Pathway to improvement at Oatridge College

Scotland’s largest land management college is an ideal setting for the Paths for All demonstration path.

The demo path, with all sorts of gates, signs and surfaces, is located on the north side of the West Lothian campus. Courses at the college include Countryside Management, Rural skills, Landscaping and Activity Tourism. It is the ideal place to see how to make public access and land management work together, including nine different ways to let people through and along a path while keeping livestock, cars and motorbikes where they belong.

Paths for All's Demonstration path (C) B Jones/SNH

Paths for All’s Demonstration path (C) B Jones/SNH

The site showcases different gate designs, signage, path surfacing materials and bridges, all of which can be funded by the Scottish Rural Development Programme’s Improving Public Access scheme (IPA), managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.  If you are a landowner or land manager or constituted group you can apply for funding to improve your local paths.  The Scottish Rural Development Programme’s IPA fund is open until 31st May 2018.  Further details can be found on the SRDP webpage.

(©Paths for All)

The Paths for All Active Environments team has recently been awarded £28,715 to improve and expand access at the Oatridge Demonstration site. The improvements will benefit the local communities, students, staff and visitors to the area, and also give aspiring path builders some inspiration.

More information about Paths for All can be found on their webpage.

Posted in Access, Community engagement, Green infrastructure, Land management, paths, Uncategorized

The joy of volunteering

Mark McVey is a member of the Coves Reservoir Green Gym in Greenock, run by The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and partner organisations. Here he tells us about the many benefits that volunteering delivers.

Mark McVey, Coves Reservoir Green Gym

How did you get involved in the Green Gym?  After visiting my doctor regarding mental health concerns I was referred for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as well as the SAMH Gateways programme.  SAMH introduced me to various local and community projects, one of which was the Coves Reservoir Green Gym which I started attending in May 2017.

What activities has the group been doing?  Our activities have been very varied including path maintenance, litter picking, wildflower planting, basic forest and habitat management, along with more observational tasks such as bio-recording and dead wood surveys.

What do you get out of it – what are the benefits for you? Becoming a volunteer has brought me many benefits, both mental and physical.  Having something specific to do every week has brought a bit of structure to my life, interacting with the other volunteers along with the sense of being part of the community, and has gone a long way towards lifting the feelings of isolation and loneliness I was experiencing. I find the physical work and just being outside in nature has lifted my mood, boosted my confidence, and generally made me feel less unfit.

Have you learned any new skills?  Before getting involved with the Green Gym, I was very socially isolated and withdrawn – being part of the group has let me relearn a lot of social skills I’d lost. I’d never really done any sort of outdoor work at all before volunteering with TCV, but now I’m able to work with tools properly and confidently, as well as having a better understanding of when and why the work we’re doing is done.  I’ve learned to appreciate the outdoors more and increased my observational skills, being able to identify many trees, plants, animals etc that I never could before.  Additionally, volunteering at Coves has prompted me to learn other skills outside the Green Gym, encouraging me to obtain an Emergency First Aid certificate as well as working on my own photography and microelectronics projects related to Coves Reservoir.


What’s the best thing about your conservation volunteering?  For me, the social and community aspects of volunteering have been the most notable.  Years of isolation had severely blunted my ability to interact with people socially, but the Coves Reservoir Green Gym has provided a safe environment for me to re-learn the skills I’d lost. My ability to interact with other people as well as simply being able to go outside and enjoy the world is in no small part thanks to volunteering at Coves.

The weekly Coves Reservoir Green Gym is organised by Rebecca Strofton, TCV Senior Project Officer: or 0141 552 5294/07739 447964

Find out more @

Focus on volunteering stamp




Posted in Volunteering | Tagged , , , ,

Engaging Young People to Promote Responsible Access

David Henderson Howat, National Access Forum Convener, tells us about some of the inspiring projects on the ground, how young people greatly benefit from outdoor access, as well as how their ideas generated at the recent meeting will be taken forward.



