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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...

Angus & The Mearns

Monday Matters, Angus and Mearns: Cycle hub flying high on all fronts

March 20 2017

It might be daffies bursting into bloom, the clocks going forward or that first gambolling lamb. For me there is one Angus sight synonymous with the arrival of spring and it came during last week with neoprene-clad hopefuls shooting their first line of 2017 into the waters of Rescobie Loch. I pass Rescobie daily, and every March I promise myself this will be the year I return to the green bank in determined pursuit of its hard-fighting trout. I’ve also cast an admiring eye across Rescobie passing it at sedate pedal-powered pace on two wheels, and a decent morning also brought several sightings of that increasingly familiar species, the mamil. Anything but a rare breed nowadays, the middle-aged-man-in-lycra (yes, I am one)  is just part of an upsurge in interest in cycling that continues to gather momentum, and more power to those pedals. Brighter weather and more hours of daylight means looking forward to discarding the layers, getting back to hummel doddies and letting those peely wally legs hopefully see some sun. I realise that prospect might not hold universal appeal, but like to think I’ve given back something to other road users through the comedy value of such failings as toppling over at the traffic lights still clipped into my pedals. After passing my favourite loch last week I was also delighted to hook up with Angus Cycle Hub as it revealed the electric van bought with part of a £65k grant from Angus Environmental Trust which will help the thriving social enterprise go from strength to strength. Under the dynamic Scott Francis, the hub has spearheaded the brilliant Angus Cycling Festival, is rolling out Bikeability training for primary youngsters through the modern iteration of cycling proficiency, and last year rescued a staggering five tonnes of pushbikes from the scrapheap. And with spring also comes cleaning, so if you’re having a tidy and come across a long-forgotten old bike please be sure to think recycling.


Forfar farmer Donald John Cameron Robertson

August 11 2016

Forfar farmer Donald John Cameron Robertson has died at the age of 82. Mr Robertson was passionate about farming, flying, the hills of Rannoch and sea swimming, and unlike many men of the soil he didn’t farm the same land all his life. His family had hill farms near Loch Ronnoch for almost 60 years and on leaving Breadalbane Academy he took over the tenancies of Aulich on the shores of the loch, and Dalreoch, where blackface sheep were the main enterprise, then in 1951 he bought Garrique and Burnfoot farms at Kippen in Stirlingshire. He and his brother Willie started a drainage business and travelled the country draining and ploughing in preparation for commercial tree planting. In 1969 he bought his own airplane and drew up plans to build a runway on Garrique. In 1971 the family moved to the 300-acre Baldardo overlooking Rescobie Loch that had been owned by the Smedley frozen foods family. His son Andrew said: “All his life my father had a thing about farming in Angus. “He wanted out of the rain in Stirlingshire, so the first chance he got he moved over. “He threw himself into learning about growing raspberries and strawberries and took over a herd of 80 hill cows that were kept outdoors all year round, and he’d go for a dip in the sea near Arbroath at any time of the year. “He never regretted leaving Stirlingshire, but his heart was in the hills and Loch Rannoch, especially as he grew older.” Mr Robertson was predeceased by his wife, Pauline, in 2006 and is survived by his sons Andrew, Duncan and George, and daughter Mhairi. His funeral is on Monday at noon in Rescobie Church, Forfar.

Angus & The Mearns

Poignant ceremony to remember fallen of The Black Watch in Angus

September 16 2014

A rural Angus kirk was the weekend setting for an annual commemoration of county sons who made the ultimate sacrifice while proudly wearing the Red Hackle. In a service at Rescobie, a few miles east of Forfar, members of The Black Watch Association gathered for the re-dedication of the Angus branch standard in a ceremony which has been firmly established for around 15 years. Branch chairman Major Ronnie Proctor said the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War brought a particular poignancy to Sunday morning’s service in the church alongside tranquil Rescobie Loch. “The re-dedication of the standard is something the branch has done since around 2000, and each year we hold the service at a different church in the county,” he said. “We have been to many of the smaller churches in Angus and that’s important to the branch because in these wee places the sacrifice was perhaps felt even more keenly by people in such close-knit communities. “The Black Watch Association really started after the First World War and was formed to help soldiers, former members of the regiment and their wives and families,” added Mr Proctor. “It’s great to think that 100 years on the ethos of the association remains the same.” Photo by Angus Pictures

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

Angus & The Mearns

Angus and Mearns Matters: South Esk a reel gem in the Angus sporting crown

February 19 2018

As befitting its status as the Queen of the UK’s rivers, the annual ceremony heralding the beginning of a new season in pursuit of the King of Fish is a grand spectacle on the banks of the Tay. Traffic behaving under clear winter Angus skies and the gaze of the effective A90 average speed cameras might not have been aware, but not too many yards away a smaller gathering took place alongside the River South Esk just north of Forfar last week as the opening of a 2018 salmon season which will run until the end of October was celebrated. Finavon Castle is fine water, the scene of my first — and so far only — rod and line encounter with salmo salar. In a deep pool the line went tight on what I thought was a snagging rock in the deep, dark water — until the object began a juggernaut charge below the surface. The combination of excitement, panic and brain-fade idiocy of tightening the reel tension rather than reducing it presented an easy escape for the leviathan (the one that got away is always a monster). A brief encounter, but fishing isn’t about catching fish. It’s the sporting aside to experiences like the enjoyment of a dew dawn or magnificent burnt orange sunset; sharing pursuit of a Lintrathen Loch troot with a diving Osprey on a mission to feed hungry mouths back in the eyrie; or encountering the inquisitive Roe deer sniffing for treats inside the fishing bag on Rescobie’s green bank. And if the many fans of Angus’s finest beach at Lunan Bay believe they see it at its best during daytime walks, they’ve never enjoyed the thrill of moonlit nights stealthily trying to cast a tiny fly onto the nose of an easily-spooked sea trout. The opening of the 2018 season on the South Esk was well worth marking, as a reminder of the important work — and not insignificant sums spent — on projects along its length which benefit the environment and economy well beyond just angling interests, all the while maintaining the Angus river’s reputation as a sporting gem. Tight Lines.

