COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles
List of Issues online
June 2006 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Photo courtesy of Robert MacMillan
MARINE WORLD DAMAGED
Ross surveys the damage
DEBATE ON COASTAL AND MARINE NATIONAL PARKS
Arisaig & District Community Council hosted a well attended public meeting in the Astley Hall on 4th May 2006, with the aim of opening up the discussion on the proposed idea of a Coastal and Marine Park for Scotland.
Scottish Natural Heritage, who have the task of passing recommendations on likely sites to the Scottish Executive, were represented by Peter Rawcliffe, Christine Welsh, Mark Steward, Area Manager Kristin Scott and Board Member Hugh Raven. Also present were John Hermse, Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association, Kirsty MacLeod of People Too, Fergus Ewing MSP and Iain MacKinnon, Chairman of the newly formed Action Against Marine Parks (AAMP).
Hugh Raven explained that Scottish Executive had decided that a Coastal & Marine Park (CMNP) should be formed somewhere along Scotland's coastal areas by 2008, and that SNH had been tasked with identifying potential areas. Various stakeholders had been involved in the process. Five areas have been shortlisted, including the area Lochaber and South Skye.
Mr Raven read out a paragraph in a letter from the Minister, Ross Finnie, to Dr John Markland, Chairman of SNH:-
'As you will be aware, there has been an increasing amount of ill-informed comment to the effect that the decision on the siting of the park has already been taken and that the creation of a park would result in, for example, a cessation of in-shore fishing. It would be most helpful if, in your further engagement, you would emphasise that no decisions will be taken without further consultation and that the creation of a park will not impinge on the operations of inshore fisheries management groups.'
Hugh confirmed that it was likely that Ministers would want local community support before agreeing on the area chosen for the CMNP but could not say what form it would take at a local level.
Peter Rawcliffe, SNH, brought the meeting up to date with what has happened so far. The fishing industry has shown considerable scepticism about the proposals; key concerns include additional bureaucracy, local accountability, controls of fishing, and the possibility of attracting too many visitors.
He said the aims of a NP are to care for the resources; provide the opportunity to enjoy the area; better planning and management of the area; to deliver social and economic benefits in the area; and to promote local community development. The main role of the Park Authority will be the development and implementation of a Park Plan for the area. Inshore Fisheries Management Groups will be outwith the control of the National Park Authority.
Following the system adopted in Loch Lomond and Cairngorm Parks, SNH has advised that the board should be developed on the following basis: up to 25 members; 5 locally elected, 10 appointed by the Local Authority, and 10 appointed by the Scottish Executive. In Cairngorm 22 out of the 25 live within the NP and 6 are professional land managers, in this case obviously some would represent fishing interests.
Kirsty MacLeod of People Too voiced her concerns about spending money on conservation rather than on health, education, roads, and housing; the political concept of increasing controls, bureaucracy and reams of paper; the problems that will arise when people outwith the park will feel that they have a right to interfere; the NP ending up being run by very few people.
John Hermse of M&NWFA raised concerns about there being already a lengthy list of bodies and initiatives concerned with fishing. He said that historically there are 700 pieces of legislation impacting on the fishing industry and the CMNP is not likely to support trawling and dredging.
The quotas for nephrops and scallops have both been increased by 30 to 50% therefore must be sustainable. He feels that the people living and working here are pawns in a political game and that the main contenders should have been consulted at an earlier stage.
A question and answer session followed. The consultation process was criticized, and the selection of what was felt to be limited groups to be the national stakeholders. The amount of land included in a CMNP would vary but in this area it would be basically 2 km inland from the coast, which would include most settlements and development areas and the whole of the islands in the Small Isles group. It is not intended that the designation of a NP should involve Town & Country Planning issues or that bureaucracy should increase. The issue of more visitors coming to the area raised concerns about the infrastructure needed to handle them, which Peter Rawcliffe said will have to be considered.
To the question as to why the existing Council can't do what a NP would propose to do, came the answer that it would need extra funding and resources and its priority is health, education, roads etc, and there is no certainty they would be able to take forward these extra functions effectively. Social housing must be near the top of the issues for a NP.
National Parks have a marketing brand but it was pointed out that this area already has a local branding designation, 'The Road to the Isles', and any duplication in branding would be confusing. Hugh Raven insisted that a NP designation should not affect other designations.
It was reiterated that it is not the intention of either SNH or a NP to control fishing, the Inshore Fisheries Management Groups should have the lead on that. SNH will not be involved in running a CMNP. However concerns have been raised by SNH's statement in their report: 'Irrespective of its seaward boundary, the area of any coastal and marine National Park will overlap with one or more of the new inshore fisheries groups. The clear view emerging from the Scottish Executive and fishing interests is that these should continue to be the main vehicle for the planning and management of fisheries within the Park area. SNH supports this view, provided the inshore fisheries groups prove effective in delivering better management arrangements in practice and work to actively support the implementation of the Park Plan' (S3, para 26).
