Celebrating a decade of the Ayrshire Coastal Path

To celebrate 10 years of the Ayrshire Coastal Path, we invited Ron Ireland, publicity convenor of Ayr Rotary Club, to give us the lowdown of the creation of this popular coastal route and the dedication from local volunteers.

Ayrshire Coastal path - © SNH/Scotland's Great Trails

Ayrshire Coastal path – © SNH/Scotland’s Great Trails

In December 2003, Ayr Rotarian Dr Jimmy Begg was asked to come up with a suitable local project to celebrate the centenary of Rotary International, founded in 1905 by Paul Harris, an American lawyer.

Fast-forward to June 2008 and after a super-human effort on the part of Jimmy and his fellow-Rotarians, the 100 mile long Ayrshire Coastal Path (ACP), running from Glenapp in the south to Skelmorlie in the north was officially opened. The chosen route exploits some of the finest coastal scenery in Scotland with spectacular, panoramic views of Arran, Ailsa Craig, Kintyre and Bute.

The ever-present, natural wildlife and the glorious history of this part of southwest Scotland combine to enhance the appreciative path-walker’s experience. Sections of the route pass through the popular holiday towns of Ayr, Prestwick and Troon and others such as Irvine, Kilwinning and Saltcoats, all adding to the varied charm of this path.

What tho’, like commoners of air,
We wander out, we know not where,
But either house or hal’?
Yet Nature’s charms, the hills and woods,
The sweeping vales, and foaming floods,
Are free alike to all.

Robert Burns

SNH SGT Ayrshire Coastal Path -37Success begets success and the Ayrshire Coastal Path is now officially recognised by Scottish Natural Heritage as one of “Scotland’s Great Trails” attracting visitors to Ayrshire from all the ‘airts and pairts’. What distinguishes this path from other trails is the manner in which it is managed and maintained. This is achieved through the commitment of a team of volunteer ‘Pathminders’ now comprising both Rotarian and non-Rotarian members in approximately equal numbers.

The Rotary Club of Ayr is the official path manager and whenever possible, taps into a few, non-governmental grant funds to provide a limited maintenance budget. Despite receiving little or no public funding support, the ACP management board not only maintains the path but organises a hugely successful, annual (now in its 12th year) beach clean along those beach-sections of the route which are not cleaned by the local authority.

ACP - beach clean © Ayr Rotary Club

Annual beach clean © Ayr Rotary Club

This event recognised the #marinelitter plastic pollution problem long before the current environmental concerns took popular root and over the years has removed in excess of

7500 sacks of beach litter containing, this year, an estimated 93% plastic material.

Another fantastic achievement shown in the photo below, is the result of 600+ hours of volunteer winter work in creating around 120 new steps up Fisherton Gully.

Ayrshire Coastal Path - Fisherton aerial © Ron Ireland

Ayrshire Coastal Path – Fisherton aerial © Ron Ireland

Plan your next adventure and enjoy the splendour of the Ayrshire Coastal Path

Follow the latest on the Ayrshire Coastal Path Facebook Page

Ayrshire Coastal Path - © Ayr Rotary Club

Posted in National Walking and Cycling Network, Scotland's Great Trails, SNH, Uncategorized | Tagged , , ,

Fascinating Gaelic-named islands of Loch Lomond

Ruairidh MacIlleathain guides us through the fascinating ‘Inches’ – the Gaelic-named islands of Loch Lomond.

Inchcailloch NNR, Loch Lomond.©Lorne Gill/SNH

Inchcailloch NNR, Loch Lomond.©Lorne Gill/SNH

The English summary can be read underneath the Gaelic.

Loch nan Innsean

Tha am facal innis a’ nochdadh ann an grunn riochdan ann an ainmean-tìre na h-Alba – mar eilean, dail an cois abhainn no cluain a th’ air a cuairteachadh le coille, am measg eile. Tha e gu math cumanta air feadh Alba, mar as trice le dreach mar inch no insh air ann am Beurla (me Inchinnan, Inchmarnoch, Inshes, Loch Insh).

Tha beachd-smuain de ‘eilean’ – àite air a chuairteachadh le àrainn de sheòrsa eile – co-cheangailte ri gach ciall dheth. Ach, an-diugh, ’s e ‘eilean talmhaidh ann an uisge’ an aon chiall nach eil ‘beò’ anns a’ chànan, agus am facal eilean fhèin, a thathar an dùil a thàinig on t-Seann Lochlannais, air a ghabhail thairis. Mar sin, fhuair eilean air a bheil ‘innis’ ainm o chionn fhada.

