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June 2021 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
New Seasonal Access Ranger Team on patrol within the Highland Council area
The Highland Council's new Seasonal Access Ranger team commenced their patrols in mid-May. The team are based throughout the Highlands to promote and advise on responsible access to the countryside through the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. The original ten-person team, which covers a third of the Scottish land area or nearly 26,500km2, will be boosted by an additional seven Rangers after HC secured funding from NatureScot's Better Places Green Recovery Fund. These extra posts allow a redistribution of the original ten to ensure more areas of Highland have a ranger patrolling popular scenic places. The rangers will work in teams of two or three, with one team for Lochaber.
Rangers will patrol sites and engage with visitors to ensure awareness of the Outdoor Access Code, monitor use and report incidents to the relevant Council teams or emergency services. The rangers will also carry out duties to keep tidy, maintain and manage Council owned sites, core paths and work with communities and land managers on other sites to protect the habitats and respect for the landscape. Where possible, the rangers will work with local volunteers to engage with visitors.
Responsible camping will be a key priority and in most cases this will mean a 'no fires' message. There is a significant fire risk throughout the Highlands in the summer months and lighting camp-fires on peaty ground, woodland, grassland or moors is irresponsible and contrary to the Code. It is also irresponsible to light fires close to buildings, historic monuments and within 30m of a public road. Even small fires cause significant damage to our natural environment from the scorch marks, the trees cut down or the dead wood housing insects. Much of this damage takes years to recover.
Rangers will work weekends and will not be available Tuesdays or Wednesdays. People can contact the Ranger team, but HC ask that people are realistic in their expectations, that the team are not an emergency service and are there to educate and engage rather than enforce. The team can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning the Senior Rangers on 07881 298503 for the Skye, Lochaber and SW Ross areas.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It's disappointing to see the return of dirty camping and crazy campervan parking this month. With so many problem-solving efforts ongoing, let's hope things improve over the summer. Perhaps those who don't understand the Access Code could take note of Claire's Quote this month ...
I spotted a news item today which has relevance in our efforts to combat climate change. Apparently the seabed off the West Sussex coast is set to be leased from the Crown Estate by councils looking to restore marine habitat including kelp beds and may result in the creation of a marine park along the entire length of the West Sussex coast. A spokesperson said, "This is a potential game-changing project which would help us cut carbon emissions, and restore beautiful marine and estuarine habitats." We all know how important kelp is - it's good to see this being recognised by local councils elsewhere.
As ever my thanks go to Morag and Ewen for helping out with the printing, and Anne and Jane for looking after the subscription envelopes.
What was I saying last time about it seeming like it was almost summer . . . It's only been the coldest May in a long time so not only have we yet to relinquish the hats and jackets, it has slowed down the garden growing season somewhat, especially compared to last year. Things are starting to warm up though and the bluebells and gorse are pretty splendid at the moment. Everything is also incredibly green and it's suddenly hard to imagine that just a few short weeks ago the branches were still bare.
The wee Hooses have arrived and have had their first guests, which has been a great success and the first three months of the season are now nearly fully booked. Welcome to Corinna Calder who has joined the community after previously working at Camusrory and will be responsible for the changeovers of the wee Hooses.
The new shelter at the pier in Mallaig is a very welcome addition: no more standing in the rain and wind while waiting for the boat. Thanks to the Mallaig Harbour Authority for this, it is much appreciated.
In Hydro news, Wyvis are making excellent progress since arriving six weeks ago and have managed to build the access track almost all the way up to Bhraomisaig where the dam is located. The first sections of pipeline have been delivered and construction of the new pipeline will commence just as soon as the access track is complete.
Knoydart Renewables have been invited to (and participated in) the consultation by the Scottish Government regarding decarbonisation and phasing out the use of fossil fuels for heating and electricity. This will have a massive impact on homes and businesses in Scotland, especially in reference to Knoydart and the Highlands and Islands where there are still parts of communities who rely on diesel and other fuel oil.
