On 29 and 30 May, 230 primary school children from 11 schools across Skye and Lochalsh explored aspects of their crofting heritage as they took part in an event to celebrate this unique culture and environment.
Both days began with a welcome from Highland Councillor, Audrey Sinclair, who as well as opening the event held at Broadford Primary School, was present as an activity provider in another role, as a beekeeper! The pupils participated in workshops under the four themes of: Crofting Culture; Food from the Croft; Croft Wildlife; and Crofting Craft and Skills.
Anne Martin and Mairi Sine Campbell provided highly entertaining workshops on crofting culture as they sang songs and told stories in Gaelic and English. Pupils learned about food production on the croft with Audrey Sinclair, who ran a workshop on Bees and Honey and the Delights of Dairy were discovered with Kathy Biss from West Highland Dairy, Achmore.
Meanwhile, Rag Tag ’n’ Textile were on hand to teach the children to weave and Judith Bullivant of Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum ran a work shop on Drystane Dyking. Shelagh Parlane and Sarah Stephenson from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds held a workshop about birds on the croft focussing on corncrakes Scotland’s only globally endangered bird, which flies all the way from Africa to breed on island crofts. Croft Biodiversity was the subject of another wildlife workshop as the Highland Council and National Trust for Scotland Rangers helped pupils discover everything from moths to newts.
The weather held for both days and the few midges encountered were not enough to deter anyone from having fun. From making butter, to designing a wildlife friendly croft, and from finding dragonfly larvae to building a wall, the event was an action-packed, hands-on learning opportunity for local children.
Gordon Wyness, Head Teacher of Broadford Primary School, said: “The Crofting Environment Fun Days were well organised and a considerable challenge considering the number of children involved. I was impressed by the number of local providers involved and the range of activities on offer. It gave excellent opportunities to all of our upper primary children to engage with the curriculum for excellence in a very practical hands-on way. It complemented what we are doing in the school in terms of Eco-schools and Environmental Education in general. Ideally it should be an annual event and we would be more than happy to provide the venue in future years.”
The organisers of the two day event were: Karen Macrae from Crofting Connections; Jenny Grant and John Phillips Countryside Rangers with The Highland Council’s Planning and Development Service; National Trust for Scotland Rangers Gavin Skipper and Rule Anderson; and Judith Bullivant, Skye and Lochalsh Environment Forum Outreach Officer.
Jenny Grant for the team of organisers said: “We are delighted that the events have been so popular. We’ve worked hard to put it together but it was a success because of all the people that have become involved in the project in some way. The most important thing for us was that the children had fun while learning about the special nature of crofts and we think they did!”
The event wouldn’t have been possible without funding from Skye and Lochalsh Renewables Co-operative Limited and sponsorship from Crofting Connections, and the National Trust for Scotland at Balmacara Estate.
The organisers would also like to thank Broadford Primary School who were fantastic hosts and provided the perfect venue for the event; the skilled workshop providers who gave up their time to share their knowledge of their particular area of crofting; the Forestry Commission, who not only gave the use of their Marquee for the event but also two staff members, Callum and Neil to put it up; and finally Catriona Bullivant, who was a fantastic help in both setting up and running the event.
The next stage of the project is for each school, accompanied by a ranger, to visit a real working croft.
The organisers are urging anyone who runs a croft and who would be willing to show their local school around their croft to please get in touch with: Jenny Grant or John Phillips – Highland Council Countryside Rangers (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com tel: 01471 820527/6); or Rule Anderson - National Trust for Scotland Ranger (Randerson@nts.org.uk tel: 08444 932231)