A fence cuts across the hill just south of the ridge.
The wire sags in places, the old wooden gate leans tiredly against weathered posts
held in place with blue nylon twine
knotted so that is is easier to straddle the line wire
than struggle with the decrepit sheep hurdle.
It is an important boundary,
not of ownership
but, like many others of its type in the Scottish Highlands,
by man (sometimes woman) and beast
The vegetation of the lower slopes reflects generations of sheep grazing,
the heather short,
declining to short grass and low flowers
before the roadside birches.
It is the domain of the pastoralist.
Above the fence heather grows unchecked
except by deer
ranging so widely that their impact is slight.
They are tempted across the fence at times,
to become marauders,
timid and easily startled back to their fastness
above the rickety line wire.
This is ‘the hill’,
home to the moorcock,
red grouse whose cackled warning
‘go back. go back’
warns of wilderness.
This is the domain of the hunter.
The Nog is one such.
Climbing the first slope
his interest is general,
trotting up the hill track
nosing casually among the long grasses,
turning to check below
on my laboured progress.
Beyond the fence
the pet turns dog,
ranging ceaselessly across the slope
taking my steady line as his reference
covering ten, twenty times the territory.
When he picks up the scent of a grouse,
he turns to stone
working nostrils gleaning the wind
muzzle targeted, quivering tail extended.
On the return descent
we drop into a gulley bedded with a broken down causeway
where the peat carts crossed.
Always at this point he dances wildly around me
barking and darting
punctuating a transition.