As SNH’s Local Landscapes Officer I have always felt incredibly fortunate in my job, one of my favourite parts has always been encouraging people to get out and enjoy our landscapes and recognise what they mean to them. Since the Spring I have been lucky enough to be running a pilot project called the Wester Ross Scenic Photo Project which really is all about this.
Wester Ross is one of Scotland’s 40 National Scenic Areas (NSAs) which were identified as having outstanding scenic value at a national level, which in Scotland sets the bar pretty high! The variety of landscapes, such as superb coastlines, wild land and magnificent mountains, are just a part of its appeal and the Wester Ross Scenic Photo project has tried to cover as many of the facets of Wester Ross’s special qualities as possible.
Wester Ross Scenic Photo Project is a citizen scenic project aiming to retake photographs over the next few years from a number of points around the Wester Ross NSA to allow us to monitor how the landscape there is changing. It is linked to a partner project in the Cairngorms also set up to explore different methods for getting people involved in monitoring their local landscape, and enjoying getting out there in the process.
There have been a number of challenges in setting up this project, exciting mobile applications are ruled out when mobile coverage is patchy and we wanted to try an approach without any in situ markers which meant an online approach was needed. The ever-changing weather has also proved a challenge on occasion – although it doesn’t stop my enjoyment of the landscape, it can make it hard to photograph!
We also wanted to find locations which didn’t require high levels of fitness and which anyone, from the very young to those with mobility issues, could safely access. It was a very enjoyable process choosing the locations from the many spectacular viewpoints and I rarely had problems finding volunteers to help me survey prospective sights; my family got roped in too so I can definitely say that age is not a barrier.
Since the project was launched the challenge has been to promote it so that people know it’s happening. The next step will then be to involve local groups in taking the photos to help ensure the longevity of the record. We also want to use the lessons learnt from both projects to carry on work in other places.
On our website you can find a map showing the eight locations and instructions on how to participate in the project. The locations are all easy to access and most are along the North Coast 500 route so can be coupled with enjoying a section of our most scenic road trip.
Landscape change can be a slow process but I can honestly say that the view is different every time I visit the photo spots. The weather, time of day and of course the season really can make a huge difference to how you experience (and sometimes don’t see) the landscape around you. Autumn has a depth of colour and light in Wester Ross that makes it my favourite season to get out and take photos in and I thought that maybe the best inducement for people to get involved in this project would be some shots I took a couple of weeks ago for the project.
Eleanor Carlisle is our Local Landscapes Officer.
All images by Eleanor Carlisle.