Speaking at the National Access Forum and Local Access Forums Meeting ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Speaking at the National Access Forum and Local Access Forums Meeting ©Lorne Gill/SNH

I’ve just returned from the annual joint meeting of the National Access Forum and the Local Access Forums at Battleby.  While last year’s meeting took place on a lovely early spring day in mid-March, this meeting (also in mid-March) took place on a wild winter’s day, with some participants having to battle with blizzards on Drumochter Pass.  The day’s theme – in this Year of Young People 2018 – was about how to engage young people to promote responsible access.

During the morning we heard from our speakers about fantastic work throughout Scotland, including Paths for All’s important Path Skillz projects; the imaginative approach taken by the Duke of Edinburgh to help their 20,000 participants understand the Scottish Outdoor Access Code; SNH’s creative ReRoute partnership with Young Scot; and the great story of the Junior Rangers programme in the Cairngorms, drawing on experience from elsewhere in Europe. Messages included the need to work with young people through “co-design” of projects, and the importance of using the right language – e.g. “nature” instead of “biodiversity”.

Getting more young people outdoors, St.Cyrus NNR, Aberdeenshire. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Getting more young people outdoors, St.Cyrus NNR, Aberdeenshire. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

After lunch, the “quick-fire” presentations highlighted several brilliant examples of excellent work involving young people of all ages, ranging from the twenty-something Edinburgh Young Walkers who also enjoy the social benefits of outdoor access, to the girls from the Perthshire Pony Club who joined us (after school was over) to show us the film they had made about responsible horse riding.  We also heard how very young children benefit from Forest Kindergarten, which looks set to become increasingly widespread as demand for nursery places continues to grow.  Meanwhile the Coupar Angus Cycle Hub caters for all ages, running a wide range of events and activities to inform and excite people about cycling.  And, in Dundee, the Family Fresh Air Club helps families – including ethnic minorities – enjoy the outdoors within reach of their own homes: a great example of something that would definitely be worth replicating elsewhere.

Family Fresh Air Club outing to Carnoustie beach, November 2016. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Family Fresh Air Club outing to Carnoustie beach, November 2016. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Looking ahead, the challenges we face include finding effective ways to scale-up successful initiatives, so that they can bring even more widespread benefits, and involving young people more closely in the development of new ways to communicate messages about the benefits of outdoor access.  At the same time, we need to try to make the key principles of the Access Code more understandable and accessible to young people: this will be high on the agenda of the National Access Forum when it next meets in May and indeed our work going forward.

Find out more about your access rights in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

Posted in Access, Outdoor learning, SNH, Year of Young People, Young people | Tagged , , ,

Stoked on MS – the outdoors as natural healthcare

Andy McKenna is a professional mountain bike guide, living and working in Scotland – he also has Multiple Sclerosis. Diagnosed in 2007, seeking fun, adventure, friendship and solace in our awe-inspiring landscapes is even more important to him now as he pursues a range of lifestyle-approaches – including use of the great outdoors – to help manage his illness.

©Andy McKenna

©Andy McKenna

What got you into the outdoors?
My family wasn’t really into the outdoors, but my early memories of growing up in Milngavie, are of being out on my BMX bike. Then, it was about having fun and exploring, rather than any explicit understanding that it was doing me good. Aged 15, a good pal and I went off to Loch Eil for an Outward Bound course. We didn’t really know what to expect, but it made a profound impact. I still reflect on that experience regularly, and looking back, I can see that it was a pivotal moment when the outdoors and I ‘bonded’ and I was hooked for life!

Can you describe how being out there makes you feel?
It’s a part of me and how I exist. Instead of focussing on what I can’t do, I anchor myself to still being able to get out, feeling the freedom, which is now even more precious. Your mind opens up and it gives me a sense of stability and permanence, something that everyone can learn to cherish, and especially so when dealing with a challenging disease like MS.

I guess now more than ever it helps to feel my own relative insignificance within the wild, open spaces – that sense of perspective is really grounding, really important and something that I cherish.

©Andy McKenna

©Andy McKenna

Through your MTB business, do you see yourself as a custodian of our fabulous outdoors?
Even though Scotland’s a small country, we’ve got such diverse landscapes, and it’s great to see people so excited – even if they come from Scotland, in many ways we’re all still tourists.