’S e an t-àite as fheàrr far am faicear innis a’ riochdachadh ‘eilean’ an-diugh ceann a deas Loch Laomainn, far a bheil dusan dhiubh ann an cròileagan, agus iad uile brèagha, eachdraidheil is luachmhor a thaobh nàdar. ’S dòcha gur e an t-eilean as aithnichte dhiubh don mhòr-shluagh Innis Cailleach (Inchcailloch), far an do chuir a’ Bhan-naomh Caintigern (chaochail 734 AC) taigh chailleachan-dubha air chois. ’S i a tha ainmichte ann am Bealach Mo Cha (Balmaha) faisg air làimh; ’s e Mo Cha frith-ainm a bh’ air an naomh.

Tha dà eilean eile aig a bheil ceangal do phearsaichean eaglais – Innis Mearain (Inchmurrin), ainmichte airson Naomh Mearain, a tha co-cheangailte gu làidir ri Pàislig, agus Innis Taigh a’ Mhanaich (Inchtavannach), far an robh manachainn uaireigin, agus aig a bheil ceangal eachdraidheil do Naomh Ceasag (a th’ air a chuimhneachadh an dà chuid anns an sgìre sin agus ann an Inbhir Nis).

©Lorne Gill/SNH

The eastern shoreline of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Tha ceithir eileanan a’ faighinn an ainmean bhon cumaidhean – an Innis Chruinn (Inchcruin) – bho rubha cruinn air an taobh an ear dheth, a’ Chlàr-Innis (Clairinch) ‘eilean còmhnard’, Tòrr-Innis (Torrinch) ‘eilean le creag àrd’, agus an Innis Fhada (Inchfad), a tha gu dearbh fada an coimeas ri a leud. Agus tha nàdar co-cheangailte ri ainmean trì eileanan – Innis Lònaig (Inchlonaig) ‘eilean na boglaich bhig’, far an deach craobhan-iubhair a chur le Rìgh Raibeart Brus, a rèir beul-aithris, Boc-Innis (Bucinch) ‘eilean nam boc goibhre’ agus a’ Chraobh Innis (Creinch), a thathar an dùil a bha craobhach nuair a bha na h-eileanan eile lom.

Tha Innis Mòna (Inchmoan) a’ cuimhneachadh mar a bhiodh muinntir Luis a’ falbh a-mach don eilean airson mòine fhaighinn, agus thathar a’ mìneachadh Innis Chonachain (Inchconnachan) mar ‘eilean Clann a’ Chombaich’.

Tha grunn eileanan beaga air Loch Laomainn nach eil ainmichte le innis, agus tha dùil gu bheil na h-ainmean sin nas ùire na ’n fheadhainn eile – ach tha tùs Gàidhlig aca uile. ’S iad A’ Cheàrdach (Ceardach), far an robhar a’ dèanamh obair le meatailt uaireigin, Eilean a’ Bhùth (Island I Vow), Eilean Darach (Ellanderroch), Fraoch Eilean (Fraoch Island) agus Eilean an Tairbeirt (Tarbet Isle).

 

Among the meanings of the widespread Gaelic place-name element innis (pronounced IN-ish) are ‘island’, ‘riverine meadow’ or ‘clearing in a forest’. It is usually anglicised inch or insh as in Inchinnan, Inchmarnoch, Inshes and Loch Insh. Its likely original meaning of ‘island in water’ is no longer active in the language, having been superceded by the Norse-derived eilean. Island names with innis are therefore very old.

Perhaps the best place to see Innis island names is the southern end of Loch Lomond where there are a dozen in close proximity, the best known of which is probably Inchcailloch, off Balmaha; this is Innis Cailleach ‘island of nuns’ named for the monastery established by St Kentigerna (died 734 AD). Two other islands bear religious references – Inchmurrin (Innis Mearain), named for St Mirren (who has strong connections to Paisley), and Inchtavannach (Innis Taigh a’ Mhanaich) ‘the island of the monastery’, which is connected to St Kessock.

Four islands derive their names from their shapes or profiles. Inchcruin is Innis Chruinn ‘round island’, named for a peninsula on its eastern side, Clairinch is Clàr-Innis ‘flat island’, Torrinch is Tòrr-Innis, named for a high rock on its south-western end and Inchfad is Innis Fhada ‘long island’. The names of three islands have links to nature – Inchlonaig (Innis Lònaig) ‘island of the small bog’, Bucinch (Boc-Innis) ‘island of billy goats’ and Creinch (Craobh-Innis) ‘tree island’.

