Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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April 2009 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Monthly news from Knoydart, Eigg, Muck, Rum, Canna
West Word ten years ago
Coastal Ranger Report - Birdwatch

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The month ahead is an eventful one, kicking off with the official opening of the completed A830 Trunk Road project on Wednesday 15th April.
Stewart Stevenson, Minister for Transport, will be performing the ceremony at 11am, with help from Arisaig Primary School pupils, at the new layby for Larachmore Gardens. Over thirty years of campaigning has resulted in the provision of a double track trunk road all the way to Fort William, cutting the journey time considerably. Two days of music in the Astley Hall will celebrate the completion of the road with a concert from Duncan Chisholm and Ivan Drever on the 14th and a family ceilidh with music by Ross and Eildih on the 15th.
Knoydart has a year of celebration planned to celebrate ten years of community land ownership, and April is earmarked for a series of Spring Watches with their Rangers. A coastal wildlife scramble, a walk through the past, a woodland wander, eagle spotting, vegetation monitoring and a stroll on International Dawn Chorus Day (3rd May) are all on the calendar, and on 17th and 18th April the K10 Music Festival will be staged. For full details of the year's event's, go to www.knoydart10.com which is being updated regularly.
Over on Eigg, the islanders are preparing for the Giant's Footstep Family Festival, on the 2nd and 3rd May, all geared up for participants to have fun while finding out about climate change and what we can do to help the environment.
The end of April and early May also sees The Homecoming Newfoundlanders' Tour of the Highlands, which culminates in a Homecoming Ceilidh in Glenuig Hall on Tuesday 5th May, and a fleeting visit to the Isle of Canna on the 6th May, the island the Newfoundlanders' people left in the 1820s. The group of singers and musicians have Gaelic forebears (MacArthurs, MacDonalds and MacIsaacs) who emigrated from Canna, Moidart and Glengarry in the 1800s. This is the first cultural event in Scotland to feature Newfoundlanders.


Days at Sea
MNWFA is calling for urgent action to revise the 'totally unworkable' regulations controlling the number of days that fishing vessels put to sea that were agreed last December at the EC Fish Council in Brussels.
There is deep anger and frustration amongst our members over the effort control regulations that are affecting the economic viability of large sections of the fishing fleet. Recent angry exchanges in the Scottish Parliament have further highlighted the depth of feeling on the issue in fishing communities across Scotland.
We were part of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF) which met with Scottish Government and European Commission officials on Wednesday 1st April where we pressed for immediate action to resolve the issue. The scene is set by the unmistakable message from the men at sea - that the regulations controlling days at sea, worked up over 2008 and agreed finally by the Council of Ministers last December are unworkable. There was no proper economic impact assessment done at the time of introduction and the real truth is now becoming apparent - lack of days at sea to harvest fish sustainably is threatening the viability of sectors of the industry. All of us involved: the industry, governments in Edinburgh and Whitehall and the European Commission, must now take the essential next step and urgently look for practical change to the regulations.
There is no industry which is unaffected by the world economic turmoil. Every business is looking at its regulatory framework and business plans. The fishing industry will simply not accept any heel dragging. There must be no resistance to this process of urgently seeking change. The deal signed up to in December by member states can be defended no longer - the world has changed radically. If we are to survive we must have a new approach to the crucial matter of days at sea. The Scottish industry has led the way in fish stock sustainability and this part will not change one bit; however, there are choices over the speed and strength of measures. These can and must be adjusted to ensure the sustainability of the industry itself.