Scotland’s access rights are absolutely incredible, but we probably need to do more to develop the culture of responsibility. Individual riders and commercial operators, as well as other recreational groups, estates, land managers and so on, need to play their part to make sure that the resource that we all love and rely on is sustained for the long term. It’s such an important asset, in so many ways including for health and well-being, and I for one would welcome more opportunities to give something back and show that outdoor adventure companies like mine acknowledge their role within broader land use and management.

What’s ‘Stoked on MS’ all about?
Having been diagnosed with MS in 2007, I didn’t realise it at the time, but that was the start of a different kind of journey for me. Full of questions, doubts, and hope that I could hang on to parts of my way of life that are so important to me, I searched for advice on how to approach management of my illness in a holistic way and following my philosophy of ‘hills not pills’. I questioned the status-quo around MS treatment, and began my quest to gain control of this disease, and my life, through diet, rest, exercise and lifestyle changes. ‘Stoked on MS’ is my way of sharing the information and experience I’ve gained, and raising awareness of the sources of advice out there.

©Andy McKenna

©Andy McKenna

For Andy, being in the outdoors and doing the activity he loves, helps him to cope, to escape and to keep him sane.

Andy’s made a film, ‘This Way Up’, which tells his story. It’s been shortlisted by Vancouver and Kendal International Mountain Film Festivals, and is now on worldwide (charity screening) tour.

Find out more about Andy McKenna and follow his quest:



Posted in cycling, Natural Health Service | Tagged

Exotic pets can be a danger to native wildlife

Pets that are released, or escape, into the wild can be a danger to our native wildlife. The European Union has placed some of the worst offenders a list of invasive alien species of concern. Stan Whitaker, our non-native species adviser, looks at the implications for nature conservationists and pet owners.   

Red eared terrapins © NNSS, Crown copyright 2009

Red eared terrapins © NNSS, Crown copyright 2009

Keeping exotic pets is increasing in popularity. Trends are often linked to social media, film and TV, like the demand for terrapins following the film ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’.  Once they grow to the size of dinner plates, red eared terrapins, one of the most popular kinds of pet turtle, are frequently abandoned in urban ponds.  Fortunately, our summers aren’t hot enough for them to breed, but individual animals can live for a long time.

Releasing exotic pets into the wild is cruel as well as dangerous. Most die of the cold, starvation, disease or are caught by predators.  So rather than being given their freedom, most released animals are likely to meet a cruel and untimely death.  Only a small minority survive to become invasive and seriously affects our native wildlife and environment.  Pet trade organisations have produced this code of practice designed to encourage pet owners to act responsibly.

The raccoon is top of the list of invasive animals that we don’t want in Britain. In Germany, introduced raccoons prey on native wildlife, damage fruit crops and carry diseases and parasites which can affect humans and animals.  Keeping raccoons as pets has become fashionable in the UK and there are sporadic reports of animals in the wild.  Luckily, they have not formed a wild population here yet. This one was captured on camera by Scottish Wildcat Action volunteers in the Highlands.

Raccoon captured on a remote camera ©Blackwater Wildlife Group

Raccoon captured on a remote camera ©Blackwater Wildlife Group

The European Union’s list is aimed at preventing invasive alien animals getting into the wild. Importing, breeding and selling of animals on the list is now banned; however, existing pet owners are allowed to keep their animal to live out its natural life, provided it is kept in a secure enclosure and not allowed to escape.  These frequently asked questions provide further advice for pet owners.

If a species on the list is detected in the wild, the relevant government agency must attempt to remove it, at an early stage of invasion. For example, our colleagues in Natural England are removing populations of American bull frogs in Sussex and Essex.  These voracious predators will devour native wildlife in a pond and carry a disease, Chitrid fungus, that is lethal to other amphibians.

American bullfrog in a pond in Sussex © NNSS, Crown Copyright, 2009

American bullfrog in a pond in Sussex © NNSS, Crown Copyright, 2009

Responding quickly to new outbreaks of invasive species has several advantages. Although lethal control of American bullfrogs was necessary, this avoided many more animals having to be killed in the future, and large amounts of native wildlife being eaten.  It makes economic sense too.  We estimate that managing an established population of muntjac deer would cost the Scottish economy up to £2 million per year, compared to just £60k to eradicate a single outbreak.