The CMNP will have to prepare a Park plan, and in some areas the NP could cross local area boundaries. It was admitted that so far there has been no assessment of whether a NP has had an impact on increasing local economy. Fergus Ewing MSP summed up the meeting. He said he was pleased that SNH had come to this meeting but regretted that their handling of the process to date. It is still too early to see the impact. The authorities must realise that housing is more important than new bodies. Fergus will personally make sure that everyone is consulted before a decision is made. He pointed out that fishing is not everything but it is important as are safety, fuel and good crews. Fergus has asked Ross Finnie to visit the area personally and answer questions.
After the meeting, the Action Against Marine Parks group vowed to fight on with plans to oppose the imposition of a CMNP in this area.
Fergus Ewing has reportedly said that when the National Park law was going through parliament more than five years ago he made the point that there should be no national park established unless the people who live within the designated area supported the idea. Scottish Executive rejected this proposal. Since the meeting Fergus has circulated a letter to constituents outlining his disquiet about the concept of marine Parks and asking them to write to him if they have concerns.
AUTHOR AND READERS VISIT MALLAIG
French Canadian authoress Diane Lacombe, her agent Laurent Lavigne and around 40 fans of her historical novels plan to visit Mallaig for an hour or so on Friday 16th June, as part of a trip to the area which features in three of her medieval stories. The novels are a great success in Canada and France, and have been translated and sold in the Czech Republic, Portugal and Brazil. They are set in a mythical Mallaig in the 15th century, and tell of the MacNeil clan. Below the heroine of 'La Châtelaine Mallaig' ('The Lady Of Mallaig Castle') describes her first view of the Castle:
'Late that afternoon, as we passed a pine grove, it loomed in the distance at the end of the peninsula, between the two lochs, outlined against the sea. Very imposing. The building stood alone on a promontory that seemed unassailable from where we were. Its donjon, the thirty-foot-high walls and the guardroom were all made of red sandstone, which contrasted with the gray landscape. There seemed to be no village built against its walls. Endless fields surrounded it on all sides, some used to grow cereals, others as pastures. I counted seven cottages in the surroundings and a mill to the East. Nothing else.'
The party are leaving Canada on 12th June and on the 16th they are leaving Oban for Skye, stopping at Glenfinnan, Arisaig and Morar, all mentioned in the novels, on their way to Mallaig. Hopefully there will be time for them to have tea at the Mallaig Heritage Centre with local residents before catching the ferry.
There is a copy of 'La Châtelaine Mallaig' in Mallaig Library in French, and M Lavigne has promised to bring copies of the other novels to give to the Library.
You can read a synopsis of the novels and their first chapters (in English!) on www.edvlb.com/dianelacombe
Although the Canadian party are well aware the Mallaig of the novels is fictional and there is no castle, a party of French visitors were recently asking in the village for the whereabouts of the building!
Well, the new pier is coming along, and should (!) be finished by the end of June. It should be pointed out that boats should not use it until it has been officially cleared for landings - I hear the lifeboat had some problems when accessing it the other night (speedy recuperation to Nick, by the way).
Lochaber Housing came over for a day out, and were treated to a team building day courtesy of the Ranger service - smiles all round, which was good! This was swiftly followed by the attempted mass exodus of 32 party-animals from Knoydart, intent on heading off to the Rum festival. Unfortunately, various boat and weather problems meant that we didn't get there until the next day - sorry about missing your performance, Aidan / Ross - heard it was a big success. The rest of the festival was as well-organised, good natured and fun as the previous year - well done to the hard-working team who pulled it off.
Usual ceilidh shenanigans - this time Tam the Banjo and his Squashy Bag Dance Band really excelled themselves with a Knoydart Arts Promotions dance (lessons were provided earlier in the day!). We were joined by Rob Wainwright and a group of suitably inebriated stags, who made their presence felt fully kilted-up. DJ Dolphin Boy finished off the set in a stylish manner. A group headed over to Harris for a Making your Land Pay conference - lots of interesting stuff to come out of it (including a sighting of the house where Kenny was born!). It was especially good to meet up with other community-owned land groups, as they shared many of the same challenges as Knoydart.
Mountain Rescue were nearly called out last night - a lad had set off on what he was confident was a seven hour day, only to arrive exhausted back at a bothy 12 hours later. A good lesson in the need to leave route cards and have a good idea of the terrain, especially if solo walking.
What else has been happening around the village? Conversation has mainly been centered round deer, housing, and piers. None of which I fancy exploring at great length in these pages...
ISLE OF MUCK
May has not been a month when it has been easy to find events worthy of mention in West Word. It has been a cold month apart from the three days noted below but May is usually cold with plenty of north wind. Perhaps that is the main reason why there have been so few visitors to the island until the last few days.
