My work includes feature writing, news stories, radio programmes and packages, and radio interviews/2ways… I have also contributed in the past to TV productions, and it’s all centred around land, outdoors and environmental topics in my home country, Scotland.
The past couple of years have been busy, with several editions of the BBC R4 programme On Your Farm produced and presented by me. The most recent was in February with the delightful Duncan family at Drymen, here’s another from the island of Ulva. I have to say these are the most enjoyable work I think I have ever done: seaweed farming with Kyla Orr, Alex Glasgow and Martin Welsh was just a joy.
I’ve also been putting out a fair bit of material for R4 Farming Today … here’s a couple… One on small hydro-electric schemes
And another on tree planting on farms, with a lovely local family
Since 2019 I have been doing occasional reports for the R4 PM programme…. I was especially pleased with this one, all recorded remotely with my friends on the isle of Eigg:
I have not been neglecting my print and news work either – the Sunday Post here in Scotland has a great interest in the outdoors and environment. This about deer invading Kinlochleven was a cracking story, made better by a perfect picture provided by a Twitter contact! A sign of quality was it got nicked by quite a few people …
There’s more stuff below about Scotland’s beavers, which with red deer are now my specialist subjects, but one of the good recent things has been my podcast for The Ferret website about beaver translocation, featuring a lengthy interview with Francesca Osowska, the boss of NatureScot.
I have been doing a fair bit for BBC Countryfile magazine, working with features editor Joe Pontin to develop material about footpaths, beavers (again!) red squirrels and marine conservation. You can’t see the pictures here or here but it gives you an idea of what I’m writing. The balance of writing features and making audio/radio is something I love – different treatments for stories, retelling them for different audiences in different ways, with one feeding the other.
Finally the Scottish Sunday Post has also been using my stuff – here’s a good one where we stirred things up about Scotland’s growing wild boar population
I’ve now done at least a dozen features, stories and radio tapes about Scotland’s beavers. The latest was for CBC in Canada, and it’s here:
The problems of over-tourism in the age of social media have also featured, with packages for BBC Radio Scotland on Finnich Glen, made famous by Outlander, and for BBC R4’s Farming Today on the same topic:
There’s also been a longer audio documentary to coincide with the publication of a hard-hitting new policy by the Scotland’s environmental NGOs on the fraught subject of deer management, a topic being scrutinised now after a major report to Government ministers.
On a related topic, my piece on the battle to protect and expand Scotland’s last remaining fragments of rainforest was published in Scotland’s Herald magazine.
I’m an experienced radio producer and reporter.
Here’s a piece I made for Dan Damon’s programme on the BBC World Service, about the incredible buyout of the island of Ulva:
That was one of a series of broadcast pieces, as well as written articles, about Ulva. For Radio Scotland I kicked off with this:
I had the pleasure to be BBC Radio Scotland’s man on the spot for the celebrations marking the buyout too:
BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today has been using my material too. Here’s one about the reintroduction of the sea eagle on Scotland’s west coast:
This piece was for BBC Radio Scotland on basking sharks:
… this on the coming new laws on beaver protection for BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today, and Radio Scotland:
… and this for Radio Scotland on the redevelopment of the King’s House Hotel, in the world-famous landscape of Glen Coe/Rannoch Moor.
A few years ago I made a radio documentary for BBC Radio Scotland about the Ardroy outdoor education centre’s revival as a social enterprise, Saving Ardroy, and wrote about making the programme here, Ardroy BBC feature
In 2016 I revisited my friends there and reported on it for Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme below
I had earlier made a short documentary about Lyme Disease for BBC Radio Scotland.
In 2015 I joined a unique archaeological dig to investigate the mystery of Scotland’s vitrified hill-forts, and reported on it for BBC Radio Scotland’s Newsdrive programme.
In August 2016, I made another tape on the dig, this time for BBC Radio Scotland’s Out for the weekend programme, on which I have previously guested.
In 2016 BBC 1 in Scotland showed the two-part television documentary Lady Lairds, about women breaking the mould and running large estates in the Scottish Highlands. I helped develop this idea with production company Friel Kean and carried out the research to set it up.
I also developed the idea for Friel Keane’s one-off documentary The Foodbank, shown on BBC1 in 2015.
Scotland’s beavers officially became a “native species” with full legal protection, the first and so far only official large mammal reintroduction ever in the UK, in May 2019, despite the main population of 500-plus in and around the Tay catchment being the result of illegal reintroduction or escapes.
Reaching that point has been a fascinating process to catalogue, first in May 2017 when The Herald magazine published my study of the problems and opportunities around the animals – Gnaw Deal.
I catalogued the long struggle to get them protected status for the Ferret investigative website here, and then when the law was finally changed to give them protected status, I gave a rounded view for The National here.
Later in 2019 I took a lighter look at the arrival of a solo animal on the Bonnie Banks for the Sunday Post – you can’t ignaw those headlines, and I’d say I’m the country’s top beaver journalist – what an accolade!
On the community land front I’ve looked at repeopling here for the Herald magazine. For the same publication I spent four slightly woozy days at sea on a cetacean survey, and brought together the plastic and anti-plastic lobbies for a fascinating look at the truth behind plastic outrage.
I’ve also had some fun with archaeology, looking at the fabulous Cochno stones, for the Post
Everyone’s doing the North Coast 500 – including me. In summer 2017 I took a look at the economic and social impact of the route that’s caught on massively among tourists both from the UK and abroad for the Herald magazine in a two-part study, part IÂ here and part II here.
Community land buyouts are going to be news for some time in Scotland, with £40m Government cash heading their way, and it’s a topic I am learning a great deal about and making some good connections with. I gotÂ a good show in the Sunday Herald in October 2016 with the latest figures and developments in the land reform world …The New Land Rush, and have since written about the Wanlockhead buyout for The National.
In August 2016 my article on the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Eigg community buyout was published: Future Island.
These Herald magazine pieces are the latest in a string of articles on outdoors and environmental issues for the Glasgow-based newspaper supplement.
I started in 2009 with a study of deer management on the vast Glenfeshie estate: Zero Tolerance.
Other features included a look at how invasive rhododendrons had been cleared from the Knoydart peninsula: Highland Chainsaw massacre I have since investigated the rhododendron invasion further for the Sunday Herald and Scottish Wildlife Trust magazine – it is a huge and worrying problem.
I detailed plans for Scotland first gold mine of the modern era, at Tyndrum: Highland Gold Rush.
I linked up with the SAS – Surfers Against Sewage â€“ to look at their campaigning, centring on a drive to clean up Pease Bay in East Lothian. Surfers against sewage.
I also wrote about salmon farming, Salmon Farming: Your money or your sealife? the problems of the Assynt Foundation community land buyout, Empty Promises, and the 10th anniversary of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park The Park versus The People?
In 2009 I stumbled across a piece of the living social history, and wrote about it for the Herald Magazine Kings Of The Road. The men I wrote about then have become good friends.
After that I was fascinated by the outdoors movement of the 1930s that gave birth to the world of outdoor pursuits we now know, and went on to document the life of the Craigallian Fire and its great legacy The Men Who Made The Outdoors Great.
I wrote about the nearby historic Carbeth Huts and the successful bid of the tenants to buy the land on which they stand.
I regularly write for the Scottish Wildlife Trust magazine. The isle of Eigg, where the Trust helps manage the landscape, has become a favourite since this visit: Eigg, wildlife island. Other topics covered for SWT include basking sharks and deer management.
I keep up the outdoors flavour with travel writing. This piece about the wonderful Comrie Croft mountain biking centre was for the Herald magazine. Mountain bike heaven: Comrie Croft
I have written for Scotland Outdoors magazine on topics including the problems of visitor numbers on Ben Nevis.Â Ben Nevis, the Highlands’ biggest visitor attraction
A recent feature was a bit of a departure and stemmed from my involvement in my local community: Hammer Time: Scotland’s men’s shed movement
For six months I wrote a blog about the food bank where I have volunteered for the Herald website: Tales From The Food Bank
In pevious years I have spent Christmas Days helping serve lunches at the food bank, and wrote about it for the Sunday Herald: Christmas Day in the Foodbank