You can get involved by reporting any sightings of exotic animals in the wild to or 08452 302 050.

We would also like pet owners to report any escaped exotic animals. We may be able to help reunite you with your pet, for example, by lending you cage traps.

If you come across an injured or distressed animal, please call the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline.

Invasive Species Week 2018 runs from 26 to 29 March. For more information on what’s happening, search for the hash tag #InvasivesWeek.

Posted in invasive non-native species, Non-native species | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Getting to grips with an alien

It looks like a plant from another planet. The European Union has placed American skunk cabbage on a list of invasive alien species of concern.  Stan Whitaker, our non-native species adviser, looks at the implications for nature conservationists and gardeners. 

American skunk cabbage in flower. © Dick Shaw

American skunk cabbage in flower. © Dick Shaw

The striking yellow, lantern-shaped flowers of American skunk cabbage appear before most of our native plants have started to grow. Their skunk-like odour smells like rotting flesh, which attracts flies to pollinate them.  Skunk cabbages are often planted beside garden ponds and burns, and have a habit of escaping into the wild.  The berries are transported downstream by water but, in its native range in North America, they are also dispersed by birds, squirrels and bears.

More than half of the British flora is alien, that is, plants that were introduced by people. The vast majority coexist harmlessly with our native plants.  Only a small minority become invasive and seriously affect our native wildlife and environment.

The extensive colony at West Loch Tarbet. © David Knott

The extensive colony at West Loch Tarbet. © David Knott

A visit to West Loch Tarbet in Argyll will convince you that the American skunk cabbage can become invasive. Almost a hectare of marsh at the head of the loch has been taken over by one of the most extensive colonies of the plant in Europe.  Mature skunk cabbage colonies form large dense patches, which suppress the native ground flora through shade.  A student at Aberdeen University is researching whether skunk cabbage may also produce chemicals which discourage other plants from growing nearby.

In contrast to most other alien plants, skunk cabbage is restricted to habitats that are of high nature conservation value, such as wet woodlands and fens. Initial colonisation is slow, which gives the impression that the species is less of a threat than it really is.  But as numbers build up the population grows exponentially, ending up with almost complete ground cover.

American skunk cabbage is a non-native species management priority in Scotland. Although it is fairly widespread, most populations in the wild are small and still feasible to control.  It’s already being controlled on around a dozen protected nature sites and, in 2017, the Tweed Forum launched an initiative to control it across the entire river catchment.  To protect vulnerable wetlands, we need to know where it grows and find any new populations quickly.

You can get involved by reporting sightings of skunk cabbage growing in the wild.

Look out for the yellow lanterns in the early spring and the giant cabbage leaves later in the year. See our webpage for information on how to report sightings. Not every sighting will be a priority for control but your records will help us to build our knowledge and to prioritise future action.

Recording invasive plants can be fun! © SNH

Recording invasive plants can be fun! © SNH

Gardeners can get involved too by moving their plants away from running water and always dead-heading them after flowering. Although not specifically aimed at skunk cabbage, the Scottish Government’s Be Plant Wise campaign provides relevant advice for gardeners on how to stop the spread and compost with care.

From August 2017, garden centres were no longer permitted to sell American skunk cabbage. Gardeners who had the plants before the ban are allowed to keep them, but must act responsibly and not allow them to grow or spread outside their garden.  Dawyck Botanic Gardens on upper Tweed has removed the plant entirely from their collection, as a precaution.  A non-invasive alternative, the Asian skunk cabbage with white lantern-shaped flowers, is still available to buy from nurseries.

Download this leaflet for further information on how to identify skunk cabbage, where to report sightings, and how to manage any plants on your land, or in your garden.

Invasive Species Week 2018 runs from 26 to 29 March. For more information on what’s happening, search of the hash tag #InvasivesWeek.

