Intrepid Conservers and Explorers

Good news for people wanting to explore the delights that Hermaness National Nature Reserve has to offer this autumn thanks to improved access onto the reserve.


Conservers and Explorers from Baltasound Junior High School ready for some peatland action!

Last year we installed a new section of boardwalk (using recycled plastic) to improve access for visitors across a short section of previously unsurfaced, eroded path.  The new boardwalk links the gravel path from the reserve entrance with the existing plastic boardwalk across the reserve.  This allows visitors to reach the spectacular seabird colonies on the western cliffs dry-shod and without damaging the fragile blanket bog habitat.

Elsewhere on the reserve, we have begun work on another section of eroded path.  Over the years the direct route to the top of Hermaness Hill has become seriously eroded in places.  With the Western Path complete, the Hill Path is now redundant and this summer it saw the start of longer term plans to stabilise the ground and restore the peatland vegetation along its route.

Shetland 2

With the help of a group of students from Baltasound Junior High School, the UK’s most northerly school on the island of Unst in the Shetland Isles, we are managing to restore the eroded ‘hill track’ to bog. Under the leadership of school teacher Emily Tulloch a small group of young intrepid Conservers and Explorers from the school have taken the opportunity to complete this vital restoration work on the reserve as part of their John Muir Award.

Also on hand to supervise and offer advice was expert Sue White, Peatland Action project officer from Shetland Amenity Trust. Sue showed the youngsters how easy it is to transform areas of bare peat into a healthy growing carpet of mosses and other bog plants.

All you need are a few ingredients: a team of enthusiastic Conservers, a shovel full of sphagnum-laden turf from neighbouring ‘borrow’ pits, and a bit of elbow grease. The transformation can be seen almost immediately. 

Composite image

Before and after eroded footpath to bog restoration.

The work involved returning sections of the eroded wooden path back to bog, with salvageable sections of wood being put to good use to create peat dams in an effort to slow the flow of water and further reduce erosion. 

This conservation work is important as the vast expanses of moorland habitat found on Hermaness act as an important sink for atmospheric carbon as well as providing nesting habitat for the next generation of great skuas and other moorland birds that people from Shetland and further afield come to see.

Emily and her young Conservers are planning on visiting the site again at the end of October to monitor the progress of their hard work a few months on, and to learn about the link between healthy peatlands and the important role they play as a carbon sink in an overheating world.


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