Inchmoan (Innis Mòna) ‘peat island’ reminds us that this was a source of fuel for the people of Luss in olden times, and Inchconnachan is thought to be mean ‘isle of the Colquhouns’.

Inchcailloch-D0852 ©Lorne Gill/SNH

Inchcailloch ©Lorne Gill/SNH

There are a few small islands on the loch which do not bear innis in the name, and it is thought these were coined in more recent times – but they are all of Gaelic origin. They are Ceardach (A’ Cheàrdach) ‘the smithy’, where metalworking took place at one time, Island I Vow, a strange anglicisation of Eilean a’ Bhùth ‘island of the booth’, Ellanderroch (Eilean Darach) ‘oak island’, Fraoch Island (Fraoch Eilean) named for fraoch (heather) and Tarbet Isle (Eilean an Tairbeirt), named for the nearby tairbeart or ‘portage place’ where boats could be hauled overland to Loch Lomond from Loch Long.

Posted in Folklore, Gaelic, National Nature Reserves, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Achlasan Chaluim Chille / Columba’s Armpit Package

Tha lus a tha ceangailte ri meadhan an t-samhraidh cuideachd a’ cuimhneachadh Naomh Ceilteach ainmeil / A plant connected to midsummer also recalls a famous Celtic saint …

Tha Lus Chaluim Chille co-cheangailte ri Naomh Eòin ann am Beurla (‘St. John’s Wort’ a th’ air sa chànan sin) agus ri Calum Cille ann an Gàidhlig. Bidh cuid a’ gabhail Achlasan Chaluim Chille air; tha an t-ainm a’ buntainn ris mar a chleachdadh daoine e le bhith a’ ceangal badan dhiubh fon achlais chlì às am faigheadh stuthan ceimigeach a-steach don bhodhaig. A rèir beul-aithris chleachd an naomh ainmeil an lus anns an dòigh seo le buachaille òg a bha a’ gabhail eagal ro na madaidhean-allaidh ann am Muile. ’S e as coireach gu bheil e ceangailte ris an dithis naomh gu bheil na làithean-fèille aca le chèile anns an Ògmhios.

Eadhon anns an naoidheamh linn deug, a rèir an fhir-chruinneachaidh beul-aithris, Alasdair MacIlleMhìcheil, bha fèill aig daoine air an lus airson leigheas a dhèanamh air an dà-shealladh, geasan, buidseachd, an droch-shùil, bàs, sìth … agus iomadach rud eile. Ach bha na seann daoine a’ cumail a-mach gur ann as cumhdachaiche a tha e nuair nach eilear ga sireadh no iarraidh. Tha stuthan ceimigeach làidir ann, agus cha bu chòir a chleachdadh gun stiùireadh proifeiseanta.

Slender St Johns Wort. Beinn Eighe NNR, Wester Ross  ©Laurie Campbell/SNH

Slender St Johns Wort. Beinn Eighe NNR, Wester Ross ©Laurie Campbell/SNH

 

Slender St. John’s Wort might recall, for English-speakers, St. John the Baptist but, for Scotland’s Gaels, it is connected to that most famous of Celtic saints, Columba or Calum Cille (‘dove of the church’). In Gaelic it is Lus Chaluim Chille ‘Columba’s plant’ or Achlasan Chaluim Chille ‘Columba’s little armpit package’, the latter name referring to its medicinal application by tying it under the left armpit (where it is exposed to the lymphatic system), a use first reputedly demonstrated by the great saint on Mull, when he restored the courage of a herd-boy who had been unnerved by the presence of wolves.

The Christian saint Columba in a stained glass window in Iona Abbey.  By VeganSoldier, licensed under Creative Commons

The Christian saint Columba featured in a stained glass window in Iona Abbey. By VeganSoldier, licensed under Creative Commons

The connection to both saints derives from its status as a midsummer plant, being most obvious and efficacious at this time of year, close to St. Columba’s and St. John’s feast-days. Folklorist Alexander Carmichael recorded that it was ‘cherished by the people to ward away second-sight, enchantment, witchcraft, evil eye and death, and to ensure peace and plenty in the house, increase and prosperity in the fold, and growth and fruition in the field.’ It’s important to note, however, that the plant contains powerful chemicals and should only be used medicinally under professional supervision.

