Douglas Gibson works at our Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. Sometimes people stop him and ask “What do you actually DO on that reserve? Wonder no more, here Douglas lifts the lid on some fairly typical activities.
A visitor quite innocently stopped me a while back and said “Wow, your rhododendrons are beautiful.”
Well, they might well be – but although many visitors to our reserves (and indeed, places such as Inverewe Gardens) love to look at the beautiful colours of the ‘rhoddies’, flowering Rhododendron Ponticum seriously damages the ecosystem.
This vigorous plant has been shown to reduce the numbers of earthworms, birds and plants and regenerative capacity of a site, leading to a reduction in the biodiversity of the area. Established bushes then act as a seed source for further invasions in adjacent areas, eradicating ground cover plants and interfering with the process of natural regeneration of trees.
For these reasons we are trying to remove this plant from the reserve. So, during a pretty wet and misty July, Beinn Eighe volunteers and staff been searching for and removing rhododendron from the Loch Maree Islands. They have also removed several lone plants along the visitor paths. and trails. So if you see any rhododendron whilst walking on the reserve we would be grateful if you could let us know!
Note what the well-dressed West Coast volunteer wears….creams and sprays are all very well, but the ONLY way to combat the wee blighters is the faintly unglamorous ‘Midgie Suit’!
The other job during July was to do with bashing bracken. What? I hear you ask. Well, the bracken we have here on Beinn Eighe is particularly dense, and to be honest – it grows like an express train! A small burst of growth one week becomes nearly two metres of dense undergrowth only a few weeks later!
Volunteers tackling bracken along the village trail
The problem here is that dense bracken reduces light to woodland flora and this can limit biodiversity on the ground. By reducing bracken cover we can stimulate ground flora diversity allowing other native plants such as Blaeberry to become better established. Not only that, but we will also create structural diversity in stands of continuous bracken and prevent it from falling onto paths. Creating space with more light will allow seedlings and saplings enought light to grow.
The other major item that took place in July was the Feis Rois open – air concert, which took place right outside our front door! This is an annual event, and is a fun-filled family day out at Beinn Eighe with Fèis Rois as part of their National Ceilidh Trail, when they entertain visitors to the Reserve with traditional music played by some very talented young musicians from around Ross-shire.
Fèis Rois is a leading cultural arts organisation in Scotland which gives talented young musicians the opportunity to develop their skills in traditional Scottish music, providing audiences with a rich cultural experience. Many of their past members have gone on to make distinguished careers for themselves in Scottish folk music.
As well as the great music on offer, there was also great food at the BBQ, with venison burgers generously provided for free by Scotland’s Natural Larder, an SNH initiative which promotes local and natural produce, and encourages responsible use of natural food resources. Beinn Eighe’s Reserve Volunteers were also on hand to provide face-painting for those entering the spirit of the occasion, be they children or adults alike. Even the sun came out from behind the clouds to raise a few smiles on the day.
The team at Beinn Eighe would like to give a big thank you to Fèis Rois, to Scotland’s Natural Larder, to our volunteers, and to all the visitors who came along on the day, helping make the event such a big success.
Yes, indeed! Beinn Eighe might be a working reserve, carrying out valuable research – but it’s also one of the largest Visitor Attractions in Wester Ross. ‘Largest’ in terms of physical size, but also in popularity. Something in the order of 30,000 visitors come here each year to enjoy our walking trails and wildlife, and of these visitors, about 16,000 come into the Visitor Centre at Aultroy (just one mile North of Kinlochewe) .
The centre was completely overhauled for the 2015 season, and gives visitors an opportunity to look and learn all about the reserve through fantastic photography and information on the wildlife and history of the reserve – the first one to be created in Britain back in the 1950’s.
The reserve has walking trails from ten minutes to nearly five hours around the area, with some of these being all abilities – why not pay us a visit? Best of all – entrance is free!
Next month on the reserve, we’ll be … well, why not log on to our story and see what happens on the reserve next!