North Councillors give support to Countryside Ranger Service
The work of Highland Council’s Countryside Rangers was welcomed today at the Caithness and Sutherland Area Committee as Members gave their support for the wide range of work done by the Rangers and also gave their approval for the 2015/16 programme of events across the area.
Highland Council’s Countryside Manager George Duff informed members of the achievements made by the Rangers in the last financial year for 2013/14 and highlighted some local events they had been involved in:
In Caithness and Sutherland 162 events took place which were attended by 1865 people with 98% of participants saying it met their expectations and 59% saying it exceeded expectations
Over 100 school visits involving 1800 local children took place between April and October with a variety of projects undertaken including constructing wildlife gardens, visits to the seashore and bushcraft activities in the woods
The very successful Wild North festival was delivered in conjunction with the North Highland Initiative and the Rangers’ contribution to this event was significant
A series of workshops at Dunnet Bay on 30th May as part of the Science Festival for local primary schools were attended by 140 local pupils
Under the banner of the Highland Seashore Project the Rangers ran workshops and events in Keiss and Bettyhill in May which were both well attended.
Mr Duff explained that the role of the Countryside Rangers has changed over the years from a traditional one of delivering environmental education and events to one of promoting and sustaining biodiversity; working with Access Officers in local areas; and managing and maintaining the large number of council properties that the Council has within its Development and Infrastructure service.
In Caithness there are 2 full time Rangers who are based at Dunnet and Wick and in Sutherland the 4 full time Rangers are based in Durness, Lochinver, Bettyhill and Lairg.
Members approved the proposed 2015/16 Countryside Ranger Programme of Events for their area which will include 127 events. The programme includes a range of walks, and activities aimed at different age groups and abilities. Highlights include guided walks to the Bone Caves at Inchnadamph and to a Puffin Colony at Faraid Head, coastal walks to watch seabirds soar above northern cliffs, woodland bushcraft sessions, a nocturnal search for bats, the chance to learn navigation skills and Star Gazing into the Caithness night skies as part of the World wide Earth Hour event.
Leader of the Area Committee Councillor Deirdre Mackay thanked the Rangers for all their work in encouraging people of all ages to get out and explore the natural environment. She said: “We are lucky to live in an area that boasts very dramatic and outstanding scenery and the chance for people to enjoy seeing a wealth of wildlife in their natural habitats. The Rangers do a great job of promoting these opportunities to locals and visitors across the whole of Caithness and Sutherland.
“I am especially pleased that over the next five years the Rangers have signed up, as part of our contribution to the Peatland partnership, to deliver various activities including promoting new walking routes in the peatland area, putting on new guided walks along peatland routes, assisting with community events and training local tourism providers about the peatland resources around them. They will also be continuing to foster good working relations with the North West Highlands Geopark. Having them working in our communities is a real asset so I would encourage anyone who has not yet taken part in one of their activities, to come along and enjoy making new friends and learning more about the nature on our doorsteps.”