Writes of way

by backpackingbongos

I have got a fair few blogs on my google reader now and I look forward to new posts from each and every one of them.  Some are great for their coverage of gear in great detail whilst others mix up trips in wild and remote places alongside great writing.

Of the latter, one blog which I always look forward to reading is Writes of Way.  Pete is a bit of a Jura Jedi and it was one of his earlier blog posts on Jura that got my wilderness head salivating late last year.  If you have never been then Jura is one of the best places in the UK to get a wilderness fix.  A remote island without the comfort of easy paths and walking with deer and wild goats watching your every move.  I have been once but I am already hooked, Petes blog gives me my fix every now and then.

With the most recent blog post having the title ‘ Terrible Tussocky Torture and Tumultuous Torrents’ who could resist?

Pete recently got a guide book to Jura, Islay and Colonsay published by Cicerone which I will try to review soon.  If you have any questions about these magical islands he is the man to ask.

Writes of way can be found here.


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16 Comments to “Writes of way”

  1. I have read some interesting articles in the past about the isle of Jura. I have heard they have a huge population of deer which would make the island a good candidate for wolf reintroduction. Re-wilding is always talked about on the mainland, but islands with large populations of deer and a natural barrier (the sea) would be a good testing ground. Do you know what other wildlife exists on Jura?

    Regards, Paul

    • Paul, the population of deer on Jura is massive, they are literally everywhere. There is a healthy population of goats which give themselves away by their rather pungent odour. Seals and otters along the coast which I did not manage to see. I saw what I think was a merlin just outside the bothy. Insect life is pretty rife, I visited in the autumn so no midges but the place was really crawling with deer ticks. I think that the local estates may have something to say about re-wilding with wolves as deer stalking is pretty big business.

    • Wolves and bears combined might begin to make some inroads into the population of 6000-odd dear. The feral goats are also culled these days – victims of their own success. As well as the wildlife James lists, sea eagles, golden eagles, hen harriers, short-eared owls and mountain hares can also be seen if your luck’s in.

      Thanks for bigging the blog up, James!

  2. Nice site Pete. That stoat trap looks pretty gruesome but obviously has little to do with finding natures balance, but rather more with maintaining large numbers of given wildlife for hunting purposes. With the background you and James have described I think there would be huge opposition to the reintroduction of wolf. The majority of a bears diet grows in the forest. They do eat flesh, but this only forms a minority of their diet. Forest cover appears pretty scare on Jura?

    Wolf introduction would quickly modify red deer behaviour which would actually be favourable to hunters. I don’t want to go into the reasons for this as I am not in favour of hunting. The health of deer would also improve as wolves target the weakest. Lynx introduction would also be beneficial and at the end of the day we are only talking about reintroducing species that were once there. However, for reasons previously stated they were probably treated as vermin much like the stoat is today. All indigenous species have their vital role to play in the cycle of life, so it infuriates me that when a certain specie does not fit into the aims an objectives of land owners they are suddenly classed as vermin in an attempt to justify and make ‘acceptable’ their eradication.

    I work closely with transhumance shepherds in Transylvania that have not lost the art of protecting their flocks from wild wolves and bears using packs of dogs. They never carry guns and lose very few animals to predators. I can even host fact finding trips for hill farmers and livestock owners to see how effective shepherding methods are in Transylvania. With no fences or barriers wolves roam freely and in all my time in Transylvania I have never heard of one incidence of wolf attack on a human. I can’t say the same about bears though, but I am not an advocate of their reintroduction to Scotland until the reforestation issue has been addressed.

    Thanks for the lists of wildlife that can be found on Jura. It sounds like a wonderful place with plenty to see.

    Best wishes, Paul

    • Was”t serious about the bears Paul; and you’re right, Jura has only a little forestry plantation on it’s inhabited east coast. Not a place for bears. Unlike Romania, of course. Never seen a bear during my visits to Romania, but there seems to be a robust population?

