at the beginning of December if anyone’s interested. Phone me up or email me if you are. I did just want to blether (good Highland word) on about the place I live because I think that………

………Comrie is truly an extraordinary place. Not only is it very pretty and in fabulous scenery, with good shops and lovely people, but it has an overwhelming sense of community found rarely in our land.

We’ve had a busy weekend in the village. Our Bobbin Mill guests had booked early as usual - they usually have the same weekend every year. Our visitors were a wonderful group of women who come at least once a year and sometimes twice, for a weekend of song and fun. They're part of a singing group and use the Mill as a place to meet up and chill out. This time they brought 7 month old twins, as one member has had a production (as they say), and they added dandling babies to their activities.

Their weekend happened to coincide with the open day at Cultybraggan. To explain:

Recently, our village through the Comrie Development Trust has exercised a right to buy under new legislation brought in by the Scottish Government. Since September, we as a village are the proud owners of Cultybraggan Army Camp which until a year or two ago was used by the Ministry of Defence as a training camp. It was declared redundant and put on the market, at which point the Development Trust managed to jump through the many and varied hoops of the legislation and bought it on the community's behalf.

There have been ongoing consultations with the community about what uses to put it to and the result is that it will be used to fulfil various village needs with an emphasis on renewables. Already there are plans for allotment areas, sports facilities, energy generation, builder’s storage etc, and some sort of heritage area which will show the history of the camp and its connection to the village - for example, Rudolph Hess was imprisoned there at the end of the 2nd world war. The land comprises 90 acres, and incorporates a large number of Nissan huts some of which are listed, and also a 2 story underground nuclear bunker. The possibilities are endless and enabled by the far sighted laws brought in by the (then) Scottish Executive. Considering land prices in this area, Cultybraggan was a bargain at £350,000 for the whole caboodle. There are plenty houses in the village selling for more.

So, lots of people came to the camp via the Comrie Community Bus which shuttled backwards and forwards, to walk around, examine their property and take part in the various activities laid on.

The road ahead will certainly have its bumpy times and may not always be straightforward, but we as a community all now have the most extraordinary opportunity to do something really special for this beautiful place that we live in. And in the process, we can foster this wonderful thing we have here, this community spirit. Do you know, there are more than 55 active community groups here, in a village with a population of less than 2000?

In addition to the Cultybraggan event on Saturday, we had a lovely craft fair in the White Church which is our community Centre. There were all kinds of beautiful things from hand made papier-mâché bowls to beautiful candles, jewellery, paintings photography etc. The Bobbin Mill guests told me they did really well on the Christmas shopping front.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also had some live music on Saturday evening provided by the Annie Grace Trio. Annie is a regular to Comrie (we have very vibrant music scene in the village) and she played a blinder on Saturday night to a full house. She is very well known on the traditional music scene (Google her or look on myspace) and she was playing on this occasion with Jonny Hardie and Aaron Jones both of the Old Blind Dogs. Annie’s music is evocative, compelling and compulsive and combines blues and jazz tinged traditional songs with a huge repertoire of instrumental tunes. It was a fun and footstompin’ night full of laughter and fun!

So that was our Saturday. And on Sunday we played avoid the squirrel which is becoming a regular game. We have acquired a kamikaze red squirrel that lives about 100 yards from the Bobbin Mill. He waits till a car is coming and he hightails it across the road in front of it, giving the driver a heart attack. Squashing a grey would be one thing, but a red….?. I think he’s an adrenalin junkie squirrel. I have managed to avoid him so far. I hope he hibernates soon.

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