Eulogy for a Wren

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His name was beetle seeker; spider’s bane –

He bore the seed of a bear in his breast

And brought scalding blood-rage to the brambles.


For at least one year he reigned

As the kernel of fury; scourge of the wailing bug.

Then he broke like thunder on a pane of glass

And was gone.


So run to the ants and the bellywalkers;

Find sightless mites and share this news!

Tell them how their fears are lighter now

To the tune of half an ounce.

Book Deal

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Having danced around the subject for more than a year, I can quietly announce that I signed a book deal yesterday with Birlinn, Scottish publishers based in Edinburgh. It has been an extremely long road to this point, and I would not be in this position without the help of loyal friends, supportive family and an excellent agent. I now have just over three weeks to finish the manuscript which has preoccupied me for so long – it sounds like a sudden rush, but I think this is within reach.

Needless to say, the book draws an enormous amount of inspiration from this blog, and the tale touches many of the issues I am so devoted to, from curlews and hill cattle to farming and the steady ebb of an ancient heritage. My only fear is that I should fail to do this broad and cinematic subject matter justice. Readers will know how much I depend upon this landscape, so now the pressure is on to celebrate a way of life that is rapidly fading into silence.

More on this to come, of course…

Catch Up

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There has been an unforgivable lull in the continuity of this blog. Perhaps it gave the impression that I have finally thrown in the towel with this project, although long term readers will know that I passed the point of no return a very long time ago.

The reality is that two months of silence have been driven by a crushing surfeit of work. First and foremost, I have moved from the Heather Trust to the Soil Association, working on a project to promote Farming with Nature across Scotland. This has been a grand upheaval in its own right, and I now work one day a week in Edinburgh. This simple change has been a staggering wake-up from a life of constant stillness, but now I have a new way to follow many of the hares which have been set running by this blog.

I have also been drawing the threads together on a substantial writing project which I hope will come together in the next few weeks. This will be the product of more than a year in the slow cooker, and I am desperately excited to release it into the world. The idea has been mooted a few times on Working for Grouse, but now it really seems to be happening.

So perhaps I can be forgiven for letting this blog slide. I have a deluge of subject matter to catch up with, and perhaps it will never be written. Maybe it is more sensible to abandon all that has passed in the last eight weeks and work to keep up to date with new happenings. But I cannot resist a summary of mental images, for better or worse


The laughing bray of a dog fox over the rough grass. I cast him a line of torchlight, and he parries it; a pair of bright eyes blink over the silent frost.

Chevrons of wild geese in the darkness, paddling through pools of low cloud and peat smoke.

Mice skittering like children across the oat sheafs, which lie in stacks like buxom ladies in the dust of the loft.

Cattle stand in sleet with the ice falling from their curls in spiral beads. A warm pall of sweat and sweetly cudded fug hangs about them.

The tractor working the corn mill, and the bumpy rumble of heavy wheels on a clear day when yellow-eyed owls come to hunt the moss and drop face-first into the crackling grass.

A raging mink hemmed into a cage like a piece of bear. White fangs, a bristling mane  and a crackle and hiss like a wet pine fire.

That injured citrus glow of sunset over the farm, which spells nothing more than cold bones and frost to come.



Happy New Year.