If anyone has been following the Old Forge Community buyout you'll have noticed that the crowdfunding campaign which was meant to be launched at the start of May was postponed. It has been rescheduled until July and a lot of factors led to that decision but the main reason was that the steering group want to get things right and take the Old Forge under community ownership in the most appropriate way. After lots of discussion and professional advice there is now a much clearer idea of all the fundraising options available and the CBS group have been focussing on grant applications in recent weeks, which, if successful, will help dictate the crowdfund total. More on how it's going next month but you can follow all the updates online.
Think that's all I've got for now folks.
Oh but just one more thing . . . Happy 30th to Mark!
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
We are beginning to see some signs in the Glen that the new car park and Harry Potter bridge are really having a positive impact in keeping cars off our verges and foot passengers off our roads. Yah!
The Glenfinnan Estate have continued the path from the footbridge to the viaduct trail and this means that visitors now have a clear and safe route from the car park.
The car park is proving a huge asset to us all here and we hope to see the fabulous car park attendants on site very soon. We recently had a group of campers on the Island on Loch Shiel, sadly these individuals left camping equipment, rubbish, and food, which will be cleaned up by some lovely local volunteers. This is all too familiar a story but one we hope will not be repeated.
We have noticed that the 40mph speed limit through the village is not always being observed so we would kindly remind everyone to keep their speed down while passing through.
So lastly a thing happened. . . a lovely wee local pup was out having his daily exercise, enjoying the Callop walk, when later that evening, was taken to the vet as was very ill. It turns out that eating human waste is not great for dogs! I would ask all dog owners who come to walk in the Glen to be extra vigilant as unfortunately we have some visitors who seem to think it's ok to drop trousers and squat! I can report that the dog made a full recovery but didn't have the freshest of breath.
Olc mun fhárdaich, is math mun rathad mhòr
Bad at home, good abroad!
ISLE OF MUCK
Hi World, Muck calling . . . Well you get what you wish for - the Island is open for business and in full flow right when Shearing season is upon us, so less hands but same fleeces . . . any spare hands know where to go, because some of the bedraggled and rub off anything (literally) darlings need you. (Sheep not shearers ??)
The Little Red Boat is ramping up its operation and Sandy can be seen bobbing back and forth across the bay, just as well as with the Lodge, visitors and Tearoom all ticking over, he needs to be on it . . . look for them online if you get the chance. The weather has recently been almost tropical-like - I say like, as the wind can be biting still. With the sun comes frolics, and sighted at various beaches dipping in the waters are the Lesser very white Muckites! Yachts and pleasure cruise visitors all observe a lot of marine activity on the journey, especially Minke Whales; even us at Port Mor were treated to a trio of Bottlenose Dolphins for a spell giving a good display of themselves.
Summer timetable but same wee niggles with tides and navigational lights causing disruption and frustration to the mix - all the joys of Island life but we're not at the cannibalism stage quite yet . . . but vegans beware . . . just saying. Off the coast now is the very impressive and powerful Mowi Challenger, the latest boat at the fish farm stable . . . I'm thinking water skiing! June already, and the new batch of Pheasants are upon us getting ready for August. Where does time go?
Well that's us for another month: keep calm and . . . you know.
ISLE OF CANNA
On May 1st we were delighted to celebrate the wedding of our 'Canna' Anna Munro and Martin Merrick. The weather was perfect and everyone had a great weekend. Congratulations to you both.
Lambing is now finished and there are lots of lambs and more twins than last year.
Canna is now open for business and we have seen a lot of visitors in the last few weeks. CaféCanna is open and welcome to new staff member Eilidh; we hope you enjoy living and working on Canna. It's good to see the island up and running again.
Lots of new birdlife about with two Corncrakes calling, Shelduck and Eider chicks and the Bird Ringing team have reported that seabird numbers on the cliffs are up on previous years.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
May saw archivist Fiona record a podcast for the Gerald Finzi Trust. The Trust is a charity set up in the name of British choral composer Gerald Finzi, in order to further the ideas, music and ideals of Finzi himself. Fiona was awarded a scholarship by the Trust which enabled her to take the work of John and Margaret Campbell back to Nova Scotia a couple of years ago, to work towards re-establishing the close relationship the Campbells had with the Gaelic communities in Nova Scotia. In the podcast Fiona described the influence of Margaret particularly on her own personal musical life and how it has taken her ultimately to Canna and includes extracts from the sound archives and Margaret's own voice. The podcast can be heard here - https://bit.ly/FJMFinzi
May this year marks the 40th anniversary since the Campbells gifted Canna to the National Trust for Scotland. John noted it in his diary along with the equally significant arrival of his "Hebridean Folksongs".