On the technology front things are looking up. On the 15th Steve Husband of Summer Isles Engineering arrived on the island with a replacement for the wind charger which disappeared in the hurricane 18 months ago. This powered the repeater station on the Broadband system and the replacement was paid for by HIE. Since then Broadband has been available at Gallanach most of the time. More recently a team of engineers from Daisy Communications and led by Alick Smylie has been sorting out our dodgy telephone systems. We hope they are successful!
On the farm the three warm days in the month, 8th, 9th and 10th, fairly brought on the grass. My house cow's milk yield soon doubled though this was perhaps more a reflection of how badly fed she was on silage than the quality of the grass. Probably a bit of both.
The Swedes are now sown and this year I have doubled the acreage to five. I have purchased a second hand harvester which in a dry winter like the last one should work fine. In the years which are too wet there is always the option of grazing them off with the black or the mule ewes controlled by electric nets.
As I write 12 hoggs are on their way to Grantown slaughterhouse. They are part of the Lochaber Larder project and the meat will be sold on the island.
Lastly the Open Day is Sunday 18th June - see you there!
ISLE OF CANNA
Welcome to another snippet from Canna.
Things have been very hectic over the past few months, which is why the column has not been submitted!
The RJ's men have left (finally!). leaving us with our shiny new road bridge and slipway. Also two new pier sheds, two septic tanks, a caravan… the list is endless!
As a start of the holidays a very large cruise boat came to Canna with over three hundred people aboard. The tearoom staff (Wendy MacKinnon and Corinna Maclellan) were rushed off their feet from 8.30 in the morning until 4.30 in the afternoon. They even did meals that night!
As a surprise Big Brother winner Cameron came ashore and had his photo taken of the two weak-kneed women (eat your hearts out Rum islanders).
The annual Small Isles trip to Fort William went very well this year. Saying hello to some new faces and good-bye to some old ones.
Mouse man Fraser Dodds has returned to the island and has been setting up his Longworth traps on the island for the past few days. He is aiming to catch any remaining mice from the island.
That's all she wrote!
ISLE OF EIGG
Brrr, in these chilly days for the season, viruses spread like wildfire and everyone on Eigg has had a nasty cold that refused to go away, making the school children in particular pretty miserable. At least the violent thunder storm on Thursday 6th May cleared the air temporarily - no casualties on Eigg (unlike that fearful storm some 50 years ago: lightning struck Cleadale, killing two cows tethered in their stalls by metal rings, tells Katie MacKinnon) - leading to a beautiful sunny day for the romantic beachside wedding of Eilidh and Ross, who - we were reminded - first met on Eigg! It was a lovely occasion, the bride and groom made a beautiful couple and looked blissfully happy, and a finer gathering of musicians has not been seen for a long time! The next great gathering of musicians was of course the Sound of Rum festival the following weekend, which managed to surpass last year's. How could it possibly be more wonderful next year, but I am sure it will be, because of the combination of the 50th anniversary of the NNR and Year of Highland Culture 2007! The Eigg contingent was well represented with Pascal conducting a willow fish making workshop, Grace giving it laldy on the button box and wee Mia with fairy wings on - courtesy of Linda's art workshop - organising a game team in the back of the marquee, making Granny Maggie very proud indeed! The relaxed friendly vibe with all the activities on offer was very enjoyable and I was certainly delighted to have finally learnt how to make a dream catcher with Henry Fosbrooke's woodland activity team: I probably met Henry 15 years ago at the Highland and Islands Forum and it's good to see him getting on so well! Who knows, he might even come to Eigg one of these days, and I'll get a chance to try the wood marimba.
This month has also the excellent news about the South Uist Community buy-out: good luck to our fellow islanders. The other good news is that the Social Enterprise Academy (based in Edinburgh but covering the whole of Scotland) is developing a series of learning modules to support and inspire community land management teams amongst other client groups, something I personally think has been needed for a long time. It is encouraging to see how the social land ownership sector is steadily growing in strength, and initiatives like the Eigg renewable electricity scheme demonstrates this very well. If the government delivers on recycling as it is on renewables, with the proposed community subsidy of £150 per ton of recycled material, we will soon see progress on that front too!
In the meantime, tangible progress can also be seen on Eigg as the Laig farmhouse track is now done up and work has started on the track leading to the St Donnan's church and Laig beach. Drainage was well overdue and progress is already noticeable! Another track that needs improvement is the track to Hulin, and this is scheduled to happen very soon as well. With the new colour coded signage for the island walking paths now in place, we are well ready for our visitors this season.
They should not fail to notice the new calves gambolling about in Cleadale - there is even a beautiful new highland calf on Hulin croft. The purple orchids are all out and the bluebells are putting on their annual show. All we need is a bit of warmth!