Posted in Beinn Eighe NNR, Flowers, Folklore, Gaelic, National Nature Reserves, SNH, Uncategorized, wild flowers | Tagged , ,

Sharing Good Practice: Farmers and Nature

Last month, Battleby Auditorium played host to a popular Sharing Good Practice event, Farmers and Nature: promoting success and looking forward.

SGP farming event 1- May 2018

Panel discussion with each of the five speakers and SNH Head of Policy and Advice Eileen Stuart.

We wanted farmers to share their success stories about how they farm sustainably to benefit nature. And we weren’t disappointed.

On the day, we were delighted to have a full house and a great mix of farmers, agricultural advisors and policy specialists from various organisations.  Our CEO, Francesca Osowska, opened the proceedings and the presentations and panel discussion were ably chaired by SNH board member Ian Gillies.

Five land managers (crofters, farmers and farm managers) took centre stage throughout the morning to highlight how they farm sustainably. It was incredibly valuable to hear from this diverse cross section of people involved in agriculture, which included a large mixed arable and livestock estate, a woodland croft and an organic dairy farm, with each speaker describing their own experience and motivation.

SGP farming event 2 - May 2018

The speakers, pictured here with SNH Graduate Placement Kirsten Brewster, enjoyed meeting one another as well as participants at the event. (L-R: Teyl de Bordes, Bryce Cunningham, Roger Polson, Kirsten Brewster, David Aglen  and Lynn Cassels)

As one participant said, “There is no point in fighting nature!  It makes much more sense to work with nature.” Another noted that sustainable farming is “getting out of the red by going green.”

Looking ahead, the group felt it was valuable to have environmental and citizen science volunteers work with farmers to understand environmental trends on their farms. Any future monitoring scheme needs to feedback to farmers, who tend not to get told whether what they are doing has been successful or not.

It’s also invaluable to use farmers’ and crofters’ skills and knowledge to test what works, learn from failures, and share success.

SGP farming event 3 - May 2018

The day was a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other, which was appreciated by everyone in the room. Here’s some of the feedback we received:

[It was] an exceptional line-up of very different speakers to pass their experiences on to a receptive audience of interested listeners.
     – Michael Clarke, Williamwood Farm, Nature Friendly Farming Network

It was an excellent opportunity to hear first-hand from the practitioners about their experiences and efforts with sustainable management of natural resources. It was helpful to understand better criticisms about existing schemes and their delivery, as well as the call for more support at the farm/estate level in identifying what needs conserving and for help with monitoring achievements.”
     – Buddug Jones, Common Land and Agriculture Advisor, Natural Resources Wales

For more information on the event, see:

Videos of each presentation are now available at the SNH YouTube channel. [https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTn6yg6zH_9Hvj8xpwbVnYouLgfIKj8q]

Geoff Squire of the James Hutton Institute has produced this blog [http://curvedflatlands.co.uk/sustainable-agriculture/regenerative-agriculture-short-supply-chains/].

Participants were provided afterwards with copies of the presentations and a short paper on ‘payment by results schemes’ as this topic generated a great deal of interest and discussion [http://www.hutton.ac.uk/learning/leaf/leaf-news-activities ]after the event.

 

 

Posted in Farming, SNH, sustainable farming | Tagged , ,

Scotland’s first ever Pollinator Trail, designed by and for children, open now!

On Friday 15 June, Scotland’s first ever Pollinator Trail opened at Whitmuir Farm in the Scottish Borders.  Neville Makan, local SNH Operations Officer, tells us about the launch of the trail and why pollinators are so important.

Heather Anderson and Pete Ritchie, owners of Whitmuir Organic Farm ©SNH
Heather Anderson and Pete Ritchie, owners of Whitmuir Organic Farm ©SNH

We recently worked with the Whitmuir Community Benefit Society to create the first Pollinator Trail in Scotland, to raise awareness of why pollinating insects are important to our food supply. The WCBS, which runs educational activities at Whitmuir Farm, worked with local pupils at Newlands and West Linton Primary Schools and Beeslack Community High School to design interactive displays along the trail; we funded their design, production, and installation.

The trail teaches visitors about different pollinating insects like bees, moths, and beetles.  It describes how many plants crucial to Scotland’s food and farming industries, such as oilseed rape, raspberries, strawberries, and beans, rely on pollination and shows how we can support pollinators by protecting and creating their habitats.  The displays along the trail are multi-sensory, including audio files recorded by the children and insect-specific flowering plants at each of the displays.