"Today Canna became the property of the National Trust for Scotland & we became tenant farmers and owners of Heiskeir. Today also arrived advance copies of Hebridean Folksongs III"
Images taken by Margaret Fay Shaw on trips to Heisgeir in 1970
"Dh'èirich mi moch madainn Chèitein, Hill ir inn is hog a bho, Thug mi gu siubhal n t-Slèibhe"
"I rose early on a May morning, I took to walking the hillside"
ISLE OF RUM
The beautiful month of May, everyone's favourite for visiting Rum; lovely weather, lots of blossom and bluebells, new life everywhere and next to no midges. The weather has been unseasonably cold but the sunny, warm spell at the end of the month has made up for it.
Now that visitors are allowed back, our accommodation has been as full as it can be and we have seen an increase in wild campers and bothy goers - a quick reminder for wild campers to be respectful of their surroundings and take all evidence of their stay away with them, and also that wild camping isn't permitted in Kinloch Village - please use the campsite and facilities instead. Rum campsite is now on pitchup.com
Rum Bunkhouse is under new management; new manager Alex Mumford has taken on the role with vigour and has a raft of ideas and plans to boost business. Alex will also take the helm to drive forward other visitor management plans which always end up on hold due to lack of time and people to move them on.
On the nature reserve, the team and volunteers have been busy monitoring the wildlife. Along with a research group, there has been a lot of activity on the upper slopes of Hallival where NatureScot have been monitoring Manx Shearwater activity and there have been annual seabird counts along the cliffs and also a goat count of the feral goat herd. Several of our newer residents have been taking part as a great opportunity to see the more remote parts of the island and see some outstanding wildlife. Calving season is well under way at Kilmory with the team busy watching and waiting for red deer calves to be born.
At the school, the children have been busy in the polytunnel and next week are very excited to be going to Eigg for sports day. They still don't have a permanent teacher and the increasing number of different supply teachers is making continuity difficult. In more school news, the parents of the Mallaig High School pupils on Rum were shocked when Highland Council wrote to them this week to remove the weekly school boat in place of a fortnightly one. The parents of the small Isles children have long wanted a weekly boat - both parents and children feel going away for a fortnight at a time is not good for their well being and mental health. It is felt that HC should provide a weekly boat and more to assist with the children's well being whilst away from home. Needless to say representations have been made by parents and children to get the weekly boat reinstated.
May birthdays were Isobel now six and Fliss, shockingly now 50. Garden parties were held.
ISLE OF EIGG
It's been a hive of activity over here on Eigg this month. Our new extended pier centre at An Laimhrig is well underway with the walls of the new toilet and shower block now erected. The huge yellow digger that arrived during the month has been a great source of awe for the youngsters and the not so young as well! It's all go for the Isle of Eigg Brewery also and Stu has had a busy month at the new brewery site. The foundations have been measured out and the pipes are in. It's not just the builders that have been hard at work this month. The hogs had all already been clipped at Laig Farm by mid-May, surely a Small Isles record! And the island has opened up again for visitors. Accommodation and hospitality providers are all back to normal service as much as restrictions allow for; delicious meals and refreshments are available at Galmisdale Bay Cafe and Bar; our local Eigg shop is full to brimming with gorgeous local produce; Owain at Eigg Adventures has a fantastic fleet of mountain bikes and kayaks to rent out; it's all go and there's a real feel of summer in the air!
Nature has been putting on a show for us with the amazing display of bluebells on the island. Many thanks to John Chester who has given a brief update of other nature news.
In keeping with most of the UK, May on Eigg was a very slow month for migrant birds with arrivals much delayed by the almost constant cold northerly winds.