Eddie and Lucy's house is now roofed: Eddie now feels confident that they are on course for their house-warming in late August. Work is also progressing nearby on Gavin Scott-Moncrieff's and the plaster-boarding is nearing completion at long last in Brae cottage! Meanwhile, we welcome the Kendrick family who have pitched their yurt on Sue and Neil's croft in Cleadale: good to see a few more children on the island. Dean is also back after a spell in Nottingham and he has brought Bernie with him: I am sure she did not need much persuading! So with a few new Eiggach and some more returning for the summer from school and uni, we are all looking forward to the great gathering of friends and supporters and west coast party goers at our anniversary celebrations, which will feature Jamatha, Croft no5, and DJ Dolphin Boy!
Congratulations to Catherine Robertson and Greig Stables who were married in the church at Glenfinnan on Friday, 28th April. Catherine is the daughter of Donald John and Joan Robertson. They are setting up home in Keith where Greig is from and where Catherine is a vet. They were blessed with the weather and we all enjoyed champagne and canapés on the lawn before the marquee reception at Glenfinnan House Hotel. It was a great night and the east and west coasters got on like a house on fire and had no trouble keeping up with each other.
A highlight of the wedding was the walk from the church to the hotel. David Robertson and Iain MacFarlane piped the bride, groom and guests down the church path. A refreshment stop half-way made this the most enjoyable walk I've experienced in some time. DJ, Joan and a few volunteers have transformed the path with drainage, gravel and plants. It is now a good path for everyone's benefit.
The Loch Shiel Spring Festival was enjoyed by a lot of people. The most unusual performance was in the Glenfinnan train station. The audience were on one platform as if waiting for a train and the musicians were on the opposite platform playing live and recorded music and sounds. The music was a train journey and at one point I did wonder if a train was actually coming; it didn't. A quartet of Russian tenors, Kovenets Quartet, performed in the church in aid of the church restoration fund on Sunday 28th May. They sang sacred music for the first half then after an interlude with wine and nibbles they sang Russian folk songs. Their voices were superb and with the acoustics in the church seemed to envelope you. The sacred music was very soothing and if it weren't for the fact it is highly inappropriate I would have happily had a wee lie down as I listened. The church was full and the audience very appreciative. Some of the folk songs induced giggles particularly when they sang laughter, which was highly amusing.
Well done to two talented teenagers Lewis and Kirsten. Lewis Gibson has been selected for the Scottish Hockey team and has real ambitions to play in the next Olympic Games. Kirsten Colman has been selected to play in the national youth orchestra. They both work very hard in their chosen fields to achieve this level of success and the future looks to be full of promise for them. Operating at a national level has incurred big training and rehearsal costs for both of them and I know that they are both looking for sponsorship to help with this.
Stevie Docherty won the Donnie Strang Memorial Quaich at the Angling Club Trout Fishing Competition on 27th May. In 2nd place was Michael Rhoden and 3rd was Billy Grant.
Happy Birthday to Lewis MacRae age 6 and his sister Katie MacRae age 4.
Happy Birthday to Ailsa Powell who celebrates her 21st on 10th June!
Happy Birthday also to Ingrid Henderson who was 29 and not 30 as a 'friend' announced in The Oban Times. I wouldn't like to be in his shinty boots when she exacts her revenge!
I celebrated the big 3 0 this month. Now that I've said bye bye to my twenties I have also had to say bye bye to the handy excuse of being young. But, I did get a long longed for present of a digital SLR camera. I haven't figured out a fraction of what it does but in the meanwhile I am just snap happy. So, if you find a lens thrust in your face please smile.
We had a village tidy this month. Well done to Joan, Duncan, Manja and Sinè who did it all and collected 6 big bags of rubbish. The next one will be in October so please come and help keep our village tidy.
Warner Brothers has been filming the new Harry Potter in Glenfinnan.
If you fancy a cruise on the loch the MV Sileas has started its programme of scheduled cruises.
Glenfinnan Gala and Raft race on Saturday 3rd June. Raft race starts at 2pm.
Ramsay Dewar passed away after a long illness. Formerly of Torr an Eas, Glenfinnan he died at the Moss Park Nursing Home in Caol. His funeral, conducted by Father Roddy Johnstone took place at St John's, Caol.
ISLE OF RUM - Sound of Rum Music Festival 2006
Being one of the organisers, I'm not in a position to objectively review this year's Rum Music Festival, however, It was grand!!! With a relatively small staff and gang of volunteers, we managed to keep everything running smoothly for the whole weekend. The weather managed to stay dry, for which we are eternally grateful, as after a couple of hours drizzle on the Monday afternoon, a number of substantial puddles appeared - including one in the beer tent!. All the musicians camped this year, for which we provided several 12 man tents, it all got a bit tight and it wasn't till the Tuesday afterward (when we took them down) that we discovered that one had remained unused. Thank goodness most of them used their initiative and stayed up all night…
On Friday night we got the delicate talents of Aidan's Poetry, very appropriately accompanied by Ross Martin on guitar and jews harp, swiftly followed by Daimh and Croft number five who were both totally rocking.
A quick special thanks to James Bremner for hassling the hecklers!!