Bees are just one of the many pollinating insects that are so important to our food supply ©SNH

Bees are just one of the many pollinating insects that are so important to our food supply ©SNH

Marcel Kaljee, Principal Teacher at Newlands Primary School, said: “The P6s at Newlands Primary School had a wonderful time working with Whitmuir to develop content and record audio for the installations along the trail.  Whitmuir has been a very valuable community learning partner for us. The experience has been a great opportunity for the children in our school to take their education outdoors and bring learning to life.”

The launch of the trail was a lot of fun – Jim Jeffrey, manager of our national Pollinator Strategy, came with me and we both enjoyed meeting some of the pupils involved in designing the trail displays. After walking the trail, we got to enjoy a “pollinator lunch” at the farm café with food made possible by pollination, including a pumpkin salad and tomato soup!

Group Pic - Whitmuir Farm trail launch

Students from Newlands and West Linton Primary Schools and Beeslack High School who helped created the displays ©SNH

Whitmuir Farm is in Lamancha, on the A701, 4 miles south of the Leadburn Inn and 2 miles north of West Linton.  Whitmuir is an open farm – everyone is welcome to visit, walk, learn, play, shop and enjoy very good food.

Posted in Outdoor learning, Projects, Trail, Young people | Tagged , , , ,

Urban nature: raptors in the city

Mike Thornton, SNH Operations Officer in the Forth Area and active member of the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group, talks about the colonisation of birds of prey into our towns and cities – and why we should celebrate these charismatic urban predators.  

Urban raptor 2 for SM
A recently fledged peregrine chick running the gauntlet of road traffic and buildings
(© Sam Hobson)

I walk slowly through the wood, feeling watched – the intense, penetrating stare of the hawk entering my very soul. Noise from cars, sirens and voices punctuate the tranquility of the wood.  I search for the sparrowhawk’s nest in an avian crime scene – songbird pluckings littering the forest floor. How are the sparrowhawks faring this year, have they survived, are they breeding successfully in the city and why should we care?

Over the last four decades, many birds of prey in Scotland have recovered, principally due to the banning of harmful agricultural pesticides and a decrease in human persecution in much of the lowlands.

Urban raptor blog 3

Urban sparrowhawks seem to breed well in the city environment (© Ian Todd).  

As rural populations have expanded, these birds of prey started to colonise towns and cities, with the sparrowhawk one of the first species to colonise in the early 1980s. The colonisation of Edinburgh occurred after 1980, and within five years, there were probably more than 20 pairs breeding within the city limits. Many of their breeding sites have been monitored since the late eighties, and a recent scientific study has shown that over a four-year period, breeding success in Edinburgh was significantly higher than a rural population in Ayrshire. The residential gardens, parks, small woodlands and hedges in Edinburgh provide both suitable nest sites, as well as an abundant songbird prey supply. Sparrowhawks have also been reported breeding in other Scottish cities, including Glasgow, Inverness and Aberdeen.

Urban raptor blog 6

Urban kestrels have declined recently, reflecting a more widespread national decline (© Jackie Gilliland).

Another urban coloniser is the peregrine falcon, with an increasing number breeding on man-made structures, such as buildings, bridges, steeples and industrial cooling towers, as well as quarries. Although there were only a handful of pairs breeding on man-made structures in the early 20th century, such as the Tay Bridge, Dundee and Sinclair Castle in Caithness, it wasn’t until the late 20th century when they started breeding in our cities.

We now have these charismatic predators breeding on buildings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee. The results of the most recent National Peregrine survey revealed that almost 25% of all pairs monitored in Scotland were breeding on man-made structures or in quarries, with 45% in England.  This newly acquired habit of tolerating human presence has allowed the species to spread into much of lowland Britain.  Furthermore, some urban peregrines have been observed hunting nocturnal bird migrants using the light from street lamps, a true testament to their adaptability to breeding in these new environments.  These urban breeders are doing well, and studies from England suggest that breeding success in urban populations is higher than in many rural areas.

Urban raptor blog 3

Buildings provide surrogate cliffs for urban peregrines (© Sam Hobson).

Once confined to the western half of the UK, the expansion of the buzzard population has arguably been one of the biggest changes in British birds during the last three decades. There has been more than a doubling of its range in the UK since the 1990s, and this species has also recently colonised our urban environments. A thriving population is currently being studied in Cumbernauld, and Edinburgh now supports at least six breeding pairs, all within close proximity of the city center.

