Monday, June 28, 2010

A-droving we will go

I'm off soon on a trip following some old roads through the Cairngorms with various others including pack ponies, and at least at first, some Highland cattle. The creative journey is undertaken under the aegis of 'Speygrian', a network of outdoor educators, artists and writers, whose inaugural journey I was part of on the Spey. I'm hoping that this one will be a bit dryer!

Come and meet us at public events featuring droving history at our starting point at Ruthven Barracks, Kingussie from 2pm on Saturday 3rd July, and at the Atholl Country Life Museum, Blair Atholl, 12-2pm Wednesday 7th July.

The Speygrian website describes our latest undertaking as:

The core group of the SpeyGrian network first came together in 2000 for a journey by open canoe from Ruthven Barracks to Spey Bay. To celebrate our 10th birthday, we are taking another journey from Ruthven Barracks which involves a diverse group of professional and amateur artists, ecologists, storytellers, historians and educators including two from the United States and two who currently work with Dartmoor National Park. Some of the participants will be local and the others drawn from the SpeyGrian network.

The group will travel by pony on the Minigaig Pass (an ancient drove road connecting Speyside to Atholl) and the Shinigaig Pass (a coffin road connecting Blair Atholl and Glen Brerachan). The theme of this 'mobile conference' will be exploring how a road is more than a line of communication between two places, but has a life of its own, with unique stories to tell, linking people, places and journeys over time.

Ponies and cattle will be provided by Ruaraidh Ormiston from Newtonmore who will be accompanying us on our journey - which we believe will be the first drove to travel on the Minigaig Pass for over 100 years! Ruaridh’s family have bred ponies and cattle in Speyside for several generations and have some fascinating links with the drovers.

It's not the first time I've been involved in a droving adventure, but was also very interested to read that Vyv Wood Gee is setting off on the same drove route I took three years ago, from the Isle of Skye, but going a bit beyond the Scottish cattle markets, all the way to Smithfield on her pony! You can find out more about her journey across Britain and her search for the significance of droving history here.