If you liked this story, find out about the eradication of the highly invasive floating pennywort on Scotland’s Environment blog.

Posted in Non-native species | Tagged , , , , ,

Prepare to be Amazed!

The Edinburgh Science Festival, running from 31 March to 15 April is celebrating bringing science to the people. Andy Dorin, our Forth Area manager was at the launch.

© Ian Georgeson

© Ian Georgeson

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be at the launch at this amazing event, institution, riot of knowledge and sheer delight of science. True to form there was nitrogen ice cream, DIY open heart surgery and a menagerie of balloon animals all demonstrating that the Festival really is something to celebrate and why it is now in its thirtieth year.

Science is at the heart of what we do in SNH  and while good research helps us understand how natural systems operate and what the conservation requirements  are of particular species.  The Festival offers some great opportunities to experience “natural science” in the outdoors. Here are a few of my favourites.

For ages of 3+, you can visit the Camera Trap Stall at the Edinburgh Zoo Education centre. It’s a free drop in event 11-3pm on Saturday 7, Sunday 8 and Sunday 15 April, and you can find out more about how camera traps allow us to find out more about wild animals and their behaviour. SNH has also been using camera traps extensively in our work assessing the range of the wild cat in Scotland. This animal is under pressure, with cross breeding with feral domestic cats threatening its genetic integrity.

© Edinburgh International Science Festival

© Edinburgh International Science Festival

Another great event is the Nature Detectives: an event for families on Monday 2 &  Tuesday 3 April at Dynamic Earth: it’s free but booking required. This will take a walk on the wild side to discover creatures past and present that make their home there. Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat form part of Arthur’s Seat Volcano Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). It is notified by SNH for its geological and botanical interests. The SSSI is in three separate areas around Edinburgh: Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, the smaller Calton Hill, and Castle Rock. Arthur’s Seat is one of the most studied ancient volcanoes in the world. It has all the features of a typical volcano and the sequence of eruptions is the best in Britain. Amazing to think, five separate vents spewed lava flows. Three types of volcanic rocks are present:  lava (where molten rock reached the surface), volcanic debris and intrusions (where the magma below the earth’s surface was squeezed upwards or between sedimentary rock layers but remained below ground).  The Salisbury Crag Sill was vital in developing the modern science of geology and the great earth scientist, James Hutton used it to first illustrate this very process.

© Edinburgh International Science Festival

© Edinburgh International Science Festival

For adults, one worthwhile event will undoubtedly be the Water of Leith Debris Discovery Day. Swap the crowds of Princes Street to enjoy the quiet glades of the Water of Leith and a bit of green workout : 10.30 Sunday 8 April, prebook. The Water of Leith Conservation Trust are organising a clean-up of this green thread that runs through the centre of Edinburgh, and this will be followed by storytelling by Alette Willis. You’ll need your wellies or stout shoes, but clean up materials and gloves will be provided.


© Edinburgh International Science Festival

A little less energetic promises to be the #Pianodrome Wood Id Workshop and Tree Tour at the Botanic Gardens Saturday 14 April (from 11.00am, pre-book, see programme  for prices). Did you know that the average piano is made up of 8-16 different species of wood? These events offer a talk on piano technology, one that it definitely dependent on nature, followed by a tour of the living trees that make up these beautiful instruments.

Details of all these events and many, many more can be found in the Edinburgh Science Festival Programme. Enjoy!

Posted in science | Tagged , , , ,

Celebrating World Water Day with Peatlands

Since 2012, over 10,000 hectares of peatlands have been set on the road to restoration through the Scottish Government-funded Peatland ACTION initiative, coordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage. On World Water Day, Fiona Mann, Peatland ACTION Communications Officer, explains the importance of taking care of our peatlands as they have the potential to provide nature-based solutions to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.

Blocked ditch at Flanders Moss NNR Argyll and Stirling Area. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Blocked ditch at Flanders Moss NNR Stirlingshire. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Many of Scotland’s iconic views are framed and coloured by peatlands, from the vast expanses of the highlands and islands of the west coast to the bogs and fens just a short distance from our town and cities.

