Low Airie, Glenkens – 5/4/20
It’s no small job to resurrect the boundaries around Low Airie. It’s taken me a month to repair a mile of drystane dyke, and now I pause to consider the prospect of restoring almost a mile and a half of tired old fence which runs along the top end of the moor. Most of this fence has completely collapsed, and the busted remains are almost useless to me. Many of the fenceposts can be repurposed, but this was a seven strand plain wire fence, and the wire itself has spooled and fragmented into crazy rotten curls which spring around in the grass like fighting snakes. Long stretches are badly overgrown by bracken and willow scrub, and you often need to look very carefully to see where the fence used to be. It’s a nightmare, and I must confess that I am daunted by the sheer enormity of it.
Then there are cundies and watergates to consider – not only has the fence collapsed, but the old wooden infrastructure has simply mouldered away into thin air. There are no pretty slats or rails to mark the burns and bogs which lie across the fenceline, and I will have to rebuild everything from scratch. Perhaps this sounds like a complaint, but I do like this work. It’s hard and steady, and it’s very satisfying to do it well when you turn and look back upon laser-straight wires beaming across the landscape.
I’ve opted to make the best of what is already on site, strengthening it with a single line of barbed wire and an electric strand above it. That amounts to just over three miles of wire which needs to be cleared, strained, fastened and pinned into position. The electric wire has to be insulated and protected from twigs and branches, so I have been working the chainsaw and hauling down great arms of willow and birch to clear the way.
I’m reminded how weak and idle I have become over the last few months spent lurking at my desk, and it’s humbling to discover that I can only work at this job for three or four hours before I am utterly spent and gasping. I’m told that the cost of handing this job to a contractor would run to almost ten thousand pounds, and given that I don’t receive any payments for this place, that is out of the question. It’s simply a matter of rolling up my sleeves and getting it done. I saved up some cash to see this job through, but a thousand pounds is quickly frittered away on posts, rails, wire and larch rails.
It is an ancient tradition to send cattle out on the hill at Mayday. That seems like an ambitious goal, but I’m determined to see it through. On the positive side, I can occasionally pause from my work to listen for blackgame displaying on the greens above me, and there is always some excitement or intrigue to recover in payment for a day spent in rough country.