What is your hope for the Cairngorms? It’s a question I put to the audience at a talk I gave last month in Inverness. I was lucky enough to be on the programme of Ness Book Fest, a vibrant and fast-growing literature festival held every October in the Highland capital. Running since 2016, the festival brings together well known and grass-roots writers of all genres in 4 days of free events across the beautiful autumn city. In an ‘Outdoors Double Bill’, I was paired with wildlife photographer Charlie Phillips, most famous for his work with the bottle-nosed dolphins in the Moray Firth.
My talk was titled ‘A Sense of Place’ and was an opportunity to share about my writing and encounters with people and the natural world in one of the most treasured – and controversial – areas of the Highlands: The Cairngorms National Park. I shared some of the many things that make the Cairngorms so remarkable as a home to extra-ordinary wildlife and an equally colourful array of human characters.
I talked about my role as Writer in Residence for the Park this year and how the Shared Stories: A Year in the Cairngorms project has evolved. I read some of my poems, as well as extracts from this blog and my Cairngorms-set novel. (And nobody fell asleep, I promise!)
At the end, I asked the audience to write down their own hopes for the Cairngorms and to leave their slips of paper with me. Here are a selection of the responses:
- that they continue to stride across the land, in all their magnificence
- for the Park to remain a beautiful place where the weather demands respect, where you can walk and hardly meet a soul
- crisp skies, towering peaks, rapid waterways, furry friends, remaining forever
- that it continues to bring joy to all those who live and visit and the wildlife is protected and flourishes
- to see eagles ever flying over the green loch
- to persevere and maintain its beauty through change and adversity
- that people and nature would thrive in harmony with the land which will endure beyond time.
- the mountains to stay accessible to hikers all the time
- to preserve the wild places for people to enjoy and appreciate
- to restore more of the uplands to an ecologically rich environment, while ensuring employment for residents
- regeneration of the landscape
- storytellers bringing the mountains to life in word and poem, linking people to place, honouring wilderness and allowing us to find our home there, even if for a short while.
- that people will experience the wilderness areas – and leave them wild.
- that its beauty is sustained. That it is respected, loved and cherished. That nature will continue to prove stronger than man.
- to endure, to embrace, to keep its heart secure
Reading these responses when I got home was moving. If people care about a place and its wildlife and growing things, then maybe they will work to protect it.
What are your own hopes for the Cairngorms?