Life at the end of the road

September 14, 2013

Just like old times :-)

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid, stonework — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:55 pm

It was with great joy that I saw young ‘Lightning MacLennan’ arrive home with the Dude last night, I’d primed my boy to expect a busy day on the hill hauling cable and he’s obviously spread the word. I’d spoke to my son at the hostel on Wednesday or Thursday night and filled him in on progress with the ‘Applecross Broadband Project’ and all my shenanigans on Wednesday with Wifey and MiL . Having much more sense than I he’d managed to find another pair of hands to help haul the second cable across the rock and heather.

Anyway, there was no holding us back this morning, or at least Lightening and I, my son had to be dragged out of bed once we’d fed the animals and I’d put the bacon on. It must have been the sunshine that had all the pigs and hens out even earlier than ourselves awaiting fed.

050  051

As I’d left the Honda up at North Arnish with the cable reel on its rear carrier I set off on foot leaving the boys with the Yamaha and enthusiasm to use it. Probably what had Lightning up here in the first place, proper ‘petrol head’ that boy Smile



Nothing like an early morning walk past the old garden and ruins at South Arnish after a bacon sandwich to set you up for the day. I was heading for the highest point on the horizon and very quickly regretting my salt laden ‘butty’, there isn’t much water once you get past the ruins of North Arnish.

I took the old path from South Arnish towards Torran, or at least I tried to,


deep grass and dew filled cobwebs making it impossible to find, and that’s by one who trod it daily for many years.


The boys took the regular route up ‘The Green’ or at least that’s what it used to be fifteen years ago, a green fertile slope rich in fungi at this time of year. Now it’s a tangle of bracken and scrub birch, kept clear only by my regular quad journeys to the North Arnish well.

  057  058

Once we were up past the ruins of ‘Donald’s barn’ and the old Post Office



we parked the quads ‘fore and aft’, heaved the 150kg roll of cable onto their carriers and lashed it on.

The plan was to haul out as much as was humanely possible before cutting it, then dragging the cut length up to the top of the hill which would support the mast. Support being rather a grand term and ‘on top’ not strictly true as it’s hoped to keep the 2x 600mm dishes below the skyline so they will in effect be invisible. Not that it bothers me a fig if they can be seen, however there are whole army of so called lovers of the country side that think any kind of development or infringement of ‘their’ view is a crime. It’s OK for them to have superfast broadband a road to their door or job in the toon, but just try building a house here near the sea or starting a fish farm and they’re down on you like a ‘ton of bricks’. Ruining the cultural, architectural and natural heritage and all that carp. Well if people can’t get jobs here or have decent lines of communication then we’ll all end up like North Arnish, Hallaig and most of South Arnish.

Anyway, where was I before I went ‘off on one’ Smile

062 063

well, I was atop a cliff some 80m from the quads, just by that rowan tree. The two boys were a good 150m or so further on dragging the cable through heather and over rock.

The cable is marked and we started off a 2770 and by the time we got to 2970 it was getting hard going, even when pulling wee bights then working them up the hill. So, when we reached the halfway mark I broke out the hacksaw, much to Simon, Brian and Alan’s disgust Smile


That left us with 250m and 75kg on the drum , well worth ‘bookmarking’ that link if you’re into crackpot schemes like this Smile


Just makes you wonder if there’d been a fish farm in the loch, a road to Arnish before Calum built one and a sensible fisheries policy if folk would still live here. Just look at the place, it’s beautiful, Dun Caan far left, the old Post Office left, a small barn to the right of the sycamore tree, Camilli’s green roofed croft and barn in the distance and behind that the blue roof membrane of our new hoose.

The lost camera (again)

With the cable chopped we set off once more on our trek, initially quite easily because we weren’t dragging anything. At around the 150m mark I stopped and let the two boys go ahead so we’d all be dragging just part of the cable and not the whole 250m. It was here that I put my camera down on a conspicuous rock, rain was unlikely to happen, it wasn’t going to get nicked and I was sick of carrying it.



The ‘HTC Wildfire’ that I’d wasted almost an hour trying to download a GPS App on would take pictures even if it wouldn’t tell me where I was. I know I’m rubbish in the IT department but Lightning and the boy tried too, it just kept freezing whilst I tried to install it. Now I’m not incompetent but my memory is pish so when Phil suggested plotting the co ordinates of the joints I was most impressed with the idea, so I’ll try again later and if still no joy I’ll just take the ‘Tom Tom’ out of the car Smile

Arriving at the bottom of the hill we needed to climb we were confronted by what is in effect almost a cliff, however at its base is a flat grassy area that we used to pull the cable up to before Molly and I scaled it.


The ‘wee dug’ had a knack for it and managed to pick out a safe route for me and the boys


and here we are on the top, the dish’s I reckon, or at least one of them can go just below the boy in red Smile



Facing the Aros ‘backhaul’ in Portree.


The Trotternish ridge.


045 046

Tying the end around a rock up there we headed back towards home and a late lunch, the boys had worked like Trojan’s and the progress beyond my expectations.

It was on the way back that I couldn’t find my camera!!! it had gone, no, I hadn’t forgotten where I’d put it, it must have been caught by the cable and dragged somewhere. After twenty minutes of fruitless searching we gave up, it wasn’t going anywhere, we were hungry and perhaps dragging cable number two would bring it to light.

A spectacular lunch rustled up quickly by myself, consisting of last nights pasta sauce, a rather spicy affair I’d knocked up with chorizo and Harissa paste served with noodles went down a treat. Though in all honesty we were all that hungry that we’d have eaten anything.



After an hours rest we returned to the quads and got on with pulling off the rest of the cable, getting it all out and next to the other cable in less than an hour!!! What a team, seriously though these guys have been doing this sort of stuff with me for years and need little instruction. I just need to start paying them Sad smile Once the cable was in position we started a fresh search for the camera and after less than 10 minutes found it in the heather, no doubt knocked there by the stray end of the cable. Returning to the other end of the cable we tied it off on a tree and discovered an 80m shortfall.



I’d thought as much on Wednesday when I laid the first section with only a couple of meters to spare, still it was a brilliant days work and Alison or Simon could order up the rest of the cable on Monday.


sea eagle

Just as we’d called it a day we got visit from a golden eagle, I say ‘called it a day’ but when we got home the post lady had delivered a box of these

There was nothing for it, the weather was perfect today, it would break tonight and I’d absolutely no problem convincing the boys that we should trek once more back up that hill.


Whilst we were going up again we lashed the aluminium scaffolding poles for the mast onto the quads and took some up.


080 081




Hard to believe in this wilderness that once upon a time it must have been a well trodden path judging by this cast iron gate post and the heather indicating the line of the old wall and fence. You can see the line of the old wall better in that picture before the post, just behind the boy ‘bearing his cross’ Smile



Here’s one of the many holes labouriously  bored by hand into the granite like gneiss so that the iron posts could be ‘leaded’ in, what is the point of ‘heritage’ if it’s left to revert to nature with no people left on the land????




Jointing SWA cable

Despite all the flak I took about cutting and jointing it’s reliable, easy and cheap, far cheaper than a helicopter, powered barrow or squad of navvies. The joints are recognized by all manner of ‘certification’ bodies and insurance companies for under ground and underwater use. All you have to do is observe cleanliness, dryness, temperature, read the instructions and make sure the resin filling is ‘in date’.

082 083 084 085 086

The instructions are in the packet so I’ll not bore you with the details just to say that the easiest way to strip back the actual galvanized wire armour is to score around it with a hacksaw whilst the outer sheath of the cable is still on. Then peel back the PVC and just bend the SWA armour by hand until it snaps. If you try and peel back the sheath first and cut the wire with snips it will look 5hite. It will hold every bit as good but look like its been done by an amateur.

That was it really, we got home, fed the pigs, cleaned out the chickens, had a mince pie and now I’m going to bed Smile It has been ‘such a perfect day’



OK, not ‘that’ perfect but it did involve a mountain and being very tired Smile

Create a free website or blog at