I was very interested to see some old gamebooks from a sportsman who plied his trade across Galloway between 1911 and 1937. The books are now in the possession of one of his descendents who has a farm near the Chayne, and it was fascinating to see the story of sporting life in the south west of Scotland a century ago. Not only are there staggering columns which list double (and in one case treble) figure days on black grouse within a few short miles of the family farm, but they also reveal another unexpected absence. On a day’s shooting during the 1920s, four blue hares were added to the bag on a farm that shares a boundary with the Chayne. I assumed that it must be a mistake, but the following year on the same piece of ground, another four blue hares were joined by three brown hares. This was clearly no error.
The implication I can draw from this discovery is that, because the property runs uphill into the Chayne, it is almost certain that there were blue hares on my ground within the last ninety years. Nowadays, the nearest blue hares are probably ten miles away, and those are few and far between. It is a sorry state of affairs when you gradually come to terms with how much has been lost and how quickly. I have a habit of blaming commercial forestry for a great deal of the southern uplands’ woes, but I can’t help feeling justified in a belief that sitka spruces have played a part in the fragmentation of hare habitat. The neighbouring property where the hares and blackgame were shot during the twenties is now under its second generation of commercial woodland, and the whole farm has been growing trees for the past fifty years. That is not to say that there were still hares on the place when the ploughs came, but it certainly does mean that they won’t be back now.