Mark Trueman – Brandecosse Director
So. I get the call from Josh in the Edinburgh office. Dad, do something useful for a change and write me a blog about how the lockdown is affecting you in the countryside. Me? Well, nothings changed much. Birds wake me up early this time of year, sun comes through the bedroom window or not if it’s lashing down. Farmers are still farming, fields are full of lambs and new calf’s. There’s even a steady procession of the huge logging lorries past the office window, all full. So, the forest harvesting business can’t have been hampered by Covid19. The biggest impact is we can’t pop into the local for a wee pint on the way home from the office. Or so it may seem to most of our friends and neighbours. However, the truth is, there has been a massive change to the life I’ve lead for the past 35 years.
You see, I’m one of those people the eco warriors would like to grab by the neck and squeeze the life out of. The reason is, I travel with work, a lot. Brandecosse business takes me all over the British Isles by car, 40k Miles a year isn’t unusual. Flying? I hardly ever put an expense claim in without a few flights on it. Into Europe visiting customers and Diemme then over to factories in China on client business is a regular trip. Even New Zealand, a trip which is becoming a challenge as I get older. So, how am I dealing with having my wings clipped? Well, to be honest, not very well. I keep seeing pictures of parked-up Boing 747’s, still the long-haul workhorse of the skies, but getting superseded by smaller but much more efficient planes. Will they ever take to the air again? I can’t help looking at them and thinking, I know how you feel pal. But you can’t dwell on the current situation too much, why worry about something outside your own sphere of influence? All you can do, is make the most of what you have to work with and adapt. Me, I’ve stopped dashing about and I’m recharging my batteries as healthily as possible and planning new stuff. Oh, that’s in between trying the save the business, like most small and even mega companies are doing at the moment. But you can read about that anywhere.
We are blessed and have been for the past 25 years. Fate and business brought us to the Glenkens in South West Scotland in 1995. It’s rural, beautiful and somewhere that is a pain to travel from, but great to come home to. It’s also a perfect testing ground for the Diemme boots we develop. Wet, wild, rugged hills. A constant stream of shooters in the village during the season and professional deer stalkers amongst our circle of friends. Plenty of eco folks about too, we’re a Biosphere Community, didn’t you know? Aye, go and look it up. I had to! But anyway, what’s changed? Well, I’ve effectively chucked the car keys in the kitchen-based letter basket and take to shank’s pony. Exercising by myself too. That’s been a struggle as I need a push. This is usually got from the community circuit and kettle-bell classes, now on the back burner, another wee business fallen victim of the virus. So, what’s the new routine?
Garden gym! I get bored easily, so 20 minutes is enough for me. Warm-up then some core exercises finished with a good old stretch. Don’t forget, I have the walk to come too, so I’m not as idle as you think.
The walk? Well, I can happily say I’m taking government advice. Social distancing is easy here. When this whole virus thing kicked off, I decided to check the population density of Dumfries and Galloway region. I needed to understand how easy it may be to social distance compared to Greater London. Well, we have a population density of 22 people/km² London? It’s around 6000 people/Km². Which explains a lot about how tough it must be to handle the virus in mega cities like London and New York. The office too is only a half-hour walk away, so I get my hours exercise there and back. The only issue left is footwear choice and whether to take the high or low route.
Weather is the factor. Low route can be boggy after rain, so it’s my game shooting boots Rubicon Wool that will take me through the woods and onto the River Ken flood plain.
These fields spend a lot of time under water during winter floods. The Ken is an old hydroelectric system dating back to the 1930’s. So, when we get a lot of rain and the dam’s fill, they just have to let it go. Makes for great grazing come the summer though.
If like me you fish, any water is magnetic. So, the walk invariably takes me along the banks. Eyes eagerly scanning the surface for a rise or a bulge under the surface indicating a feeding trout. Sadly, the hydro scheme killed the Rivers Ken and Dee as a salmon river. The turbines run from the sea at Kirkcudbright, right up the middle of the Stewartry and Glenkens up towards the old Ayrshire coalfields. Too many barriers to migrate, too few salmon making it to spawn and the constant rise and fall of the water levels as electricity is created isn’t ideal for parr and smolt survival either. But when it pumps and turbines turn, these almost still pools between inch deep riffles turn into perfect fly water. So good is it, that I often think of diving home and grabbing my old Bruce and Walker, donning a pair of chesties and just fish down the pool. Dreaming I’m on the middle Spey, expecting more than hoping for a pull, as you know your fly is fishing for you. But the sheer futility of doing just that stops me. Post lock-down, before the chaos of life kicks back in, perhaps I’ll embrace futility, even if it’s just for the hour or so.
There’s a high route too. Up the Garroch Glen and over Waterside Hill. It’s not too high though, taking me from 250 ft at home Up to 650 ft at the cairn. The climb is enough to get the heart pumping and a wee bit of burn in the thigh and calf muscles, just enough to remind you your alive.
Bot choice for this? Cervo Rosso. I know the Highland stalkers will say I’m taking an elephant gun to shoot a rabbit wearing these for a wee hill climb. But I’m a big bloke, perched on skinny ankles, so I like to be secure and these boots are designed to lock you in. They’re comfy from the get-go too, so what’s not to like? Oh, in the distance is St John’s Town of Dalry, home of Brandecosse. Where I’m heading.
We have a bridge to cross before we reach the office, literally, not metaphorically. It’s a suspension footbridge that is part of The Southern Upland Way, a path that stretches from Portpatrick on Galloways Irish Sea coast over to Cockburnspath in the east, passing the office window too!
The Royal Engineers built this bridge back in 1982. It’s been fixed and strengthened a few times and in the 2015 floods, it was nearly wiped out. The river Ken was running about 6 inches below the decking, and floating logs were smashing into the structure. But it survived.
If you find yourself walking over this bridge heading into Dalry, danger lurks at the top of the path behind the church and town hall. The Clachan Inn! This pub is an institution. Not only for its warm welcome and good beer, but the food is out of this world. We spend far too long in here and are missing it desperately during lockdown. But the bank balance has been breathing a sigh of relief. No more spontaneous midweek blowouts for a while, I fear.
Did you know the sun sometimes shines in Galloway too? Not often, but when it does, it’s glorious. But it challenges the choice of footwear. The summer of 2018 was a perfect example, it was a dry and hot summer, following a weird kind of winter, which I can only describe as not having any weather. The ground was bone dry and it was warm too, T-Shirt and shorts weather. It was even hotter south of here too. A point that was brought home when one of our Facebook followers posted on the Brandecosse page the winning line up from a local field trials weekend. All wearing T-Shirts and Shorts and to my dismay, trainers of some sort. But it did get me thinking. What would the ideal design of country footwear be for good summer weather? Well, if you look back at the boot photo, the pair of lightweight boots on the left are a development we’ve been working on for eighteen months now. I’m liking the results, a lot, but sadly the final pre-production boot has been delayed due to the factory in Italy being closed with the virus rampaging through the region where we are based. We’ll have to wait and see if it can be finished in time for this summer. And don’t worry about the colour in the picture, they’re being suitably countryfied before launch!
All the best and keep safe,