At last it is finished! Three days work culminated this morning after the installation of one final strand of barbed wire. In theory, I now have a little under a quarter acre of stock proofed heather, defended from the marauding sheep and cows by an impenetrable grid of rylock sheep netting and heavy gauge barb. The grouse should have paired up and chosen their territories by now and this forgotten corner of their former domain will probably not be much use to them for a few years, but with a little area of heather to call my own, I can start to experiment with low growing moorland plants like heather, bilberry, mountain thyme and bog myrtle.
Speaking to the neighbouring farmer about black grouse a few months ago, he encouraged me by telling me that there were still one or two about on his farm as well. As an example, he told me how an adult cock bird had been found decapitated after flying into a stock fence around a new plantation of trees a mile or so up the valley. I have read that black grouse and capercaillie regularly do commit suicide by flying into new fences, and I am determined not to allow that to happen on the Chayne. Any bird flying at forty miles an hour just inches from the ground is always going to run the risk of crashing into an unexpected obstacle, and although I don’t anticipate heavy black grouse losses on my new fence, I would never forgive myself if I went back to visit in a few days and found a dead bird lying at the bottom of the wires.
To make the fence line visible, I cut an abandoned and moth-eaten kilt into two dozen eighteen inch long strips of blue tartan fabric. Dividing them up, I then tied one end of a strip to the barb and the other to the wire so that the obstacle is now well marked. The fabric flickers and rustles in the icy wind, but I hope that the birds and wildlife will soon get used to it.
As the spring comes on, I will start to plant out various specimens in the enclosure, and with this first task completed, I can relax for a while. I did notice, however that I now have sixty yards of sheep netting and a hundred of barbed wire left spare. Could these be the foundations for a new juniper wood in black grouse country?