Peatlands, or areas of land primarily made of partially decomposed organic plant material (mostly mosses) called peat, cover around 20% of the land in Scotland. They’re most prevalent on our western shores, due largely to our oceanic climate.

Scotland Peatland map_carbon class (A2477850)

Map of peatlands in Scotland ©SNH

More people are increasingly recognising the value peatlands have, not least as clean water filters and stores. Much of our drinking water in Scotland filters through peatland catchments, improving water quality at source. The filtered water is also the lifeblood of our important freshwater pearl mussel and Atlantic salmon rivers.

Healthy peatlands offer many benefits beyond water filtration. They protect the ground from erosion and hold water back, preventing floods. Peatlands are also a source of great biodiversity, with many species like the splendid golden plover, insect-eating sundews and hare’s-tail cottongrass calling this habitat their home.

Photo of healthy peatland ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Photo of healthy peatland ©Lorne Gill/SNH

An estimated 10% of the planet’s freshwater is stored in peatlands, making the health of this habitat crucial for water security now and in the future.

However, not all peatlands are in good condition. In Scotland alone it is currently estimated that over 600,000 hectares are in a poor condition as a result of historic land management decisions (drainage, burning and erosion). Where peat forming vegetation has been stripped away, the bare peat is left exposed and dries out.

Degraded peatlands not only lose their natural ability to filter water and manage flood risk: they lose their ability to adapt to climate change and are more vulnerable to drought or flooding. Crucially, they are also a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Peatland ACTION has been funding restoration work to restore these peatlands throughout Scotland. This work is vital to reduce the risk of flooding and decrease the amount of sediment washing into our rivers and drinking water reservoirs.

For example, at Lochrosque Estate in the Highlands techniques used included blocking ditches and grips to slow the flow of water with the aim of reducing the risk of flooding or drought in the catchment. By smoothing out peak flows, the small scale hydro scheme on Lochrosque Estate is able to run more efficiently. The restoration work should also help to prevent the erosion of peaty soils downstream thus hopefully improving the overall drinking water quality.

There are so many benefits to improving our peatlands. The strength of the Peatland ACTION Fund lies in working collaboratively and ‘learning-by-doing’. Monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of different restoration techniques informs adaptation to achieve the best results for the future of Scotland’s peatlands.

You may also be interested in:

Information about Peatland ACTION.

Find out how are surface waters are faring using this clever searchable mapping tool.

Scotland’s soils information and searchable map.

Posted in peatland restoration | Tagged , , , ,

Earball peucaig no bò riabhach?/A peacock’s tail or a brindled cow?

Cò fear as fheàrr a nì tuairisgeul de dh’aimsir deireadh a’ Mhàirt am-bliadhna? / Which is the better descriptor of the end of March this year?

Ben Lawers and An Stuc, in winter. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Ben Lawers and An Stuc, in winter. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Trì Latha Sgathaidh na Bà Riabhaich

Tha dà bharail eadar-dhealaichte mun aimsir a bhios ann aig deireadh a’ Mhàirt – agus seo ur cothrom fhèin faicinn cò an tè a tha ceart am-bliadhna! Tha seanfhacal Beurla mun Mhàrt a chanas gum bi e a’ tighinn a-steach mar leòmhann agus a’ falbh mar uan. Ann an Gàidhlig, canaidh sinn gu bheil am mìos a’ tighinn a-steach le ceann na nathrach ’s a’ dol a-mach le earball peucaig.

Ge-tà, tha beachd eile ann – a nochdas ann am mòran chultaran Eòrpach – gur e trì làithean stoirmeil a thig aig deireadh a’ Mhàirt agus gur e làithean-iasaid bhon Ghiblean a th’ annta. Canaidh sinne ‘Trì Latha (Sgathaidh) na Bà Riabhaich’ riutha, agus tha iad co-cheangailte ann am beul-aithris ri bò riabhach a thèid fada bho a dachaigh aig deireadh a’ Mhàirt. Tha i ag iarraidh air a’ Ghiblean trì latha a bharrachd a thoirt dhi gus am faigh i dachaigh ach, an àite aimsir chiùin, tha uisge, sneachd is gèiltean a’ tighinn agus tha a’ bhò bhochd a’ faighinn bàs.