Although the kestrel was once a more common sight over our towns and cities, breeding on buildings and hunting over rough grassland in parks and roadside verges, this species has become less common in urban environments. This reflects a national decline, with a greater than 60% decline in Scotland since 1995. Research is underway by RSPB Scotland to identify the causes of this decline. Let’s hope that in the future we see kestrels returning to grace the skies over our towns and cities.

The red kite was also once a common bird of prey in towns and cities. In medieval times, it was common in London, scavenging on human waste and Shakespeare refers to London as “The city of kites and crows”. However, like many other birds of prey, it was heavily persecuted in the 19th century to protect game birds, and was eventually driven to extinction in Scotland and England by the late 19th century. However, thanks to an RSPB/SNH red kite reintroduction programme, the species has reclaimed some of its former haunts and is now commonly seen over cities like Aberdeen and Inverness. If the growth of the red kite population continues, it may not be long before this species fully returns to exploit opportunities in the urban environment.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus).©Lorne Gill/SNH

Red Kite in flight. (© Lorne Gill/SNH)

 

The colonisation of our towns and cities by birds of prey is a good news story, one that we should celebrate. These spectacular predators depend on urban green space, as do many of us.  They bring a sense of wilderness to our highly civilized societies, injecting a sense of wonder to our lives.  However, their future, as well as the future of our wider urban biodiversity, will depend on how we plan our towns and cities, and manage our urban green space for generations to come.

I eventually find the sparrowhawk’s nest in an old beech tree next to a busy footpath. People walk by, oblivious to the breeding activities of these urban hawks. The female is calmly incubating her clutch – I wonder whether they will successfully raise young again this year.

For more information on raptors in Edinburgh see http://www.edinburghhawkwatch.org.uk/

 

Posted in biodiversity, urban nature | Tagged , , ,

The Cateran Trail – a walkers dream

The Cateran Trail, aptly acknowledged as ‘the sort of Scotland walkers dream of’ by TGO magazine is a fully waymarked circular route through the spectacular Perthshire and the Angus glens.  Andy Barrie, is Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust’s Strategic Routes Officer and he provides an insight into the management of the trail.

Cateran Trail - Kirkton of Glenisla - © Mike Bell

Cateran Trail – Kirkton of Glenisla – © Mike Bell

The trail can be divided into five stages, which can be comfortably walked in five days. It has no official beginning or end and can be joined at any stage.

It mostly follows old drove roads and ancient tracks across a varied terrain of farmland, forest and moors, which includes some boggy bits especially after rainfall. It undulates with the land between and over hills, alongside rivers and burns, across rolling countryside, over bridges, and through towns. Its highest point reaches 650 m / 2,130 ft at An Lairig gate.

Cateran Trail - GlenIsla to the West © Mike Bell

Cateran Trail – GlenIsla to the West © Mike Bell

The top selling points of the Trail are definitely the views! The scenery of East Perthshire and the Angus glens is breath-taking and always leaves people in awe. Some great points of interest along the route include: Blackcraig, Dalnaglar and Forter castles; prehistoric buildings; the Upper Lunch Hut, once visited by Queen Victoria; Dirnanean Gardens (open in summer); Auchintaple Loch and Loch Shandra; Mount Blair (774 m / 2,440 ft); and a 19th century wrought iron bridge across the River Isla.

Cateran Trail - Feet crossing bridge © Zoe PKCT

Cateran Trail – Feet crossing bridge © Zoe PKCT

The land through which the Cateran Trail passes is held by 42 land owners, so our biggest management challenge is ensuring that all of the land owners continue to support the Trail and the people using it. It also means we aren’t able to simply carry out maintenance or other works along the Trail but need to get several different sets of permissions before we are allowed to work on any of the land.

Currently, we’re working on installing new self-closing gates funded by Scottish Natural Heritage at various points, new signage along the Cateran Mini Trail between Kirkmichael and Lair, and new drainage across the Trail to try to make it less muddy underfoot.

Plan a trip soon – find all you need at www.caterantrail.org

 

Posted in paths, Scotland's Great Trails, SNH, Trail, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

#CycleForNature – an inspiring week!

Another three offices and three National Nature Reserves visited this week and 147 miles cycled. Now with four legs completed, #CycleForNature will soon look forward to pushing off again from Aviemore on 16 July. Today, following on from Wednesday’s post, Francesca reflects on the end of another inspiring, activity-packed week.

On Thursday, SNH colleague, David Shepherd, and I set off from Kinross to Falkland with Storm Hector at our backs. We had a brilliant ride on quiet roads and the strong tailwind meant that we arrived at the Falkland Stewardship Trust 30 minutes early!

