Hands across the earth as six nations come together in Lochalsh
On Monday (16 June) seventeen individuals from six countries met with community groups and projects across Lochalsh. This was not big politics or business but the sharing of appreciation of different landscapes and countryside across Europe. People from Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have travelled to spend a week with Scots in the Highlands, all sharing a passion for Biological Recording, whether it is birds, flowers or insects.
The event running this week is part of The Grundtvig Exchange Project, of the European Union’s Life Long Learning Programme. It supports individuals and organisations involved in non-vocational adult education to participate in European training activities and projects. Scots from our own Highland Biological Recording Group, HBRG, have been received by partner organisations in Eastern European Countries, to learn about the natural history of their hosts land. Now it is the HBRG’s turn to act as the hosts and where better then to bring their visitors, then to the beautiful West Coast and hills of Lochalsh and Skye. Here over this week they have been free to explore the wonderful wild life of our mountains, woods and seashores.
The first day in Scotland started with a very professional reception at Auchtretyre Primary School, where the P6 and P7 pupils had worked hard on a project, ranking the landscape of the Plock of Kyle, particularly the woodland, as their most preferred. The children, with the help of their teacher Mrs Caroline Ross, had produced charts, pictures and fabulous descriptions, which were admired by all. Then the children had a chance to quiz their guests about their own countries and the descriptions of bears, wolves and lynx captured young and older imaginations.
All the work that has been done by the Primary School children and the sister project by all the geography students at Plockton High School with Mrs Irene Mitchell, Head of Geography, will feed into similar community projects across Europe as part of the Grundtvig Exchange. Furthermore the findings and the ideas of the two schools will be given to the Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust to inform their Public Consultation, for the future of the Plock.
After visiting the school the European Visitors were welcomed to the Plock of Kyle by Kyle and Lochalsh Community Trust Representatives Fiona Begg and Valerie Watson. They introduced the group to the Plock’s history and plans for its future as a community amenity space. Respected botanist James Merryweather was there to guide everyone over the amazingly diverse habitats and identify the species that are there, especially the orchids. Fellow members of the HBRG were also on hand to guide everyone.
For those visiting from land locked countries the real excitement revolved around exploring the coast. The Highland Seashore Project was on hand to give an introduction to the plethora of life on the Plock’s shores, again with Dr James Merryweather and Project Coordinator Janet Ullman.
People may wonder what will happen to all of the lists of species recorded this day. Like all records they are destined for a central records office. In Scotland our records go through the HBRG to the National Biodiversity Network, where maps of ‘where is what’ are produced and these guides inform policy and decisions from Scottish Government, local planning and Government Agencies. Anyone can access the NBN through https://data.nbn.org.uk/ to see what is living on their doorstep.
This was just day one for our guests to the Highlands, on Monday evening they were delighted by a talk on Crofting by The National Trust for Scotland Balmacara Estate Manager, Iain Turnbull. He followed this with a tour to the crofting townships of Drumbuie and Duirnish on Tuesday 17 June. A mid morning coffee with homemade cake was indulged in, with the S6 Higher Geography students and their Teacher Mrs Mitchell. It was an informal opportunity to discuss the schools landscape evaluation results and for students to ask about eastern European geography. The group then went to the Collie Mhor woodlands and attended an evening talk conducted by Janet Ullman on Whales and Dolphins, followed by The Open Marine Environment’ by Mike Kendall also of the Highland Seashore Project.
Wednesday 18 June was another packed schedule with a boat trip of Loch Coruisk on the Misty Isle Boat and an evening talk with National Trust for Scotland Kintail Estate Ranger, Rule Anderson.
David O’Brien of the HBRG, one of the trip organisers said: “In such an action packed week, we have to thank so many wonderful people, schools and local organisations. Not forgetting individual contributions such as that from Brian Neath, local Moth expert who invited all of us to view his home moth trap. I think our European friends and neighbours have received a traditional good old-fashioned Highland Welcome. They have also got some new friends and some wonderful memories of their stay.”