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Memorial to tragic young architect

December 7 2016

A memorial to a former Perth Academy pupil who died in a hillwalking accident has been unveiled at a nature reserve. Euan Wright from Dundee, a graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone, was an assistant architect with Perth-based Bell Ingram Design when he fell in October 2012 aged 30. He had completed numerous projects for the RSPB and now Bell Ingram Design and his family — in consultation with the RSPB — have constructed a wall in his memory next to the RSBB reserve at the Loch of Starthbeg in Aberdeenshire, the last project which the talented architect designed before his death. The refurbished visitor’s centre was officially opened recently with a ribbon cutting ceremony with members of Mr Wright’s family, Bell Ingram Design and RSPB colleagues in attendance. Scott Ramsay, architectural technician at Bell Ingram Design, who worked on the reserve project with Mr Wright and then on the feature wall, said: “Everyone at Bell Ingram was shocked and saddened when we heard the news of Euan’s accident. “Euan was a well-liked and valued member of the team, who was hugely committed to design and architecture and we wanted to do something memorable to commemorate his life and work. “He had worked on the design of a number of projects for the RSPB, and as one of these projects was the Loch of Strathberg Reserve, this seemed like the perfect setting." Mr Wright’s parents Mary and David were part of the official opening celebrations and say they look forward to revisiting with their grandchildren in the springtime and showing them the special feature wall which their son’s friends made to remember him. The Loch of Strathberg RSPB Reserve — located near Crimond in Aberdeenshire — protects Scotland’s largest dune loch, plus its surrounding wetlands, grassland and woodland, and the wealth of wildlife that lives there.

Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


Bittern sweet symphony as RSPB Scotland staff hear rare bird

August 13 2011

The presence of a rare bird has been hailed as evidence of the success of a Tay conservation programme. RSPB Scotland's Tay Reedbed reserve contains the largest continuous area of reed in the UK and offers a rich habitat to a wide variety of species. Its 410-hectare reedbed and 700 hectares of mudflat form an important breeding site for rare species including the bearded tit, the water rail a highly secretive small bird the marsh harrier and also a range of small mammals, insects and invertebrates. Work has been ongoing however to preserve and improve the habitat offered by the River Tay estuary and the reedbeds and RSPB staff have now seen signs that the work is paying off. A "buzz of excitement" is said to have swept through staff at the organisation's Perth office after one of its ecologists reported hearing "a low resonant boom" reverberating from the tidal reedbeds of the inner Tay. The noise has been identified as the sound of a booming male bittern, an elusive wading bird that is rarely seen in this area. Bitter winters in northern Europe over the past two years have seen record numbers of bitterns part of the heron family flying to Britain to what for them are unusual feeding grounds. The birds have been spotted at reserves across the UK, in some cases for the very first time, and it now appears that the Tay has its own visitors from the continent.Hope for regular visitorsA spokesman for RSPB Scotland said, "A record of elusive bitterns reflects the success of our conservation work here. "Continuing with commercial reed harvesting business is essential to maintain the habitat, which in turn provides a home for a huge range of species, such as marsh harriers and water rails and large populations of reed buntings and sedge warblers." He added, "We hope that, while bitterns are increasingly seen as regular wintering birds in Scotland at reserves like the Loch of Kinnordy and Loch of Strathbeg, the ongoing conservation management at Tay Reedbed will make the booming bitterns a regular presence here in spring. "We hope that they eventually become regular breeding birds at one of our Scottish reserves." Efforts to protect and conserve the reed beds along the Carse of Gowrie to Perth have been boosted in recent days by the news that funding has been earmarked by the Heritage Lottery Fund Some £1.5m has been set aside to support the Tay Landscape Partnership's plans for the Tay Valley, with a fully-developed application now to be submitted to secure the full award.


