INTERNATIONAL DAY OF RURAL WOMEN – LINDA MELLOR
“My name is Linda Mellor, I’m 56 and I live on the Camusericht Estate, Rannoch (part of the Ben Alder Estates), Perthshire with my partner, Richard, a deer stalker. I was born and bred in Fife, surrounded by gundogs and our horses. My Father, Lawrie Robertson (82 and still enjoys the occasional shoot day picking up with his elderly lab) was very well-known in the gundog tests for over 40 years, he competed all over Scotland and was also a member of Scottish gundog team. Growing up, I went beating and picking up with my Dad, and as a family we ate game cooked by my mum. After a shoot day, we’d often drop off game to elderly family and friends on our way home, everyone looked forward to a countryside feast. I left for London in my early 20’s but I still returned regularly to Fife, and enjoyed the shoot days, especially the Boxing Day shoot with my dad.
“I have been a freelance writer and professional photographer for more than 20 years, my specialist subject is country sports (www.lindamellorphotography.co.uk) and I am also the author of two books, a fiction novel called ‘The fifty onwards and upwards girls’ and a nonfiction book called ‘For the Love of Country Sports’. I put For the Love of Country Sports together to celebrate and share the love and respect men and women had for the outdoors and wildlife, and how this deep appreciation and passion was more than just going shooting, fishing, and stalking. The book contains 40 stories from country sports enthusiasts. I am also a longstanding columnist for the SGA – ‘Through the Lens’.
“During the pandemic, I lost all my freelance work, so I decided to bring a 20 year old dream to life, and started my own magazine, called Scotland in 4 Seasons (www.scotlandin4seasons.co.uk ). My inspiration stemmed from living in the remote Corrievarkie estate (also part of Ben Alder Estates) – Richard and I moved from Corrievarkie to Camusericht in June this year. In Corrievarkie, we were 11 miles from the main road, and were snowed in from January – April. We used the Argocat, fitted with snow-tracks, to travel down the 11 miles to the main road, jumped in the truck parked at the main gate to go out shopping. I have ghillied for Richard, helped with deer counts, and recently attended and passed my ATV driving course.
“Scotland in 4 Seasons magazine is a quarterly celebration of how we connect to Scotland. I wanted to create a quality publication rich in beautiful images and a reflection of how we all connect to Scotland in so many different ways, be it deer stalking, fishing, outdoor theatre, walking, balancing mental health and healing, climbing the hills, crofting, game cooking, painting, remote living, writing, photography, creativity and all its different shapes, memories, adventures, and work.
“Over the years, I have shot clays and game but these days I prefer occasional stalking red and roe deer with my partner. My passion is for deer, there’s hardly a day goes by without me seeing and photographing deer. On a regular basis, whilst on the more remote parts of the estate I see kestrels, buzzards, golden eagles, sea eagles, Hen harriers, and owls close to the house. Camusericht is a stag forest and there is no game shooting. From time to time we are privileged to see and photograph Black Grouse.
“At home we eat venison, and use it for bolognaise, cottage pies and stews. 11 miles down Loch Rannoch is our nearest village, Kinloch Rannoch, and the Dunalastair Hotel Suites serves seasonal game.
“In my 20+ years working in Scottish country sports and a lifetime of honouring my passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and deer (it really did start with Bambi, when my mum took me to see the film at the cinema when I was 5). I have seen many changes in the countryside, in attitudes, and also in people who come and go.
“The Scottish countryside has always been important to me, and I use my photography and words to give everyone an insight into a world that’s accessible to all should they choose to seek it out. I come from a working class family, both my parents worked and loved the outdoors. My sister and I were very fortunate my parents saw the value in spending as much time as possible outdoors and learning about life, death, animal care, the value of patience, kindness, and training (horses and dogs) and having a positive attitude. Years ago, and when country sports were male-dominated, we were brought up to believe we were equal, and there was never a reason to be excluded because we were female.
“Scotland’s rural economy is expanding, there are more people seeking to utilise the many benefits of the outdoors in their work. The outdoors is also a place of healing and improving our health, physically and mentally. Time outdoors is never time wasted: a forest walk, or filling our lungs with fresh autumn air while listening to the rutting stags in the hills – it’s these sort of moments that grow memories and create lifelong passions, and perhaps new careers. Conservation is crucial to preserving the beauty of our lands and our wide variety of wildlife, without conservation we risk losing everything. The world is experiencing global warming, and our countryside is experiencing a much bigger footfall. There needs to be heightened awareness of humans’ negative impact on their surroundings. There is a lot of information on things we can do to make a difference, but I feel there needs to be much more publicity about the damage, risks, and general abuse of the countryside. I wish the Scottish Outdoor Access Code was taught in school, and to everyone stepping foot in the outdoors. I feel positive it will make a huge difference.