Today was a typical day of two halves, divided by lunchtime. The first half was to get north over the Black Isle and the southern portion of the NW Highlands to Bonar Bridge. My navigation system decided to take a morning off so I was travelling by memory (which I got right).
After lunch it was on to the Flow Country. This is a large expanse of Caithness and Sutherland that is typically clad in deep blanket bog (with a few mountains). It has a very special flora and fauna and holds more carbon than all the forests of the UK put together (thus is rather important in terms of climate change. It gained notoriety during the Thatcher government when tax breaks for the rich meant that just planting trees was very advantageous, whether they grew well or not. The Flow Country was regarded as wasteland, ripe for planting trees. In terms of nature conservation this was a disaster and several of my colleagues in the then Nature Conservancy Council put together a report ‘Birds, Bogs and Forestry’ exposing the damage being done – this infuriated the Scottish Conservatives (yes there were a few then) and arguably was one of the main reasons that the Nature Conservancy Council was split up into agencies for each of the four UK countries, plus the Joint Nature Conservation Committee – my subsequent employer. There were though a lot of political shenanigans going on at the time – the ‘row’ was undoubtedly more manufactured than it needed to have been from the government side. Ultimately though the folly of this tax break was realised, and considerable public and charitable funds have gone into restoring the Flow Country. That will take many years though.
I had come this way with my brother Guy when he rode from Lands End to John O’Groats a few years ago, so I was delighted that the weather was clear and warm, but with a strong north-westerly wind to push into all afternoon.