Celebrating National Nature Reserves at the Scottish Parliament

Late last month, our National Nature Reserve (NNR) staff gathered for an evening reception in Scottish Parliament’s Garden Lobby to celebrate Scotland’s amazing array of nature reserves and the many benefits they provide to us all. 

We were joined by a enthusiastic group of young people from Lochgilphead High School in Argyll. These youngsters have taken part in the wonderful Snapberry project, taking pictures on our beautiful Taynish reserve.

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We showcased eleven of our reserves, highlighting how they connect to the communities around them and how we manage nature in these special places to make sure it thrives. Reserves are brilliant for so many things: volunteering, outdoor learning, skills development, research, health and well-being.

But let’s hear about the evening from the group who joined us from Lochgilphead High School! Here is their account of the evening, which they shared with their school on their return:

For 11 years, our school has been working with Scottish Natural Heritage on a photography project, Snapberry.  This takes place every May and gives pupils the opportunity to get out and about with cameras, supported by teachers and staff from SNH. In recent years, we have been at Taynish National Nature Reserve (NNR) and wandered down to the old mill and shore enjoying the various installations that are part of Art Map.  In August, the photos we take are displayed in the old mill and form a dramatic and unusual gallery of pupil work for visitors to enjoy.

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We were delighted this year to be asked to go to the Scottish Parliament on the 19th of November for an evening event showcasing the work of the various NNRs managed by SNH around Scotland.  We knew we were going to Edinburgh, we knew we were going to the Scottish Parliament and we knew we were staying over but we did not realise how good the whole experience would be.

We left Lochgilphead on the bus and travelled by train to Edinburgh before checking into our apartments in the city’s west end. After a short wander through the town for pizza, we were off to the Scottish Parliament.

We were greeted by Mike Russell, MSP and Cabinet Secretary, where Craig took the necessary selfie. There were speeches and opportunities to hear about the work going on across Scotland and the whole event had the backdrop of our photos playing on a slideshow. 

The parliament building is stunning and it was really good to see our work so prominently displayed and to hear all the positive comments people had to make about our project and to be able to answer their questions.

Snapberry team 4

After a walk around to see other groups and their projects, we were given a tour of the Debating Chamber by Brian Whittle, MSP, who explained some of the procedures and how the Parliament works.  We got to sit in the seats where MSPs debate and vote and asked questions to Mr Whittle.  He was very patient with us and seemed to find our questions interesting. Our pupils took the chance to ask what he really thought of the First Minister and he was very diplomatic even when pushed.  This was Craig’s highlight as he says, ‘We see this place on the telly and it is good to see what it is really like.’

When we walked back to the apartments, we went through Princes Gardens which were all lit up with the Christmas Market. It was nice to have the place quite quiet, as some of us had been before and the crowds can make it difficult to really enjoy sometimes.

On the Wednesday, we had a great cooked breakfast made by Mr Povey and the boys and then set off to see some of the sights before heading back to the train.  The castle was obviously on our list and we really enjoyed seeing this part of Edinburgh. Walking down the Royal Mile, we were struck by just how many shops there are selling nothing but tartan!!  To get away from that, we thought we best head back to the market for waffles.

And then it was time to head home.  However when we got to Haymarket we could not resist an impromptu Jingle Bells on the piano which entertained some passers by.

Snapberry team 6

We had a really great couple of days. We would like to thank Mrs Donald, Mr Povey and Frances Drewery for all the organization and for making it such good fun. Thanks also to Caroline, Heather, Gordon and Stuart at SNH for everything  – especially all the patience over the years.  

Well done to Iris Bevan, Nicola Knight, Taylor McKibbin, Mark Newlands and Craig O’Meara for representing their project and Taynish National Nature Reserve so well. We look forward to seeing some more excellent Snapberry photography next year and hearing about the new things you have learnt about nature at the same time.

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