One species that certainly bucked the trend though was Cuckoo with good numbers calling throughout the island from mid-month. Other summer arrivals included Whinchat (12th), Grasshopper Warbler (17th) & Spotted Flycatcher (13th). Not a lot occurred on the migrant front either with more notable records consisting of the following - Whooper Swan (28th), Barnacle Goose (26th) - both probably feral birds, Tufted Duck (22nd), Great Northern Diver - good count of nine at Laig Bay on 12th, Little Gull - one reported from the ferry on 7th & Iceland Gull - one at Laig on 8th. If birds were bit scarce the same could not be said for cetaceans with Minke Whales (max count of five) and Common and Bottle Nosed Dolphins appearing almost daily for a spell in mid-month. A sighting of a family of three Otters playing at Kildonan Point on the 14th also deserves a mention.
And finally, we are so delighted to welcome Labhaoise McKenna to the island, joining us as our newest resident. Labhaoise has been visiting the island for many, many years and is a dear friend to all, having first arrived to volunteer with the Scottish Wildlife Trust twenty three years ago. An avid sea swimmer, she has already formed the Eigg Swimmers who had their inaugural swim in the beautiful sunshine that she seemed to bring with her when she arrived off the boat on that gloriously sunny Friday. We wish you all the best in your new home, Labhaoise!
Update from the Old Forge Community Benefit Society, Knoydart
Our application to formally register the Community Benefit Society is now with the Financial Conduct Authority. The registration process should take two/three weeks, all going well. Thank you to the Plunkett Foundation for guiding us through this process and helping us create the Society's model rules. Once everything is registered, we can complete the bank account setup.
Our submission to the second stage Scottish Land Fund will be submitted later this month, and we expect a decision by September. If successful, SLF could support a substantial portion of the acquisition costs based on an independent valuation of the property which we have conducted. We hope to still be on track to launch our public fundraising projects from July.
Representatives from the CBS steering group held a positive and productive meeting with the owner of The Old Forge, Mr. Robinet, last week. We intend to keep Mr Robinet updated on our progress and hope to maintain positive communications throughout this process.
We aim to have the business plan completed by the end of the month. We held our first community consultation event in April and will host a second this month for locals to feed back on what we've done so far, and provide further input. We continue to receive coverage in national and international news outlets, and a steady stream of messages on social media and via email in support of the project. We want to say a huge thank you once again for the amazing support behind us, and please continue spreading the word and sharing our posts!
Àirigh - Motorhome stopover sites possible in Highland
The Highland Council is believed to be the first local authority in the UK to temporarily relax licensing regulations to enable landowners with suitable sites to provide continental style motorhome stopovers known as 'Aire' - Àirigh (meaning Shieling in Gaelic). HC is adapting to the significant increase of motorhome ownership in the UK and the demand for self-contained holidays by creating an opportunity to offer small, simple and low-cost short stopovers for motorhome visitors.
Chair of the Council's Tourism Committee, Cllr Gordon Adam said: "The demand for travelling via motorhome has been intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result has created significant pressures for safe overnight parking in our rural communities. The Scottish Government's ongoing commitment to a temporary relaxation of planning controls allows The Highland Council to consider temporary use of appropriate locations for overnight stops in motorhomes without formal planning permission.
"To mitigate some of the problems experienced in the summer of 2020, temporary 'Àirigh' will offer a safe, off-road location for motorhomes to park for the night and help alleviate parking problems experienced in rural areas. Aires are used all over Europe and Àirigh could offer an opportunity to assist the economic recovery in Highland. We encourage any community groups or landowners that may have suitable land to submit a short enquiry form to the Council's planning team." As part of the Council's Visitor Management Plan ambitions, the authority has created a landowner guide to create temporary motorhome stopovers. The guide is intended to give an introduction to what can be provided with minimum legislative constraints. However, it is important to note that no separate legal definition of an "Àirigh" or "Aire" currently exists, so the guidance is based on existing legislation relating to planning and licensing of caravan and campsites and when or where any exemptions exist.
The Council has also been working with communities and a number of commercial campsites to ensure waste disposal options are available around the Highlands for those visiting in motorhomes. Work is also being undertaken in partnership with the Campervan and Motorhome Professional Association (CAMPA) who promote the range of these facilities through their website and other channels.
The temporary relaxation of planning control will be kept under continual review and will remain in place until 31 December 2021 or until the requirements for physical distancing have been removed.
To read the guide, and submit an enquiry form, visit www.highland.gov.uk and search for 'Highland Motorhome Stopover Sites'.
There is a definite buzz about the Harbour this month, with much more activity throughout. Part of this is Development Activity - including the works to the RNLI pontoon. The new pontoon arrived today (2nd June) so if you have ever wondered what a pontoon looks like out of the water, we've included a photo of it on the back of the lorry. We are also amazed at the volume of building materials heading to Knoydart and the Small Isles. The miles and miles of pipework for the hydro on Knoydart is particularly impressive!
There are more fishing boats in the Harbour, and more landings, which we are glad to see. The hot weather means that the boats need more ice, so even the increase in ice orders being phoned through to the office is hopefully an indication that things are improving for the fishing industry. Some of you may have seen the press release issued by Marine Scotland about the funding for our shore power - which I mentioned last month. We had to take some photos for this, so in case you haven't noticed the new boxes, this is what they look like. We've already had a wee incident with one of them, so we've ordered some yellow barriers to make them more obvious!
Our passenger shelter has already been well used, and we have had permission from Transport Scotland to purchase a bike rack, so this and the luggage rack will be added. As part of the grant conditions, we have to gather feedback from users on the shelter. To do this, we have set up a very short questionnaire, which you can access online - https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/XT93873. You are also welcome to email us at the Harbour Office with any comments or suggestions about the shelter.
It has been lovely to welcome back some visiting yachts to the Marina, and it has been getting steadily busier throughout May. Although the shore facilities are open, we can only have one crew at a time using them, so we are asking crews to book. This, and the other COVID-19 protocols are available on our website and on our Facebook page. Today (2nd June) is the first day of the Lord of The Isles resuming its regular sailings from Mallaig for the summer, after the Loch Seaforth returned to service on Monday 31st May. Unfortunately, there are ongoing issues at both Muck and Eigg which mean that the Small Isles timetables are liable to disruption at short notice so it's not quite 'back to normal' just yet.
Last month we were hopeful that it would be third time lucky for the Screen Machine, and we are pleased to report that it was, and that we welcomed the Screen Machine back for three nights from 20th to 22nd May. They are also operating at limited capacity, and were originally only due to show films on two nights, but had to add an extra date due to demand - so obviously we weren't the only ones pleased to have them back!
Our AGM is due to be held on Friday 18th June. Given the ongoing restrictions, we have decided to postpone the public meeting until September, when we should be able to meet in person and provide some more details about the developments at various stages around the Harbour.
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
2nd May 2021
Requested to launch at 14:13 to the coastal footpath between Elgol and Camusunary on the Strathaird Peninsula. A female walker had fallen from the path down an embankment, landing amongst trees and sustaining a suspected broken ankle. Recue 948 from Stornoway also dispatched to the area. Arriving on-scene at 15:15, the Helicopter had already landed on a nearby beach and its Paramedic was with the casualty along with a Coastguard Member. Due to her location she could not be safely accessed for winching by the aircraft. Three crew from the lifeboat proceeded ashore to assist in getting the casualty to a safer location. Once the medic had packaged and stretchered the casualty she was carried down the rocky beach to the Y-boat. Once onboard she was taken the short distance to the next beach were the helicopter had landed. Once the rest of the team had scrambled over the rocky shoreline to the Y-boat the casualty was transferred the short distance to the aircraft and boarded. Once crew were clear and back in the Y-boat Rescue 948 took off and conveyed the casualty to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. Crew and Y-boat recovered and Lifeboat departed the scene at 16:35, berthing in Mallaig at 17:20 fuelled and ready for service.
9th May 2021
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard at 17:08 to transfer Paramedics to Isle of Eigg. A male on the Island was experiencing chest pains and required immediate attention. Heli Med 1 from Inverness was also dispatched to the casualty location. Arriving on-scene at 17:55 the medics were driven to the casualty's location by a family member. Heli Med 1 was also now on-scene and landed at the casualty's location. Once assessed the patient was taken to the helicopter and boarded for the onward flight to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness for further treatment. Once the medics were driven back to the jetty and back onboard, the Lifeboat departed Eigg at 19:15, berthing in Mallaig at 20:10, fuelled and ready for service.