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David on the Falkland hill climb challenge

David suggested a hill climb challenge which was great and brought us back in perfect time to meet the Trust. The Falkland Stewardship Trust is part of the Centre for Stewardship which brings together a range of organisations supporting sustainable living and skills development in Falkland and beyond. It was great to meet staff and volunteers who are learning techniques as diverse as wood carving, rope skills and vegetable growing.

BPBH3397

Staff and volunteers at the Falkland Stewardship Trust

Then on to the SNH office in Cupar, now accompanied by colleague Helen McGeorge, dodging the debris of Storm Hector.  The afternoon was spent in the office with colleagues discussing our shared aspirations for SNH and learning about the work of SNH in the area.


It was a relatively short hop this morning to Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. Here I met colleagues and volunteers and discussed some of the challenges and opportunities of reserve management and visitor engagement.  It was a pleasure to meet Gillian Fyfe,  a Tentsmuir volunteer whose butterfly report was published today by SNH.  Gillian has been analysing 40 years of data on butterfly numbers at the reserve and has produced an excellent report which you can find on our website – nature.scot. It’s inspiring to meet people with such a passion for Scotland’s nature.

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Volunteer Gillian Fyfe’s butterfly report was published today

I had a good tour of the fantastic reserve before setting off for the final stop of this leg of #CycleForNature: Dundee waterfront.


At the waterfront I met Graeme McLean, the Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland  project manager.  This is a cross-sector collaboration, supported by SNH, to maximise the potential of mountain biking in Scotland. Projects include development of new and sustainable trails and working with the National Access Forum to manage conflict. All of which supports SNH’s mission to connect people and nature and encourage everyone to enjoy Scotland’s amazing natural assets in a positive and sustainable way.

IMG_0187

Leg 4 finished with a meeting with the Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland project.

Cycle For Nature is raising funds for the Scottish Association for Mental health.

Posted in Access, active travel, biodiversity, citizen science, Community engagement, Cycle for Nature, cycling, Flanders Moss NNR, National Nature Reserves, SNH, Staff profile, sustainable travel, Uncategorized | Tagged ,

Planning for Great Places

Peter Hutchinson, SNH’s Supporting Good Development Activity Lead, explains our new approach to engaging in the Planning System.

When it comes to planning, it’s good to talk – and the earlier the better.  Sharing ideas, considering the benefits of nature, being visionary about ‘place’ and helping to find solutions, is the thinking behind our new approach to engaging in the planning system.

After listening to our customers, considering the direction of regulatory and planning reforms, and reflecting on the need align our work to the whole of the government’s programme, we have recently launched  Planning for Great Places – a new service statement to strengthen the connection between people, development and nature.

Planning for great places cover

Our aim is to be more active in helping to make Scotland the best place to live, work, visit and do business.  We want to focus our efforts on:

  • early and upstream engagement in the planning system
  • stronger working with business interests
  • clearer advice that is alert to other interests

This is fine in theory, but what will it mean in practice? Our new approach has four key priorities:

First, sharing knowledge about Scotland’s nature – we want to help others see and understand the benefits nature gives us all and how our natural assets can be part of developments.  Our Sharing Good Practice programme has proved to be a good start, but we want to do more.  We want to develop good practice with the people who make our great places:  for example, working with the Civil Engineering Contractors Association and supporting their recently established environmental forum.

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Second, investing in nature – we want to work with business interests, such as City Deals and housing sector partnerships to help them invest in nature.  We want to help them maximise the competitive advantage from our nature.  As recently illustrated by the tourism book, The Rough Guide, promoting Scotland as the most beautiful country in the world, our nature is pretty special! It supports a range of social and economic benefits – from jobs to climate change to people’s wellbeing.

Planning for great places 3

Third, supporting plan and place making – we want to continue to work with planners, other key agencies, communities, developers and others to support a plan-led approach to delivering development.   We want to work together to plan how best to use nature.  A good example of the sort of approach we want is the Midlothian Green Network map which carefully planned active travel routes and other green networks.

Midlothain Green Network

And fourth, providing advice that enables good development.  We want to help achieve the right development in the right place. And for this, we want to help make any development as good as it possibly can.  We want to talk to development interests as early as possible, whether individually or through sector or industry groups.

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Collectively, and by working in an inclusive and engaging way, we hope that these priorities will help planning for great places – connecting people and nature and supporting good development.

If you would like to keep in touch with our work to help Planning for Great Places, please sign up for updates via our twice-yearly Planning Bulletin sign-up form.