Saturday kicked off with a blocked toilet or two (our thanks to Mr. Plumber who showed willing and fixed them) but the sun came out and the kids took to the bouncy castle and all the workshops began, well attended for the most part, Henry Fosbrooke's woodland crafts and orchestra were particular popular, Henry left us an assortment of benches, tools, charcoal and footmassagers all made during the festival and a phenomenal logbench which was finished off this weekend by Sandy and Dave (chainsaw). Saturday's music ran a bit behind schedule, but everyone got their moneys worth - Squashy Bag got the dancing going and were followed by Salsa Celtica who soon whipped everyone into a frenzy. The phenomenal collective talent of Frog in Throat, (John Sommerville, Paul Jennings, Innes Watson, Ross Ainsley, Kevin O'Neill, Martin O'Neill, Adam Sutherland, Duncan Lyle, Bo Jingham and Barry Reid(Spad)) showed what the youth of today are really up to. They played extraordinarily and left the Peatbog Faeries a lot to live up to- though without a doubt, they shook the shack.
Sunday's highlights were Fraobhacha, a young Irish band, who had been travelling for about 2 days to get to the gig, and Mathew Watson who maybe just out of short trousers but proved himself and his band to be a staggering new talent - if you get the chance, go see them.
Thanks are due to all those who worked hard to make this a successful event, especially to Greg Milligan and the Spanish John, without whom it wouldn't have been possible - truly a lifeline boat service!!! and Ronnie Dunn and staff for feeding the hoards and providing first class catering.
Cheers to all the boats and RIBs ( Seafari, Sheerwater, Bella Jane and Lachie Robertson) for putting on extra services to get everyone here.
Thank you to everyone for coming and making it a worthwhile event for us to put on. Check out pictures at www.larrydeluxe.com/SoundofRum06
I hardly dare follow Fliss's rave on the Rum rave with a brief account of the events we've had in the Astley Hall - but I shall anyway! Excellent concerts from Lau at Easter and by Duncan Chisholm and Ivan Drever of Wolfstone fame; an opera workshop which Fiona said wasn't exactly 'overwhelmed' with people; our first really local wedding, Hughie and Anne's; computer lessons; and two protest meetings! Although one wasn't a protest meeting really, it was called to open up debate…
I've had a hard time getting grant money for the arts programme this year, every funder is getting tighter and harder to please. I began to wonder why I was putting myself through it all. Now we need audiences or I'll feel it's a waste of my time and the books won't balance! We have some great things lined up so do come along! The Duncan/Ivan concert was reasonably well attended - by folk who had come specially from Fort William, Ardnamurchan, Spean Bridge and Dundee!! but not many locals. It was particularly nice to see people from Eigg and Muck there too. If anyone has any ideas of what they would like to see at the Hall please let me know.
Thanks to Su Coyne we at last have our blackout curtains for the main hall, something the shadow puppeteers will be pleased about! So will Richard, he'll no longer have to go shinning up long ladders armed with black vinyl and a mouthful of tacks. I'm not sure if we thanked Laura Dalgliesh a few months back for the donation of wine glasses for the hall, much appreciated and well used in the concert intervals.
A few gardens on the middle road are having some landscaping done - or rather undone - courtesy of the Hydro Board. They are having to replace the main cable which was damaged in the electric storm. By the way, a gardener friend of mine tells me that Winnie's tree which was exploded by lightning wasn't a common tree, although it was in a garden - if anyone is interested it was a cupressus arizonica (Arizona Cypress).
More landscaping - I'm not sure I understand this - trees have been planted along the road out of Arisaig, where the plantations have been felled - I would have thought the new road line made this pointless but I must be wrong!!
Who said the countryside was peaceful? We have what must be a deranged sparrow who sits on the gutter from about 4am until dusk and squawks one note the whole time without break. He doesn't feed young, visit a nest, or leave the gutter for more than a few minutes every now and then. We've had to close the window! Out in the back at least the constant sound is a thrush in concert with doves and the cuckoo but that gets pretty deafening sometimes. I'm not complaining! I'd rather have that than the sound of traffic or noisy neighbours.
A wee Personal Angle story of my own: when I got married 34 years ago, my mother in law gave me a handkerchief to carry - she had carried it at her own wedding, so it was something old, borrowed and blue all at the same time. She told me I must give it to my daughter or daughter-in-law on her wedding day. So for 34 years I have remembered this, and the day before Ross married Eilidh I got the hankie out - yes, I knew exactly where it was, waiting for this moment. After all that time in one drawer or another it was a bit musty, so I filled a bowl with luke-warm water and a bit of Stergene, gently washed the hankie - and watched it disintegrate in my hands. Which is why Eilidh has inherited a lot of holes held together with chiffon - but at least I kept faith with my promise!
Anything else I might be able to say about Arisaig is covered in other articles and I'll say something about the idea of a Development Trust next month - so I'll leave it at that. I'll just add that at last we again have Direct Debit forms for the Hall's 200 Club available at the Post Office.