      I’m not surprised that wolves don’t take so many sheep in the Romanian mountains. Every time I’ve approached a flock in the mountains, I’ve been surrounded by a baying pack of dogs that would have torn me to shreds if they really thought I was wolf in technical clothing. The great transhumance of flocks is a marvellous phenomenon to witness; the enormous flocks rolling out along the mountains’ flanks and the shepherds I’ve encountered who seem to exist out of time as if they were interchangeable with their predecesors from centuries before. But there you go – we all tend to romanticise lives we have no real grasp of, but that appear picturesque nonetheless.

      The shepherds may not carry guns, but those long staves they use with the hard knob on the end would shatter a skull with ease.

      • Hi Pete, I don’t think you are romanticising at all. The methods transhumant shepherds are identical to those used generations ago, even down to the way they make cheese on the move. This style of cheese production is of course being targeted by the EU as non-hygienic, who have now prescribed methods of production and packaging far outside the financial reach of most shepherds, forcing many off the land. I have even seen and eaten cheese packed in tree bark! However, you only have to look at the shepherds and the customers they supply to. No complaints there and common sense would dictate that if their products were injurious to health then their customer base would fall away. Far from it as local people would far rather eat produce direct from the shepherds than the tasteless sterile, expensive products from the supermarket. These EU rules will kill off the shepherds over time and a way of life documented in Transylvania for more than 1000 years. Global market forces will dictate market prices and thus a system of agriculture which will be viewed as inefficient will be destroyed. Bizarre as these shepherds are integral to maintaining a local ecosystem, grazing and fertilising vast ranges of common land.

        The shepherd dogs are formidable as you say, they have to be to tackle bears and sheep. In fact it took some time before the Ojdula transhumant shepherd dogs trusted me. I had to stick to one of the shepherds like glue as the dogs had their eyes trained on me all the time. I have heard many stories of how the dogs work as a team to see off bears and risk life and limb to protect their masters and sheep. When a bear rushes to grab a lamb some dogs will nip at the heels of the bear whilst others rush to the front for the bear to chase, deliberately steering the bear away from the sheep. I looked after one shepherd in hospital during the early 1990’s that had been mauled by a bear whilst taking an early morning pee next to a berry bush. He said with one whistle his dogs were all over the bear giving him time to escape by rolling down a hill and then running off to seek medical help. He said without his dogs he would have been done for. These dogs are extremely tough but have to be to survive and earn their keep.

  3. thanks for posting, looks a good read.

  4. I think it’s one of the strengths of the blogging community that we draw attention to sources of a good read. I like Pete’s blog – it’s far more prosaic than most, which can often be gear-oriented (am I looking in a mirror when I say that) but nice writing is a real joy. Don’t have a lot of time at the moment (can I hear crying in the background from the little “gremling” as Mrs M calls him?) but will take a look periodically. I also like the fact he comments so frequently on your blog, James.

  5. It is quality writing that draws me towards Blogs Maz, I can’t really read those that appear to have been written by a five year old. I like to have a mix of gear and trip reports, having loads of blogs to look at means that all ground is covered.

    Congratulations on the ‘gremlin’ just remember the film and don’t get him wet!

  6. Once again up here in Scotland we are blessed with our own BBC output. Out of doors is broadcast from the car park at BBC Scotland at 6.30 on a Saturday morning. Have a listen to

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00vrwvn.

    If you start at 30 mins in you will be introduced to the poetry of orman MacCaig, who was born 100 years ago this November. Much of his poetry celebrates the landscape of Assynt in the North West Highlands. I am not big on poetry but this for any one who loves the outdoors, like both Pete and James, you are going to love it. (7 days only to listen!)

    • Cheers for the up once again Warren, not a big fan of poetry but I will try and have a listen. I watched the adventure show last night and then went to bed feeling exhausted after watching everyone run up and down the Ben.

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