Angus & The Mearns

In photos: The ospreys thrilling Angus birdwatchers

August 12 2016

A family of ospreys at a Tayside nature reserve are preparing to leave after a summer of thrilling birdwatchers. The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Balgavies Loch, a few miles east of Forfar, has established itself as a hotbed of osprey action over the past few months after the reserve’s returning pair hatched a brood of four chicks. In 2012, Balgavies claimed the first recorded Angus osprey chick, and the adult pair returned the following year to rear three youngsters. A further two chicks were raised the year after that, but regular reserve visitors were delighted earlier this summer when four tiny heads popped up above the edge of the island nest at the small but very popular attraction, part of which includes a path on the old railway line linking Auldbar station to Forfar. An average osprey clutch size is two and although broods of four are not unknown, a big family puts enormous pressure on the parents to keep hungry mouths fed. Balgavies is ideally positioned next to the popular Rescobie Loch fishery with a plentiful supply of rainbow and brown trout, but the Angus birds are known to also fish farther afield, including Montrose basin. As the Angus family has grown up, recent weeks have seen the youngsters honing their own flying and fishing skills in advance of their impending migration journey, captivating visitors to the reserve’s small but well-positioned hide and offering excellent opportunities for the many enthusiastic photographers who have shared some spectacular images on social media sites including Facebook. Only one Angus osprey has ever been tagged - the first chick now known as Blue YD, It was initially tracked to Senegal, but fears it may have come to harm after the young male’s signal was lost gave way to relief when the bird was photographed back home earlier this year.

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.

Man with two dogs

Help for man’s best friend

January 2 2018

I had to fight my way through a proper bourach of wriggling, tail-wagging dogs to meet Carol Begg, founder and rescue coordinator of Perthshire Gundog Rescue. The organisation grew out of a dog day-care boarding service but for the past 12 years Carol has worked with and rehomed gundogs and gundog breed dogs. Perthshire Gundog Rescue (PGR) recently relocated to Rescobie Manse, overlooking Rescobie Loch near Forfar, and since earlier this year has been a registered Scottish charity. In common with other dog rescue charities, PGR also takes in unwanted dogs and dogs that have been victims of cruelty. Carol assesses them and works with them to resolve any issues and finds suitable homes for them having assessed, in turn, all prospective adopting owners. Her approach is unconventional – dogs taken in by her for assessment live in the house with Carol. Her practical view is that you can’t assess the whole dog and its problems if it is outside in a kennel. They live alongside Carol’s own dogs, for, as she says, a dog is a dog’s best teacher. Gundog breeds and their owners are as susceptible to crises and life-changing circumstances as any others. Situations arise where an owner can no longer cope with a dog due to health problems, job loss, personality conflicts. PGR offers hands-on help and support, working with these owners to help them keep their dogs wherever possible. Carol’s advice is never to suffer alone, as that is when irrational decisions are made that are later regretted. A confidential emergency helpline is available for dog owners and their dogs who need a supportive word or shoulder to lean on. From March she is offering a B&B service at Rescobie Manse – which, I suspect, is unique in the dog rescue world – so that she can work with owners and dogs together. Foodbanks for people are much in the news but, knowing that old people in particular will feed their dog before themselves, Perthshire Gundog Rescue operates a food bank for dogs – again, an unusual service I haven’t heard of before. The philosophy is simple: dog owners’ wellbeing is as important as their dogs’, otherwise at some point the dogs will begin to suffer. Two large, dog-savvy cats rule the kitchen. They too are part of the PGR philosophy – cat-hating dogs soon learn from dog-savvy cats. I spent a most instructive morning at Rescobie. Dogs have been part of my life all of my life and relationships with at least one were rocky. I learned that more problems arise from human behaviour than dogs’ behaviour. When I thought about it, I realised that our dogs are almost entirely dependent on us and mostly they just want us to like them as much as they want to like us. Log on to perthdogrescue.com to learn more about the interesting work of this new dog charity and how you can help with volunteering or fundraising. Foreign aid At this season of goodwill towards men it would be good to think that goodwill extends in equal measure to all animals, too. But, sadly, the world is not like that, either to men or to animals. Lola is as mysterious as her name suggests – her age and her ancestry are indeterminate. She came to Scotland from Romania a month ago, a rescue puppy, found on a rubbish dump and taken into care by the charity, Barking Mad Dog Rescue Romania. She has been adopted by David, Bursar of The Burn House, Edzell, and Sarah Turner who were won over by her appealing face on the charity’s website. The story of animal welfare, especially dogs, in Romania is quite disturbing. In the 1980s, in an effort to industrialise the country, the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu – in a process akin to the Highland Clearances – forced the rural communities away from the country and into crowded city tenements. They were obliged to abandon their dogs, resulting in an epidemic of unchecked breeding of semi-feral strays. The dogs found their way to the cities in search of food and a state-sanctioned policy of humanely destroying the strays was introduced, which has not been a success. The Barking Mad dog rescuers provide food, vet care and support to three shelters in Romania and work with adopters and foster carers throughout the UK. Twice monthly they bring dogs for rehoming into this country, taking them as far north as Wick. Lola is settling into her new home well. She is clearly most affectionate and appreciative of her new, secure surroundings and the care given her by her new family. Visit barkingmaddogrescue.co.uk and click on Why Romania to learn more about the charity’s work.

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