Posted in Uncategorized

#CycleForNature – half way there

Our blog today catches SNH Chief Exec, Francesca Osowska,  with three and half legs behind her and at the half way point in her epic active travel challenge. To celebrate she went on a duck survey, met a delegation of Chinese environmental officials, enjoyed a BBQ and cycled less than 15 miles.

Leg four of #CycleForNature began at Stirling train station on Monday morning.  Great planning or an excellent coincidence meant that this leg of #CycleForNature coincided with Bike Week.  It was therefore fitting that the first stop was the Stirling Cycle Hub (with their amazing huge map) to talk about promotion of active travel, e-bikes and local food provenance, among other subjects.  The mission: get people out of their cars as much as possible.  To support this, the Hub run a number of courses, work with local businesses, hire out bikes and have a great drop-in centre at the station.  It’s beginning to pay off with more cycle commuters in Stirling and e-bike hire has the potential to be a game changer for many people.  Great to see.

It was then a short cycle to the SNH office via the Stirling Old Bridge for an outdoor meeting with Brian Roberts and David Hopper of Stirling Council.  The key topic to discuss was the recently announced Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal worth £90.2m.  The City Park is one of the projects that was part of the bid document and discussions are now actively underway about realising the vision of more active engagement with the River Forth running through the city to support economic, cultural and social prosperity.  In addition, improving connectivity for visitors so that they stay in and around Stirling to see everything that the area has to offer, is a key aim.  SNH is involved in supporting this vision so that development can occur in a sympathetic way to nature found along the river bank.  The beginning, I hope, of a long an collaborative partnership.

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After an energising discussion with colleagues in the SNH office in Stirling, six of us set off to cycle to nearby Flanders Moss NNR.  It was lovely to experience such tranquillity close to the city and it is an easy cycle on quiet roads.  After hearing about the history of the reserve from reserve manager, David Pickett (“If Flanders Moss was a football team, it would be Tottenham Hotspur”), we went up to the viewing platform to be rewarded by fantastic views.  I was lucky enough to be there when the Bog Gallery was in residence.  Fantastic art from pupils of Port of Menteith Primary, Thornhill Primary and McLaren High schools who’d spent time on the bog and in class capturing the beauty of bog plant life.  A great example of engaging young people in nature.  Two colleagues and I then made the 44 mile cycle journey to Perth, which was beautiful in the evening sun.

Tuesday morning started with a leisurely cycle from the centre of Perth to SNH’s Perth office in Battleby.  I’ve never done it by bike before and having done it once, I now think I should do it more!  It’s an easy flat, mainly off road path that starts off along the river.  I spent most of the day in Battleby at a Senior Leadership Team meeting and then an informal discussion with staff in the Battleby office.  Again, very insightful and incredibly useful to me as I build up a picture of the organisation.  Wheels rolled for the cycle from Battleby to Kinross at 17:15.  Six started the journey and, having dropped off a colleague in Perth city centre for the train (great example of active travel), five happy souls rolled into Kinross.

On Wednesday, I made the arduous half mile cycle from Kinross to the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.  Loch Leven NNR is incredibly accessible and that’s probably why it attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year.  I was to spend the morning with volunteers surveying tufted ducks.  It’s not as easy as you think, they are elusive birds who build elusive nests!  The volunteers were much better than me and I soon realised that my best strategy was to watch for the ducks breaking cover.  This survey work is incredibly important so that we have a dataset for the population, and it could not be done without the help of our volunteers.  It was great talking to the volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering at Loch Leven for a number of years.  All talked about the great camaraderie that came from volunteering and how much they enjoyed supporting their local NNR.

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I briefly welcomed a Chinese delegation of officials from China, all involved in environmental protection, to the NNR.  They are on an eight week visit to the UK, including one week in Scotland.  They were interested in SNH’s role and how we interact with government and other agencies.  This was followed by a merry band of us cycling the 13 mile Loch Leven Heritage Trail which runs around the loch.  It’s a fantastic path suitable for walking, cycling and is accessible for wheelchair and motorised scooter users.  It’s incredibly popular and it was great to see it being so well used.  My visit coincided with the annual Loch Leven barbecue to thank all the volunteers for being so generous with their time.  A relatively small gesture given all the hours that our volunteers provide: it seemed appreciated and was a great end to the day.

 

Posted in Access, active travel, Birds, Community engagement, conservation, Cycle for Nature, cycling, Flanders Moss NNR, National Walking and Cycling Network, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , ,