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Lazy Beds

John Cousins (May)

We saw these lazy beds while on a recce for next year's Scottish Canoe expedition in Loch Nevis. They consist of parallel alternating strips of raised ground and hollows and are a vivid reminder of the numbers of people that survived in these now silent Glens.

Lazy-beds were designed so that water would drain out of the raised mounds down the channels either side. The raised strips would then be fertilised with cattle manure (and desalinated seaweed in places like Loch Nevis) and used to grow potatoes and cereals. Lazybeds are known as feannagan in Scottish Gaelic and were used in southern parts of Britain from the post-Roman period until the post-medieval period, and across much of Ireland and Scotland until the 19th century.

Potatoes were often grown in this way in these regions, until the potato blight caused the potato famine in the Highlands and Ireland. As in Ireland, the potato crop failed in the mid 19th century, and a widespread outbreak of cholera further weakened the Highland population. The ongoing clearance policy resulted in starvation, deaths, and a secondary clearance, when families either migrated voluntarily or were forcibly evicted.

It continues to be a very tough place to make a living and Cameron MacIntoshâÂ.Â.s gamekeeper told us that he got 60p a pound for deer carcasses that would ultimately sell for Ã.£8 a pound!
For those of us who are merely visitors Loch Nevis is simply one of the finest Lochs on the West Coast of Scotland.

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