MALLAIG DEERSHUNTERS CHALLENGE
The Mallaig Motorcycle Club set out on their Great East European Challenge on behalf of the Save the Children charity on Tuesday 13th June. They plan to leave at 11 am from Mallaig High School where they will be waved off by BBC Really Wild Show presenter Terry Nutkins amongst others.
The riders are a Police Officer, a British Transport Special Constable, 2 Fire-fighters, a Paramedic, a Lifeboat Coxswain, an HM Coastguard Officer and an ex-member of the Armed Services - better known to us as John Bryden, Mike Whelan, Alasdair Sinclair, Neil MacKellaig, Alan Knox, Bertie McMinn, Tony Skea and Tony Austin.
Their journey will take them across Holland, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Austria & the Czech Republic, a total of some 4200 miles, returning on Thursday 29th June. They will go to 9 capital cities and visit orphanages en route to raise the profile of the good work being done by volunteers working on behalf of Save the Children. They have already raised more than £6000 for the Save the Children charity and hope to raise a lot more.
The Deershunters have named Sunday 18th June as Safer Biking Day and are asking motorcyclists across the country to attach a piece of red cloth to their bikes and to ride 'in dignified quiet reflection paying their respect to fellow motorbike riders who have lost their lives on our roads'.
Supporters include Charles Kennedy MP and Jimmy Savile, who is helping promote the road safety angle. You can follow a web diary (blog) of their expedition and also give a donation through their website: www.mallaigdeershunters.co.uk
SNH WELCOME FOR CHARLES AND CAMILLA
Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, accompanied by Camilla, Duchess of Rothesay, visited Kinloch Castle on the island of Rum on Thursday 1st June.
A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage, which own the island and manage it as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), said they were delighted to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay to Rum, during which visit the Prince toured the 106-year-old castle and was informed about proposals for its future. Invited to join the official party was Douglas King, Honorary Secretary of the Kinloch Castle Friends Association.
The cost of the maintenance of Kinloch Castle has presented SNH with a number of significant challenges beyond its normal remit. The SNH annual budget of £65,000 to maintain the castle has helped with small scale repairs and maintenance but major repair and conservation works are now required if the building and its collections are to be preserved for future generations. These works are currently estimated to be around £8m and require external funding. However, before funding can be secured, a feasible and sustainable proposal for the castle's future and more robust estimates of costs are required.
Kinloch Castle captured The Prince's attention when it appeared on BBC2's first Restoration series three years ago. The castle polled 143,000 votes in telephone support, narrowly missing out on more than £3m in prize money.
The Prince then convened a meeting with SNH, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland, the Scottish Executive, the Prince of Wales' Phoenix Trust, National Trust Scotland, and the Landmark Trust. The Phoenix Trust then offered its help in finding a solution.
HRH takes a keen interest in his Trust's projects and is visiting Kinloch Castle while work is in progress to receive a full briefing and tour of the castle and will also meet members of the island community.
SNH commissioned the Phoenix Trust to produce a detailed report on the options for a long term sustainable solution for the castle compatible with the organisation's custodianship of the island as a National Nature Reserve.
That process began with an analysis of all past work on the castle, followed by the collation of current ideas, concerns and opinions of others, including meetings and talks with the Rum community.
These initiatives identified initial options which were considered by the SNH Board last year, while in February this year the Trust was commissioned to undertake more detailed feasibility studies into three possible options. This second phase of work will be completed in July. It will compare the costs and benefits of each option and recommend a preferred option to be pursued by SNH as the most sustainable in the long term, and the most likely to attract the necessary funding.
West Word - ten years ago
The main story on the front page of the June 1996 issue of West Word was the success of Primary 6 & 7 of Arisaig Primary School who won the Scottish 'Young Entrepreneur Award' via their creation of a Board Game called 'Charlie's Escape'. The twelve pupils involved and their teacher Felicity Blackburn were pictured with their trophy.
Two other stories adorned the front page; news of the Second Road to the Isles Agricultural Show and villagers' concern about the by-pass of Arisaig when the new road was built.
Page 3's Council Corner, penned by Cllr King, mentioned meetings in Mallaig, Morar and Arisaig to discuss the Local Plan, the Small Isles Jetties and toilet revamp in Mallaig among other various items.
Supt. Murray Campbell provided a full report on the Fishermen's Mission Week-end and although the Friday's weather meant HMS Lindisfarne headed for Kyle, Saturday's schedule of events all took place thanks to better weather conditions prevailing.
Eigg welcomed a Highland Council delegation as it hosted the AGM of the Small Isles Community Council while Nina Campbell on Rum told West Word readers of the safe arrival of the first new lovely creamy coloured pony.
Local Fishermen's Association Secretary Hugh Allen reported on the poor prawn fishing being experienced by his members and of the appointment of Mr Ross Campbell as Scientific Advisor to the Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association.