Highland cow grazing at Tentsmuir NNR. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Highland cow grazing at Tentsmuir NNR. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

The Borrowing Days of the Brindled Cow

There are traditionally conflicting traditions regarding the weather at the end of March – and here is your chance to see which of those traditions holds true in 2018! The English proverb has it that ‘March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb’. The Gaelic equivalent is a’ tighinn a-staigh le ceann na nathrach ’s a’ dol a-mach le earball peucaig ‘coming in with the head of a serpent and going out with a peacock’s tail’.

However, an alternative view – reported in many European cultures, including that of the Gaels – presents the final three days of March as traditionally stormy, being days borrowed from April. These are known in Gaelic as Trì Latha (Sgathaidh) na Bà Riabhaich ‘the three (destructive) days of the brindled cow’, being connected to a traditional story in which the brindled cow wanders far from its home at the end of March and asks April to lend it three days so it can get home. However, the three days are unseasonally inclement, bringing rain, snow and storms which cause the poor cow’s death.


Posted in Gaelic | Tagged , , , ,

How do you connect with rivers?

Victoria Keele is a PhD student funded by SNH and based at Plymouth University. Here she talks about her work investigating the multiple benefits that rivers in Scotland provide for human wellbeing.

I have always enjoyed being outside, here I am climbing the highest point in Cornwall.

I have always enjoyed being outside, here I am climbing the highest point in Cornwall.

Hello! I am currently in the 3rd year of my PhD at Plymouth University. Growing up in Cornwall I developed a strong connection with the outdoors. Rain or shine (mostly rain) we spent our childhoods building sandcastles, splashing in puddles and paddling in rivers. Geography was the most natural choice for me at University. During my undergraduate degree I developed an interest in river forms, patterns and processes. On completion of my degree I was very lucky to be awarded a SNH studentship to develop a method to assess the different benefits provide by Scottish rivers.

I would like to give a brief overview of my research and ask for your help in fulfilling one of my aims.

The first time I saw the Tweed and Tay I was shocked, I mean coming from Cornwall our rivers are trickles in comparison. Scottish rivers are dramatic, seasonally changing and beautiful; however, they are much more than beautiful landscape elements. My PhD research focuses on investigating the multiple benefits or ‘ecosystem services’ that rivers provide. In particular, I am looking to see if benefits differ between rivers designated as Special Areas of Conservation and those without designation.

‘Ecosystem services’ are split into three categories; provisioning, regulating and cultural. Provisioning services are the products we obtain from river environments and include freshwater and agriculture. Regulating services are the benefits we obtain from natural ecosystem processes, for example natural flood mitigation and water purification. Finally, cultural services are the non-material benefits and include opportunities for recreation, educational experience and social relations.

My research is focusing on developing a method to assess the potential ecosystem service delivery from river corridors using Google Earth. Traditionally in the scientific and management community there has been a strong focus on provisioning and regulating services with cultural services being neglected. It is therefore very important that my method takes into account cultural services.

I am particularly passionate about the inclusion of cultural services because I have personally experienced the non-material benefits of connecting with nature. Last year Ollie became part of our family (see photo). I have always enjoyed walking but since getting Ollie I have spent even more time outside and I can honestly say I feel happier, fitter and healthier. On our walks we can connect with heritage sites, meet new people (and dogs) and sit with picnics enjoying the view. These experiences give me a break from my PhD which can be stressful.

Our Collie Ollie enjoying a splash in our local River Fowey, he barks when it’s time to leave!

Our Collie Ollie enjoying a splash in our local River Fowey, he barks when it’s time to leave!

To allow me to include cultural services in a way that makes them comparable to provisioning and regulating services I need to understand how other people experience river environments. I want to see if experience type is linked to different river features. Having this information allows river management decisions not just to be based on the products we get from rivers but also on how they contribute to our mental and physical wellbeing.

Please take a few minutes to fill out my survey and help with my research.

All images © Victoria Keele



Posted in Year of Young People | Tagged , , , , ,