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OPEN COUNTRY
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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 27th October 
Listen to this programme in full
This week, Helen visits Drumochter, the highest pass on the road between Perth and Inverness.

Drumochter is known to drivers as the high point of the A9, but for centuries it was known to drovers as the way to take their cattle to the 'trysts' or markets to the south. It's just starting to snow and a north wind is blowing as Helen heads onto the high tops, looking for mountain hare and ptarmigan, two of our three species (the other being the stoat) to go white in winter. With ornithologist Roy Dennis and Adam Smith of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust she adds her sightings to a national  numbers.

Local historian and farmer Campbell Slimon brings back the days when the pass was busy with cattle and sheep, part of a life which has faded today. The village of Dalwhinnie, though, has thrived, thanks largely to geography: the railway which runs through the pass, and the distillery which feeds off the mountain springs,  where Mary Christie was born eighty seven years ago, have both brought jobs to the area. Nowadays, with the land good enough only for sheep, estates like Ralia, where Alastair Lyon is the keeper, rely on stalking and shooting for income, while Drumochter is, for others, a place of escape. Helen meets Mark Belmonte and David Christopous, two falconers from the English Midlands who, once the main shooting season is over, bring their peregrines to Drumochter in pursuit of red grouse.

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