Gortenfern with view over Cul na Croise Bay and Eden - location for Channel 4. Courtesy by Paul Howes

Eden – What If We Could Start Again?

Will it all end in a medieval feud, when 23 individuals homestead at a barren beach in North Western Scotland? Or might it bring hope to discouraged brexiters?

Group of participants in Channel 4 series, Eden
Group of participants in Channel 4 series, Eden

What happens if 23 people migrate to a piece of virgin land with lots of skills but few resources? Will they succeed in create the Eden of the 21st century otherwise wrought with globalism, political turmoil, terrorism and climate change? Or will they “go medieval” on each other?

These question are just some of those raised by Eden – an upcoming series on Channel Four, which bring together 23 re-wilders homesteading in North Western Scotland in order to try a build a new society on 600 fenced-off acres of a private estate.

In itself, the landscape around the Ardnamurchan Estate at Cul na Croise Bay is forbidding; with the midgets constantly out, the bog, heather, sand dunes and heavy woodland offer an inviting scenery. Rare species such as the otter, wildcat, pine marten, golden eagle and white-tailed eagle can be seen in Ardnamurchan, which also sports the highest number of Gaelic speakers on the mainland.

According to the Scotsman the designated area has not been inhabited since the Bronze Age (when the climate was decidedly warmer), and the location offers only few possibilities of making a livelihood out of nature. However, the Daily Mail can report that the location is situated less than five miles from a shop, a takeaway, bakery and a pub and in a locality considered a “very popular picnic area”. The nearest house is found no more than 250 m from the camp.

Nevertheless, the participants have only been allowed to take what they could carry. Apart from that, they have been provided with livestock, animal pens, basic safety equipment and reference books. To this have been added the different tools of the trades of the participants, counting – among others – a yoga instructor, two doctors, a rowing coach, an IT consultant cum gamekeeper, a shepherd and dog groomer, a former cavalry officer and a trained chef.

“In Eden there are no tasks, no winner and it’s down to the contributors to shape what success looks like over the year. With many of the young contributors entering Eden feeling disillusioned with 21st century life, how will they fare when their future is in their own hands?” This is the basic question, which the series is asking.

In the end, the series might thus provide some hope for UK, stranded with a looming brexit and an economy totally out of whack. Who knows, there might even be a lesson for all of us still left in the whirling quagmire of the present EU. But – who knows – it might also end with a medieval feud much like those, which marred the history of Scotland in the Middle Ages.

Eden at Ardnamurchan for Channel Four

Ardnamurchan

Ardnamuchan is a peninsula on the West Coast of Scotland covering 130 km2, and noted for being very unspoiled and undisturbed. According to Adomnán or Adamnán of Iona (c. 624 – 704), St. Columba visited the place around AD 572. Adomnán records that the Saint prophesied the deaths of Kings Báetán mac Muirchertaig and Eochaid mac Domnaill, while he was staying at “Paradise Bay”; obviously this has inspired the creators of the TV-series, although – according to tradition – the saint sought out a somewhat bleaker resting place: the cave at Uamha Thuill, to the west of Paradise Bay.

The location of the present “Camp Eden” at has been fenced off for intruders with a “six foot close board fence” and is subject to a section 11 Exemption order removing the right to roam in the area (in effect from 23.03.2016 – 20.03.2017).

The area, however, offers a number of possibilities for less adventurous visitors as well as ample possibilities to discover a prehistoric and medieval landscape with significant historical impact. Since 2006 archaeologists have worked to uncover the history of the landscape from all periods up to the 19th century under the umbrella of the Ardnamurchan Transition Project (ATP).

Viking Boat

One of the more significant finds made by the team was a Viking Boat Burial in 2011 at Swordle Bay to the east of the Cul na Croise Beach. The find was complete with the body of the Viking, his axe, a sword with decorated hilt, a shield boss and a bronze ring pin plus a knife, a Norwegian whetstone and Viking pottery. However, the evidence of the 10th century boat is in itself remarkable. That the area was populated by Vikings is witnessed by the Norse place names, which litter the peninsula. Subsequently, in the 13th century the Vikings left (or perhaps, were rather conquered) at a battle said to have taken place nearby.

Medieval Feuding

With the demise of Viking rule, the peninsula became official part of the Scottish realm. Nevertheless, it served as the mainland foothold of the Lords of the Isles and feuding was common until 1630s, when the castle of Mingary finally passed into the hands of the Campbells. Traditionally the Clan of the McIains ruled the area, but in 1633 the Campbells massacred the Mclain women and children virtually wiping them off the earth.

One of the features of the series is that the people taking part are left to their own social devices. They are free to collaborate, but also to try and survive on their own, reports the producers. Naturally this leaves commentators wondering whether it will all end in a proper medieval feud?

Tourism

Mingary Castle after restoration © Mingary Castle Trust
Room for a tired crew? Mingary Castle after restoration © Mingary Castle Trust

Due to the fence, daily updates on the living experience of the inmates at Camp Eden is not possible. However, ordinary people are free to roam the beautiful landscape outside

Until the mid 19th century and the Highland Clearances the peninsula belonged to the Ardnamurchan Estate. Today, only a third of the peninsula – ca. 10.000 hectares of wild, rugged land – is owned by the company. The only crop is grass, which is used for running 2500 Blackface ewes and 300 cows. 2000 hectares are covered by forest and used for forestry and hunting. More than 1000 Red Deer roam the wilderness together with Roe Deer and Fallow Deer.

The estate offers a number of cottages or converted byres for rent as holiday homes. Another option is to book a holiday at the luxury holiday retreat in the 13th century Mingary Castle on the South coast of Ardnamurchan. Having been abandoned for the last 150 years, the castle has recently been painstakingly restored and offers five bedrooms sleeping ten – all with four-poster beds and private catering included.

Eden is broadcasted on C4 on Monday, the 18th of July 2016 at 9pm

SOURCES:

Eden – Meet the Group

Reality TV show Eden heads for remote Scots West Coast beach

Could YOU survive in the isolated wilderness … a short walk from the pub, chip shop and bakery? Channel 4 under fire for ‘survival’ show being filmed suspiciously close to mod cons

Ardnamurchan Estates

Mingary Castle

FEATURED PHOTO:

Gortenfern with view over Cul na Croise Bay and Eden – location for Channel 4. Courtesy by Paul Howes