Autumn on the Ross

You might be wondering what we’ve been up to over the last couple of months!  Here’s a wee update on a ranger’s life in autumn…

Bunessan Biodiversity days exploring the wildlife in the grounds of the Ross of Mull Historical centre where I have my office:

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Hosting a Thistle Camp working holiday tackling all sorts of maintenance tasks including the never-ending beachcleaning:

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…and a wildlife film-maker producing a video clip for showing in our new visitor shelter on Iona – more about this in due course!

Interspersed with some trips to other beautiful parts of the country for training courses on crofting and outdoor health and safety (and a bit of holiday too!) next up was phase 2 of the Changing Landscapes project, with the theme this year of Working the Land and Sea.  18 students from Oban High school joined tutors Donald Shaw, Eleanor MacDougall and Jan Sutch Pickard for a 2-night stay on Iona and produced some lovely original music and writing in both Gaelic and English about their experiences exploring the island, meeting local folk, investigating placenames, sights and sounds.  Their final performance in the Abbey was recorded professionally so the results will be available soon, meanwhile last year’s project is still available to view, and here’s a few photos of this year’s work in progress:

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Not to be outdone, Iona primary school undertook their own project in parallel, and the two groups came together to compose and perform a song about Iona’s placenames.  Some of the primary school children also posed for a photoshoot to provide images for our new visitor shelter building too:

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Nature clubs at both Iona and Bunessan primaries have looked at seed dispersal, bumblebees and snails (the snail racing was a particular highlight!) and I also spent time with the older Bunessan class investigating seaweeds and the effects of marine pollution:

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Add to that a final plant survey on the Ross, a cheery group of Explorer Scouts visiting from Perth for a foraging trip, checking Staffa’s infrastructure with the structural engineer and attending Burnet Moth study group and Mull Deer Management Group and you have a flavour of a ranger’s autumn.  Don’t forget deer stalking is underway, so please check before you walk in the hills, using the contact details in the Outdoors Mull leaflet available locally and the advice here.

Practical Plants Day

Guest blog from Katrina Crosby this time.
After months of planning, preparing and hard work, our nails were bitten down to the quicks.  The night before the event, the marquees were constructed, the tables and chairs arranged, posters and signs had been blue-tacked to the walls and we nervously locked the door to Creich Hall behind us.  Then the nagging questions settled it, “will people really turn up?”.  We just had to hold our breath that it would be a nice day and try to get a few winks in before the big day.
Bright and early the next morning we were greeted by cheerful bunting waving us in.  Leaders, sellers and caterers arrived.  Boxes and bags full of supplies, goodies and equipment were emptied, while books filled the little library shelves and treasures were angled ‘just so’.  The buzz of excitement was building and before we knew it the doors were open and people started to come!
The bus filled up with those eager to learn about seaweed, hiking boots were donned and walkers set off.  Aprons were tied around waists, willow was bent, jars of gloomy goop turned into colour.  All sorts of smells wafted through the hall (mostly yummy but a wiffy one too) and smiles, lots and lots of smiles, lit up faces all around.
The Practical Plants Day was a huge success!  So many people booked into the courses and quite a few turned up for lunch or just to have a nosey around.  We have had amazing feedback and have taken on-board the sensible suggestions that were shared.  People walked away excited about what they had learned and proudly held on to the treasures they had helped to create!
We are already back around the table to start making next year even better!  So, thanks to everyone that organised, volunteered, helped and attended.  If you would like to join in on the planning, have a ‘plant skill’ that you would like to share (or know the perfect person who could), or an idea that might just be the thing we need, please contact us!
Katrina, Alex and Emily
01681 700 659
07717 581 405
or Practical Plants Day page on Facebook
There are lots of photos here if you would like to see what we got up to on the day!