PICTURES: Stunning home amid 12 acres of land on the banks of Loch Tay

May 24 2018

David Semple points to a moss-covered square of ancient stone tucked into a secluded dip in the land beside a stream a few yards from the shore of Loch Tay. “That’s what we think was the whisky still,” he explains. “It’s perfectly hidden. No one would know you were here.” The ruined still is one of many gems at Skiag, which has more than 12 acres of land running down to the edge of Loch Tay. David and his Dutch wife Jet (pronounced “Yet") bought the site on the southern edge of Loch Tay in 1991 and spent two years building their home on the footprint of a ruined cottage. It’s not hard to see what attracted them to the area. The view across Loch Tay to Ben Lawers is simply spectacular and changes with the seasons and the weather. The main house is all on one level and the main rooms enjoy loch views. A large kitchen leads through to the living room which has a wood burning stove. Also off the kitchen is a large garden room with windows on three sides and double doors onto a sheltered patio. The main house has an en suite master bedroom and a guest bedroom with a bathroom connecting it and the hallway – one door can be locked to turn it into an en suite. Adjacent to the house is a stone bothy with kitchen, living room, double bedroom and bathroom. “Originally we wanted to build farther down the hillside but we had to use the footprint of the ruined cottage,” David continues. “We’re now happy that we did because the trees higher up provide a lot more shelter.” Skiag sits on a minor road that gets little traffic, particularly in the winter. “We used to go cross country skiing along the road in winter when there’s too much snow for cars to use it, though we don’t often get that much snow now,” smiles Jet. “We would also ski down the hillside and our son would tow us back up with the quad bike.” Outside there’s a double garage and wood shed. A borehole provides water for the property. Skiag’s grounds cover 12.4 acres of fields and woodland sloping down to the tree-lined shoreline where the water laps gently at their 240 metres of stony beach. A stream tumbles its way down the hillside before depositing in the loch. David, a retired commercial lawyer, and Jet, who works part-time as a cancer councillor, have used Skiag as a weekend and holiday retreat for the past 25 years. Now both 75 they’re selling up and plan to live in their Glasgow flat. “We’ve loved living here,” David says. “But there are lots of amazing places in Scotland and the rest of the world and we want to explore as many of them as possible.” Skiag, Loch Tay, Kenmore is on sale with Savills for o/o £550,000.  

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Swans found shot dead on Aberdeenshire beach

March 31 2016

Two swans have been found dead after being shot in Aberdeenshire. Scotland's animal welfare charity was alerted last Wednesday when the dead birds were discovered on the beach at St Combs in Fraserburgh. The female swan was found to have one shotgun pellet in her body while the male bird had four, the Scottish SPCA said. Inspector Fiona Shand said: "A post-mortem has revealed the pair died from a massive haemorrhage caused by gunshot trauma. "We don't think the swans were residing at the beach but the Loch of Strathbeg nature reserve is nearby and swans are known to live there. "We aren't sure how they came to be on the beach. The bodies may have been dumped there or could have been washed ashore. "This sort of animal cruelty is completely unacceptable and we are urging people with any information to contact us in an effort to trace whoever is responsible." Last week, the charity said a swan shot with an arrow in a "cruel and mindless" attack was found next to its dead mate at an estate in Kirkcaldy, Fife. The surviving bird had an arrow stuck in its wing and a further two arrows were found in the water and on the bank.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Perth & Kinross

New boat takes to the waters of Loch Tay

March 10 2017

For the first time in 70 years visitors to Perthshire’s largest loch will be able to enjoy the rich wildlife and heritage of the area while cruising on the water. A brand new, custom-built 12-seater boat which will allow visitors to discover and explore the loch has been launched by Loch Tay Safaris. The enterprise is the first time a commercial vessel has sailed the 15-mile long loch, which lies between Killin and Kenmore, since the Queen of the Lake ceased operations at the outbreak of the Second World War. The boat has been named Iolaire, which means eagle in Gaelic and was also the name of Donald Riddell’s great grandfather’s steam yacht, which served as an anti-submarine vessel in the First World War. Along with his wife Julie, Mr Riddell  operates Highland Safaris which has established itself as a popular visitor attraction. Based next to the village of Dull, it started with a Land Rover Safari experience in the local mountains to explore wildlife, landscape and history. “Both of our families have connections with the loch and its surrounding areas stretching back, to be able to bring it back to life with Loch Tay Safaris is incredibly exciting,” said Mr Riddell. Long and narrow with steep sides, Loch Tay is one of the deepest in Scotland. Less famous than lochs Lomond and Ness, it is rich in history, heritage and mythology which made Loch Tay the perfect location for the new venture. During the 90-minute cruise the skipper will point out the loch’s nature and wildlife while passengers can sit back and absorb the history and folklore that dates back to the Iron Age. They will be able to listen to tales of the ancient settlers who lived on Loch Tay almost 2,500 years ago, and hear of the Victorian pleasure steamers that once cruised the waters with crowds of day trippers enjoying the views.

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.