The Lifeboat Log reported 6 call outs for the Davina and Charles Matthews Hunter and on two of those occasions the Lifeboat was launched to go to the assistance of fishing boats aground on Rum. This led Freddie Salmon to comment in the Personal Angle column that lottery funding should be obtained for the placing of a rubber buffer on the SE side of Rum!!!
Continuing a light hearted vein, Mallaig Primary School page contained this limerick composed (?) by Mhairi Longmuir and Melissa Gillies -
There was a young man from Rum
Who couldn't stop sucking his thumb
This digit grew sore
Like never before
And now is exceedingly numb.
A special report on trout fishing in Pakistan penned by Robert Spence (Scamadale) at the start of his Eastern Experience was complemented by Barry Austin's last report on his South American venture. Somewhat closer by, that well known Mallaig snake charmer Billy Ward was pictured with his pet, an American corn snake called Apollo, which he purchased from the Serpentarium in Broadford, Skye. A somewhat more productive pet was Paddy the Cat MacEachen who won £50 in Arisaig's Astley Hall 200 Club Draw!
Lochaber Housing Association was also proving productive with 15 new houses planned for Arisaig, five for Eigg, eight houses for Glenfinnan and a building site being actively pursued at Morar. This all being aimed to help alleviate the chronic shortage of housing for local residents in these areas. Tourist accommodation was being provided on the Isle of Muck via a new Backpackers Hostel.
One thing that I would like to see in West Word is a lively letters page and Issue 8 Vol 2 certainly had that with a special two-page spread of letters including a cryptic one from 'Agent X to Agent Y'.
Paul Galbraith was still typing away at his croft in Bracara providing Gaelic Proverbs and Sayings for West Word.
Angling, Golf and Basketball were among the sports featured along with three football tournaments. The Mallaig Police 5-a-side initiative, Mallaig Primary's participation in the Highland 7-a-side finals in Inverness and Primary A & B teams taking part in the Lochaber 7-a-side tournament - a tournament won by the Mallaig A Team
The success of Morar brothers Alan & Duncan MacDonald in the Six Day Trials was reported on via an article and photographs and this was also the way we reported on the inaugural Creag A Chait Hill Race, with the first winner of the James Jarvie Memorial Cup being John Brooks of Fort William. The race, organised in tandem with the Fishermen's Mission Weekend, also attracted Labour MEP Dennis Canavan among its entrants.
A snippet to finish off with - Arisaig golfer Hugh MacDougall bonks Bob Burt on the head with a tee shot. So the question has to be asked: did it knock any sense into him? Answers please on a five pound note to the usual address….
Spring Visitors at Tarbet
Winter hit us in March and April, with snow lying for a week at a time and north gales straight from Spitzbergen. (But then, ill winds do pile up the seaweed and ensure this year's tatties). At one time, we had six deer sharing the sheep food.
Yet after a few day's sunshine in May, the indomitable birches began to show green and now the whole hillside is forty shades of it. Donald always looks for the sandpipers - Iain Mor nan cladaich - with their trilling song and swooping flights across the bay, and they arrived in the last days of April. There are far-travelled terns too, and the mallard pair have moved round from Kyles Morar.
One morning a one swan appeared, one of last year's cygnets, and gratefully accepted lots of bread, following which he flaked out on the shingle and looked done in...but when the tide floated him off, he paddled away, and was gone by the next morning. Then we had a goldfinch at the peanuts for two days - the first day, a chaffinch drove him off, by the second day he could stand off two of them.
On Tuesday 9th May, I was taking the seed trays off the shed roof, where they escape the scavenging sheep, when I saw a pigeon - trim, slim and obviously a thoroughbred racer, with his green leg rings. He flew down the path, looked into our untidy glory hole of a shed and decided this was not quite what he was used to. He then walked along the gravel to the front door, which was open, and walked inside. He turned into the sitting room, walked over to the fire and claimed hospitality in the old way, by jumping onto the sofa and sitting there exhausted.
He was popped in a basket for the night, and thanks to the Co-op's broth mix soon recovered his spirits, and his wings; he took to roosting up on the gable end, and only coming down for feeds. I did enjoy having a pigeon about the place...reminded me of Glasgow, where their cooing wakes one about 3am in summer. This is only the second time in a decade that one has fetched up here.
Fortunately, the next door neighbour, Mr Ruaridh Mackinnon, pointed out that with our local peregrines, his days were numbered, and he should be returned to his owner. Ut now he was wary and just walked away from me (no need to fly!). I told Ruaridh - and within ten minutes, he was back with the pigeon in his hands.
The Scottish Homing Union - 01698 286983 - are the people to contact; their Secretary was most helpful, and lost no time in putting me in touch with our local pigeon man, Mr. P. Kennedy in Fort William, who gladly agreed to take in the wanderer. So he was boarded at a fine wee loft, in a magnificent garden, to await uplift. He was far travelled indeed, coming from Hawick, and having arrived in Tarbet by the scenic route - he was released at Northallerton in Yorkshire. And he's only a year old - that pigeon will go far!