13th May 2021
Launch by Stornoway Coastguard at 16:35 to an EPIRB activation and a treble nine call to the Camusrory estate at the Head of Loch Nevis. Rescue 948 and Heli Med 2 also tasked along with local Ambulance crew onboard Mallaig Lifeboat. Two males have been involved in a quad bike accident. One has sustained suspected broken legs and the other cuts and bruises. Lifeboat on-scene at 17:10, Heli Med 2 also landed close to accident scene, fortunately a short distance the Jetty. Paramedic from Heli Med 1, Ambulance crew and Lifeboat personnel proceeded to location to assist. Rescue 948 also arrived and landed, her Paramedic proceeding to scene. With the combined effort of the three services the casualty was stabilised, immobilised and extracted from crash location to the roadside. Once the casualty was splinted and made comfortable in a vacuum mat the lifeboat crew and estate workers carried the casualty the short distance to Rescue 948. As soon as casualty was boarded, Rescue 948 departed for Glasgow airport where the casualty would be transferred to Hospital. Heli Med 2 took the second casualty to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness as a precautionary measure. Once all equipment had been gathered the medics and crew returned to the Lifeboat and departed Camusrory at 19:00, berthing at Mallaig at 19:40.
15th May 2021
Requested to Launch at 16:40 to convey paramedics to Inverie, Knoydart. A young male was experiencing breathing difficulties. On-scene at 16:55 the lifeboat was met by the casualty and family members. The patient was quickly boarded into the care of the Medics. Departing Inverie moments later the Lifeboat returned to Mallaig with the patient who was then transferred to Fort William's Belford Hospital for further treatment. Lifeboat ready for service at 17:30.
31st May 2021
Tasked to the Smirisary peninsula, Glenuig by Stornoway Coastguard at 12:10 to evacuate a female with a suspected broken ankle. Once on scene two crew went ashore in the Y-boat and recovered the casualty back to the Lifeboat. The casualty was then taken to the slipway at Glenuig where the Salen coastguard team and the local ambulance were waiting to assist the casualty ashore and to the Ambulance for onward travel to the Belford Hospital, Fort William. Lifeboat then returned to Mallaig, berthing at 14:50, fuelled and ready for service.
Michael Ian Currie
On & Off the Rails
Ness Islands Railway Open for 2021 Season
The much-loved Ness Islands Railway which has been owned and operated by Inverness Highland Hospice for the past two years is now ready to bring joy to all passengers, adults and children, who enjoy travelling the half-mile journey along the track through its own grounds in Whin Park, Inverness.
Over the winter and spring the volunteers who support the Railway have undertaken substantial works clearing the ground alongside the track and re-planting has taken place, and is ongoing, to improve the amenity and add even more joy to the train journey.
A spokesperson for Highland Hospice said "Support for the railway has been fantastic and we are so pleased that the public continue to love and enjoy their train rides with us.
"We want to say a huge thank you to the volunteers, old and new, who have done super work cleaning up and landscaping the grounds, and who work every day during the holidays and at weekends to keep the train running."
Ness Islands Railway will be opening every Saturday and Sunday, weather permitting, until the end of June and then daily during the school summer holidays before returning to weekend operation. It will close for the winter at the end of October. Rides are £2.50 each and Under 4s travel free. Over the past two years many thousands of pounds have been raised to go towards the Hospice. Thanks to all who have helped to keep this wonderful facility going.
Updates on opening are posted regularly on the Ness Islands Railway Facebook page - www.facebook.com/NessIslandsRailway or, if you find yourself in Inverness, take a look and find out what puts a smile on your face. If you have any spare packets of bulbs, seeds or plants, hand them in at the Booking Office on the site and watch them smile too! Sounds like an appeal to the Beechgrove team at BBC Scotland might be a good idea. I'm sure it could be worth a visit from them don't you think? I believe an upgrade to the ticket office is on the cards as well. Don't forget to take your teddy bear and/or your favourite Disney outfit to wear on the ride, or a Harry Potter scarf, or wand, to wave on the train.
