Bright rowan berries, bracken changing colour…although mixed with a lovely splash of purple from scabious, knapweed and heather flowers, it definitely feels like autumn is approaching, especially with the wild weather we’ve been experiencing lately. Our recent guided walk to Shiaba discovered the burn (usually easily fordable) to be a raging torrent so we had to be content with viewing most of the buildings in the distance! Luckily as we stopped for lunch the clouds started to clear allowing views of Carsaig Arches and Colonsay too.
Here on Iona and Staffa we’ve just hosted the National Trust for Scotland’s footpath repair team, and also a hardy group of Thistle Camp workparty volunteers, who’ve been out in all weathers making improvements to our well-used paths. With tens of thousands of visitors a year our footpaths need constant maintenance to counteract the impact of all those feet. So enjoy our new stepping stones and a slightly less muddy experience next time you are walking to Columba’s Bay, the Hermit’s Cell or Staffa’s puffin colony! Thistle Campers also worked on repairs to drystone walls and collected rubbish from a number of Iona’s beaches. The footpath team will be back next spring when they will also be carrying out repair work to the landslide-affected path at Burg.
In my last blog post I told you about our first Nature Adventure Day along with Headland Explorations, well the programme continued with a group exploring St Martin’s Caves on Iona, foraging for seaweed and cooking it on a beach fire lit using flint and steel and natural tinder (dried bog cotton and grasses). We had seaweed soup, seaweed-flavoured popcorn, fried seaweed and a carragheen pudding! Thanks to Miek Zwamborn for sharing her expertise.
The last day involved an adventurous sail on Mark Jardine’s B.Marie, high winds causing us to abandon our original plans to travel around the south coast of the Ross of Mull for climbing and beach cleaning, in favour of heading around the north of Iona to sheltered Port Ban. Everyone enjoyed having a go at climbing and investigating the plant life of the bay with a game of wildflower name pictionary. Many thanks to the Dutch family from Erraid who kindly used their own boats to collect the beach rubbish from Traigh Gheal a few days later.
Other successful summer days included Woodland Tribe at Tiroran Community Forest where children and young people got to create their own adventure playground which should last up to 5 years. Feel free to use it next time you’re there, and if you haven’t already seen the Woollen Woods, most of it is still in place too. I’m now busy helping Bunessan Class 1 with their nature trail topic, along with Philip Yielder (Community Forester at Tiroran) so look out for a new trail to follow in the forest this autumn!
I also really enjoyed the opening celebrations for the Loch Pottie path, standing in the rain 10 minutes before the agreed time I was wondering whether anyone would turn up, but a last-minute rush saw over 100 people led by the pipe band and children on bikes all walking the path together to declare it open. It’s since been great to see it well-used and appreciated by everyone from visitors on an evening stroll, to locals walking their dogs and children cycling to the shop. Look out for new interpretation signage in due course.
The last of our wildlife surveys for the year saw me joined by some volunteers with a head for heights as we checked up on the spread of bracken at Burg and counted our population of the rare Iceland Purslane plant. Work also continues on the bothy renovations at Burg, and on the Fingal’s Cave walkway on Staffa which is nearing completion.
As some of you will be aware through our displays at the agricultural shows we were covering endangered species, one of which may well be YOUR ranger service. The Ranger Service is a partnership made of National Trust for Scotland (NTS), Forest and Land Scotland (FLS)and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and we are managed by Mull and Iona Community Trust. Unfortunately, FLS cease to fund us totally at the beginning of April next year and SNH have cut their support by 50% so our ranger team may well be under threat unless we find alternative funding. If you have time to drop us a supportive email (to email@example.com) about an event you have enjoyed, what your children thought about one of the school trips we have organised, the benefits of volunteering or the difference made by our co-ordination of community access projects, beach cleans or any other aspect of our work we’d be glad to hear from you as we can use any positive comments as evidence for potential funders! We will keep you up to date as things develop but any support for our service would be much appreciated.
thanks for reading,