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The call of the wild

Chris Roberts


Neither of us have any fishing background, but Michael ensures us, “That doesn’t matter, you’re going to get stuck right in.” We are in Berwick-upon-tweed to find out how Michael Hindhaugh has brought a traditional way of fishing back to the River Tweed and his town of Berwick.

We pull on our waders and Michael points to one of the two blue boats, “You chaps can go in that one.” Each boat or ‘Cobble’ as they are known, has a large net sat on its stern, two wooden oars and not much else. Rob and I stand leaning against the net and Michael rows us out to the sand bank. The other boat, full of experienced fishermen is already there setting up. As he rows, he tells us, “The River Tweed used to have about 30 fisheries in it’s first four miles. There was literally a fishery every 300 yards.” Nowadays only one remains, Michael’s.

This type of fishing is called net and cobble. The net sits on the back of the cob (boat) and as Michael paddles in a semicircle across the river it is released into the water. Each journey across the river is called a shot. Once Michael has completed the shot he heads back to us. I’m stood around a large hand winch helping the rest of the chaps pull the net in, all hoping for a net full of salmon.

Standing there in our waders on the sand bank, we pull in shot after shot for about three hours, Rob is ready and poised with the camera for the all important jumping salmon image. Every shot we’re hoping for the flick of a tail or noticeable ripple in the water. Our catch isn’t the most plentiful (one sea trout) but that could have something to do with two cheeky seals diving down and nicking our catch every time we start to winch the net in. We gather both nets, load the boats and head back to shore and although it may take some divine intervention to feed anyone with our catch, everyone is still in high spirits. The rest of the fishermen are off home, we however of off to the highlands.

A few hours later we are in a vast and peaceful wilderness and we pass a number of deer roaming free, wandering through the various estates grazing on the highland grass and heather. Shortly after we spot the deer we turn off the road and head up a stone drive, through a fairy glen bursting with blue bells to meet Anja and Jan Jacob Baak of Great Glen Charcuterie. 

We arrive late and only have time for a quick chat and a beer before Anja walks us outside and points to our bed for the night. It is high up and fixed to a tree, we both smile instantly. Our own treehouse for the night, fully kitted out with a log burner and bunk beds. Rob grabs a few night time shots and I pen out a few thoughts about what we want to get the next day. Sunrise being one of them at Glen Roy.

4am the alarms on our phones blare out, we jump up, put on our clothes and descend the high ladder from the treehouse half asleep, headed for Glen Roy, the sunrise and the hope of seeing deer. We drive for over an hour, deep into the glen, getting a few faint glimpses of deer but not close enough to get the camera out. We keep going until the road ends and we reach the private lodge. We turn around to head back but stop at the river to get a coffee, admire our surroundings and wait for the sun to come up. After a strong coffee some beautiful shots and the hope of seeing deer has left us, we head back to the house to find out more about Anja and Jan Jacob.

Back in 2003 they started the company trading out of the old butchers shop in Roy Bridge, producing smoked prime cuts of wild venison. In the beginning this type of cured meat was alien to customers, it wasn’t well known or even produced in the UK. But as soon as people tried it, they loved it. Anja says, “It wasn’t long before we broke out of Scotland and started to sell all over the UK in farm shops, deli counters and food halls.” 

We chat around the kitchen table trying the various cured meats, each slice is lean and packed full of taste. One of Jan Jacobs first recipes, a green pepper salami has been their best seller, picking up three gold stars at the great taste awards and an award for Best British Charcuterie. Now they make a range of Chorizo’s, Salami’s, Pepperoni’s and their prime product Bresaola.

We leave the highlands and head back to Manchester. We didn’t see a deer close up, or catch a wild salmon but we did meet some amazing people who gave us a glimpse into their way of life and opened our eyes to two very different foodie worlds, on land and on the water.