RMT conductors Industrial Action continues
Starting as far back as Sunday 28th March, conductors operating on ScotRail services have been called out on strike on Sundays by the RMT Union, after members were balloted. This call out is still continuing - at the time of writing - until at least 25th July.
This obviously has had a significant impact on anyone who planned to travel on a Sunday. No bustitution has been in place other than key workers' limited bus service in place at hospitals in Hairmyres, Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy - to my knowledge.
From Glasgow to Oban, Fort William and Mallaig, no ScotRail trains have operated as without conductors the drivers could not work.
The dispute hinges on overtime payments for conductors not being offered at the same rate of pay as drivers. The conductors were further instructed not to work rest days (if requested) on any day from 26th March.
Abellio's tenure of the ScotRail service contract will cease on 31st March 2022 and as reported in the April issue of West Word a Scottish Government owned 'Operator of Last Resort' (OLR) will take over. The ScotRail branding will continue unchanged - except the wording 'Scotland's Railway' is already appearing under the ScotRail logo on paperwork - and on my new Volunteer badge issued to me just this week. ScotRail staff will transfer to the new Scottish Government owned entity, with their T&Cs protected.
As a volunteer with ScotRail I have only clarified all of the above in the hope that the RMT conductors' debacle does not rumble on until then, and to represent the situation as fairly as I know how. The travelling public are as important to me as the employed ScotRail staff. Let's hope for a while that my clarity (as I see it) on both sides keeps the travelling public informed. After all it is them who pay to travel. Thanks. Phew!!
Disabled Persons Railcard
On a night when sleep did not come I read the new 'National Railcard' leaflet - as you do! - Available at Mallaig and Fort William stations, it is well laid out as to the many types of National Railcards on offer. For example, did you know about the Disabled Persons Railcard? Costing £20 for one year or £54 for three years, it allows you to travel nationwide with a companion saving a third off all Standard and First Class Anytime, Off Peak and Advance tickets, plus a third off Oyster, pay as you go single fares and daily caps on the Tube, DLR, London Overground, TFL Rail, and most National Rail services in London.
You cannot purchase a Disabled Persons Railcard at National Rail Ticket Offices, but by post using the application form contained within the booklet, with payment and proof of eligibility, or online at railcard.co.uk.
Mindful that not all disabilities are visible, you can qualify if (for example) you have a hearing impairment, or epilepsy. It might be worth checking out the leaflet - and it eventually sent me to sleep - without my hearing aids in and with my glasses off!! Remember the one card purchase covers not only you but a travelling companion, but you don't have to have one!! Another good purchase is a 16-17 Saver, priced at £30 for one year and giving 50% off BUT strangely not valid on ScotRail or Caledonian Sleeper services!! Maybe there are better deals from ScotRail. I will report on this next month.
Result of the May deadline book draw
All female entries in the draw for a copy of 'Scottish Highland Railways' by David Tucker. The drawn card came from a lady in Fortrose who asks to remain anonymous. I will abide by her request - she has now received her book by post - but that is a first for me.
Other activities on the Mallaig Extension Line
The twice daily Jacobite, which has been running under light steam for the last two weeks to combat the risk of lineside fires, with a diesel assisting at the rear, is increasingly busy (whilst still under Covid restrictions of course) and continues to contain happy guests on board who enjoy the extra shunting manoeuvres at Mallaig. This half term week sees many more children travelling. Lots of 'thumbs up' waving as they spy me - usually with a spade, fork, broom or rake waving back. Good fun!!
Warnings about the aggressive seagulls can be heard from the fragrant Florence through the open windows - with her snood on - as they wait at the points. With seven carriages on the morning run it is an impressive 583 feet in length.
Passenger numbers on the four car, four times a day ScotRail train are slowly increasing, held back a bit by the level 3 Covid restrictions in Glasgow - but that will change soon hopefully. No shunting at Mallaig for them now as they have a dedicated platform to arrive and depart from. I hear that quite a few passengers now travel to Edinburgh first, staying overnight, then travelling on the shuttle the next morning at 7am to Glasgow, changing platforms and travelling on to Rannoch, Corrour etc for a day's climbing and travelling back the next day. Thus sticking to the requirement of not staying in Glasgow - although I bet they sneak out for a 'Greggs' takeaway breakfast to eat on the train!!
