Who would have thought that building a simple fence would be such a pain? The amount of fiddling and messing around that takes place is quite out of proportion to what a reasonable person might expect.
Today, I have been digging strainers, cutting stells and lining up stobs for an area of heather around the size of a tennis court. Along with a couple of friends, I installed one eight foot straining post, eight six foot stells and forty two five foot stobs, and while I must admit that it was very satisfying to see the foundations for what will become my “heather laboratory” coming together, the fact that it took us four hours now seems incredible.
The entire problem arose from the fact that the strength of a fence lies largely in the straight deliniation of its stobs, and it turns out that my friend Richard is extremely picky when it comes to building. Stobs were removed from soft spots to be placed above massive stones which then had to be excavated, and the entire project took on the air of a military operation. I found myself looking at him to check each stob as I hammered it in so that he could give it a seal of approval. It seemed petty at the time, but when the galloway cows are released onto the moor in May, the fence will need all the strength it can get. The entire structure now awaits the arrival of some barbed wire and sheep netting (which I don’t suppose performs the same function as strawberry netting does for strawberries), and then it will be complete.
My “heather laboratory” is not expected to make much of a difference to the grouse on the Chayne, but it will show me how much damage the sheep are doing to the undergrowth, give me a chance to experiment with different varieties of heather and provide me with one of a few places to plant a scots pine tree.
On the long drive back to the farmhouse, we spotted a fine roe buck. It was feeding on the treeline seven hundred yards away as the sun set, and I watched it through Richard’s binoculars. As I looked, a huge white shape seemed to rise out of the moorland in the foreground. Adjusting the binoculars, I saw that it was a male hen harrier, sweeping at low level across the rushed field. Just when you think that you’ve had a satisfactory day on the Chayne, you are rewarded by priceless appearances from some of Britain’s most spectacular and beautiful wild animals.
I made a note of where I saw the buck…