It is the most recognisable ‘big house’ on any country estate and no matter how often you see it, it’s still mighty impressive – so the drive to Ardverikie is always a pleasure even starting at 7am in the morning.
On the way I try to call keepers on other estates which I also help manage at Glenfeshie, Gaick, Braeroy or Tulloch. It’s the best and perhaps the only time to reach the keepers before they head off into their splendid isolation. The early chat invariably turns to impending shooting parties, grouse hatch and the bête noir of all estate management issues – repairs.
At Ardverikie I plunge headlong into meetings. Forestry first, then a tete a tete with Andy the grazing tenant (Fences. Aargh!). Andy is happy or at least more happy than the electrician who is about to be faced with the five-yearly electrical inspection, required for this magnificent A-listed building. All the cast iron gutters and downpipes have to be replaced (gulp) so little wonder the contractor is licking his chops.
Meeting with Glenn, head of the hydro team, establishes the estate hydro scheme is ticking over nicely and Dougie the head stalker is on course with night shooting licence applications.
The estate board meeting on Wednesday requires a lot of preparation, so it’s an overnight stay which gives me the chance to walk the dogs (Tiggy and Porridge, two Sprocker Spaniels) and cast an eye over some of the contractors’ work around the estate (an unscheduled inspection never a bad idea).
Heads of department meeting 8am at the estate office. Everyone knows the ropes – diary, health and safety, tourism, hydro/maintenance, general estate issues, sporting, woodlands and any issue relating to the farm. I find sticking to a regular format helps flow and continuity – also it helps ensure we don’t miss anything.
The clock is ticking towards the board meeting. Monthly figures, annual accounts, forest plans, harvesting plans. My military training has not gone to waste after all. Check, check, check!
Homewards bound – 1.5 hrs to Inverness and a long wait on the Kessock Bridge, collect the kids from fiddle lessons and a desperate search for my chalk striped suit whose last outing would have been…the last board meeting.
0600 check-in at Inverness airport and an hour later Gatwick-bound. On the train to Victoria I confirm silently to myself, thank God I don’t have to live here.
1100 board meeting Central London. Things go smoothly but no regrets about having prepared thoroughly. A further afternoon business meeting and then back to Gatwick for the evening flight to Inverness. My heart is in the Highlands!
Charging south again from home but this time to the magnificent wilderness that is Glenfeshie estate. The monthly multi-disciplinary team huddle takes most of the working day – but we get a lot done – sporting, conservation, health and safety, forestry, staff, direction from the owner.
The natural splendour of Glenfeshie is there for all to see during a meeting with hill staff. There is something to be said for working in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Try to make it home in time for fiddle lesson in Dingwall which is always a push.
Consolidation day in Inverness office. Apart from my estate duties I am clerk to two district fishery boards; namely, the Cromarty Firth and Brora Boards and that correspondence can never fall into the one that got away category. Paperwork rules and it seems a long time since I was walking around Ardverikie with Tiggy and Porridge. Still there’s always that again next week. Jump into my other office (my clapped out 53 reg BMW 320 Tourer) – 5.30pm now where’s that gin and tonic!
By Rob Whitson, associate
Rural Estates Manager, CKD Galbraith