Last Saturday in May saw the resplendent Belmond Royal Scotsman in Mallaig - 11 carriages, top and tailed with diesels. It was part of a four day Western Highlands Tour from Edinburgh.
I don't know if we will see this one in Mallaig, but it is visiting 638 stations in Scotland at the moment so maybe - I live in hope!! A company called Fugro has been awarded a Network Rail contract to deliver a gauging survey and 'digital twin' of Scotland's Railway! (In other words, survey two passing tracks at one time!)
Their RILA technology will provide Scotland's Railway with complete up-to-date asset Geo-data to meet their gauging requirements. Approximately 2,750 route kilometres are being surveyed, spanning 93 different route sections and 638 station platforms. The use of Fugro's train mounted RILA monitoring system will remove the need for surveyors to be on or near the railway tracks during data collection, delivering information directly and securely at speed to engineers and asset management. (In other words, persons will no longer have to walk the line amongst excrement with a big hammer!)
Nearly, oh so nearly,
See you on the train,
BIRDWATCH May 2021 by Stephen MacDonald
Overall a cool month and fairly dry. Many fledglings appearing this month, although some are later than normal. The first brood of Canada Geese were seen at the head of Loch Ailort on the 7th, with the first Greylags also there on the 9th. So far the geese have fared well, with numerous large broods of well grown goslings still present on Loch Ailort and also Loch Morar at the month end. Mallard ducklings were also seen on Loch nan Eala, Loch Ailort and the Morar Estuary.
Newly fledged Dippers were seen being fed on the river Morar by the hydro dam from the 5th.
The first Lapwing chicks were seen at Invercaimbe on the 8th and Redshank chicks were also seen there about a week later. Still many birds on passage through the area, with 'Greenland' Wheatears reported mostly during the first half of the month. A pair of Spotted Flycatchers at Glen Shian, Lochailort on the 12th, were the first reported. They are usually the last of the local breeders to arrive.
Both Arctic and Common Terns were reported during the first week from around Arisaig and Loch Ailort. By the 17th Common Terns were back on their nest island on Loch Ailort.
Wader passage continued well into May, although birds were not stopping for long. The peak count for Whimbrel was 25 on the golf course on the 6th. The last report was on the 17th when four were still at Traigh.
Small numbers of migrant Dunlin, Sanderling and Ringed Plover were seen at Traigh and Camusdarroch.
Both Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone were seen at West Bay, Mallaig until the 16th at least. Small groups of Golden Plover were seen at Back of Keppoch and Traigh on several occasions, the last report on the 21st when eight were seen on Traigh golf course.
A Dunlin seen on the 9th by Traigh boatshed had been colour-ringed on the 8th September near Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain. Great Northern Divers, many in breeding plumage, were seen offshore, with a group of 15 at Camusdarroch on the 1st and 17 at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall on the 17th. Four Black-throated Divers were seen together just offshore from Mallaig on the 29th.
Young owls from three species were seen during the month. A Tawny Owl chick was seen at a tree nest near Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. At least three Long-eared Owl chicks had fledged from a nest also in Arisaig and large downy chicks of Barn Owl were seen at the usual cliff site near Mallaig on the 27th.
Long-tailed Tits were seen on several occasions feeding on fat balls in a couple of Morar gardens, but more unusually a pair of Goldcrests were also seen several times feeding on fat balls.
There was an unusual sighting on the 19th, of a male Black Grouse near Mallaig Mhor. They are mostly sedentary birds, but there have been reports from the Knoydart peninsula, so possibly it made the relatively short hop across Loch Nevis from Sandaig.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
West Word visited award winning chef Colin Nicholson, Jessica Thompson and miniature dachshund Hamish, who have taken over management of the recently renovated Mingary Castle in Ardnamurchan. Colin was formerly chef at Inverlochy Castle Hotel and Arisaig House. We wish them luck!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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