Others of Mr Kennedy's pigeons had actually gone further - he had one from Poland, and one from Norway! Brilliant birds, pigeons! Thank God, it all ended well. Here, we are back to the cuckoos, and the hunting owl of nights, but who knows what tomorrow will bring…
HOW CHANGES IN FARMING AND CROFTING ARE AFFECTING OUR LOCAL BIRDS
Imagine a spring without the familiar song of the Skylark , the call of the Lapwing and the late night sound of Snipe . These and other familiar birds enrich our lives and are part of a much bigger picture where the decline of one species can have a direct effect on another and subtle changes in the way we look after our land can have a greater impact than we are maybe aware.
Unfortunately numbers of some waders and other farm and croft land birds are decreasing dramatically, Lapwing numbers receive the most publicity with an incredible 87% decrease in some areas and farmers are encouraged to adopt practices to protect nests through Land Management Contracts and Rural Stewardship Schemes and The RSPB's Lapwing Champion Award. Skylark, Curlew and Snipe have all declined by at least 50% since early 1970, all common enough birds you may think, but the figures tell another story. We are just lucky enough here in the Highlands to be able to see and hear them on a regular basis unlike other parts of farming Britain
Through the various Environmental schemes set up by SEERAD (Scottish Executive Environmental and Rural Affairs Dept] [LMC's, RSS's and ESA 's] and using advice from advisory bodies such as The Farming and Wildlife Advisory service [FWAG] and The Scottish Agricultural College [SAC] crofters and farmers can be guided into trying to prevent the further decline of farmland birds and waders and help try to bring back species already lost or in serious decline such as corn buntings and corn crakes .
SO WHAT DO THESE BIRDS NEED?
LAPWING: They need bare open ground, either tilled or short grassland with wet areas nearby for their chicks to feed and some clumps of rushy cover to hide their chicks from raptors, but not too dense so they become caught up. They feed on earthworms and other insects and insect larva found in abundance on grazed pasture in the dung of cattle and horses. Nests must be left undisturbed by mowing ,harrowing or other field work from the beginning of April through to the beginning of June although farmers can be given advice on how to move nests to complete fieldwork from the RSPB
CURLEW: There have only been one pair sighted in the last year in this area and this very steep decline can possibly be attributed to eggs being taken by mink [traps are available from SNH see below for contact details] but there are other factors. Curlew like to nest in areas of tussock grass or heather with 'muirburn' patches like the type of moorland managed for red grouse and there has been no muirburning on the Bunnacaimbe grazings for many years. They avoid tree cover within 30 metres and enjoy eating dung flies so any open area grazed by cattle or horses is attractive to them and helps survival of their chicks
SKYLARK: They must have open fields to avoid predators and to be able to land and take off. Vegetation must be 20 to 50 cm high, the old hay fields were perfect or grazed fields with a very low stocking density. They nest and lay at 6 week intervals through out the summer so leaving grassland unmowed for 6 weeks for a hay or silage cut can still encourage nesting, alternatively leave a strip of 20 metres wide uncut in the middle of the field .
SNIPE: They nest in marshy areas and moorland bog which is plentiful, but they feed on dung beetles from livestock dung, decreasing cattle numbers on hill ground and croft land has a direct impact on the food sources for Snipe, Curlew and other larger waders that need to feed their young with dung beetles and dung flies. So a decrease in the hill cattle numbers has a direct impact on the numbers of breeding birds .
Unfortunately the decline in livestock numbers may have impacted directly on the decline of these bird species. Hay for cattle is no longer being made on inbye providing cover for corncrakes and early nesting sites for skylark. The spreading of dung and seaweed as a fertilizer encourages earthworms and a wider variety of insects and plants but less crofts are being worked so this is no longer such a common practice. More croft land being used for development and turning croftland into gardens with close mowed lawns, trees and shrubs, although attractive to garden birds can inhibit breeding of species indigenous to this area.
Let's hope that through awareness and by more farmers and crofters entering environmental schemes we will see a gradual increase in numbers again, especially of Lapwing and Curlew and that the song of the skylark and the evening 'humming' of the male snipe will not become a distant memory from the past as the corncrake is now.
For more information write to the RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL, website: www.rspb.org.uk
RSPB Advisory Manager Scotland, Dunedin House, 25 Ravelston Terrace, Edinburgh EH4 3TP
For advice on Mink traps: SNH, 12 Hope Terrace, Edinburgh EH9 2AS; website: www.snh.org.uk
For advice on environmental schemes to help birds on your land: FWAG Scotland, The Rural Centre, Imgliston Newbridge, Midlothian EH28 8NZ. Tel. 0131 472 4080
Thanks to Stephen Macdonald (Lapwing, Skylark) and The RSPB (Curlew) for photographs of birds around Bunacaimbe.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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