Inshore Fishery Groups
Last week's inaugural meetings of the North West and Small Isles & Mull Inshore Fisheries Groups (IFGs), held in Inverness and chaired by Bill Ellis - IFG National Co-ordinator, Scottish Government Marine Directorate, signalled a significant milestone in the continuing shift in balance of local policy and governance within Scotland's inshore fishery fleet from the Marine Directorate to the fishermen themselves. This long awaited and highly welcomed process of devolution witnessed the ratification of the Executive Committee membership of these IFGs (comprising appointees from appropriate local and national Fishermen's Associations and elected advocates representing all non-affiliated fishermen) and a consensus upon the internal workings and principles of focus and planning within these groups. Unanimous approval for the principle of localised and fishermen led decision-making was further enhanced by the Marine Directorate's acceptance that within the template of the national IFG architecture there would be room for local and fishery specific manoeuvrability. All present fully endorsed the IFG concept as a major advancement in recognising the significance of inshore fisheries within often very fragile rural economies, and the vital importance of maintaining a sustainable and profitable fishery sector for the general social and economic wellbeing of Scotland's coastal communities.
To these ends the Executive Committees will encourage and promote clear lines of communication within all commercially adjacent interests (processors, the aquaculture sector, produce marketing bodies, and general shore based support functions etc.): the securing of Marine Directorate funding for the post of a Local Co-ordinator and independent Chair for each IFG -adverts seeking applicants are currently running in the local and industry press - will significantly boost effectiveness in this area, along with the priority to equip each IFG with an interactive website to allow better and easier access and participation by individual fishermen within each Group' s decision making processes. Forthright commitment was given by the Executive Committees to ensuring that the optimum assistance would always be given to all those with a right to freely fish these waters, and to constantly focus on exploring every potential opportunity to enhance the wellbeing and sustainability of these crucial fisheries.
Minutes, dates of future meetings and general information can be accessed from the Scottish Government website.

Prices for prawns and indeed all quality seafood has experienced a downturn in recent months. Fuel duty has been increased and fuel prices are creeping up again. Predictions for effort allocations are looking grim. This leads to the prospect of an extremely hard year ahead for the fishing fleet. It is especially galling that the effort cuts - due to cod Recovery Plans - are being foisted unfairly on a fishing sector that does not and is not interested in catching cod. You couldn't make it up! Our Government, with its stated aim of protecting rural communities and looking after the fishing industry must now stand up and do just that. The time of reckoning is coming.
John Hermse, Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association

A 60 year old fisherman from Lossiemouth was the victim of an unfortunate accident when he lost his footing crossing between boats on the early hours of Monday 6th April. The Lifeboat and Coastguard were called out to rescue the man, a crewman on the Contest, but he was dead when pulled from the water.

During May 2009, to mark the Year of Homecoming, the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther will be sending a cultural and historical team to visit some of the old herring ports in the Highlands and Islands.
The highlight will be the voyage of the Museum's flagship Reaper around the area, where she will be open free of charge to members of the public.
Reaper FR 958 begins her tour in Oban on 15th May and will reach Mallaig on Monday 18th May. She will arrive about 5pm on Sunday 17th and will be open to the public all day on Monday 18th. It is hoped that schools in the area will take advantage of the visit and bring their classes to come aboard the boat. A shore-based team will be visiting schools, museums and heritage centres, tourist offices and cultural co-ordinators in advance of the Reaper's arrival, and will be distributing publicity material and information packs including details of the vessel, together with colouring competitions and quizzes for the children (most of the answers can be found on the Museum's website www.scotfishmuseum.org)
Don't miss your chance to see this unique floating museum, a relic of days gone by and of our common cultural heritage.
It is hoped that the College, the Heritage Centre and the Oral History Project will be holding events to coincide with the visit.
Read more about it in next month's West Word.

Hello hello
Thought that the month past was going to be a quiet one, a few lines and that would be that. It doesn't't seem to be the case. Everything is gearing up to what sounds like a busy year on the tourist front: Cara, Andy Tibbets and Martin have all said that the bookings are good this year, maybe because of the credit crunch and the weakness of the pound. A new season means returning staff for many businesses - Phil, Faye, Sarah, Fred and Stephen, as well as new arrivals - Richard and Andrew. Over at Doune along with the other staff Martin and Jane are going to have daughters Pippa and Alex helping all summer. Other arrivals include a new boat for John Sellars - the Meri 3 - which his son-in-law Jim, who's moved up here with Mel, and a freshly returned Drew are getting to grips with, Finnish instructions and all. Sam's back from Arizona and soon to make a film on Muck I think. Lastly, although certainly not least is the arrival of Penny, Steven and Izzy's new Beagle. Good also to see Paul around more often, a definite sign of spring. Christy and baby Kitty are now a regular feature stepping out and both are the picture of health. Christy has though admitted that the remarkable similarity between Kitty's and Jim's dad's hairline is, on occasions, distracting. The big events of the month were headlined by Chic and Joanne's wedding bash. They had skipped of to Thailand leaving word of their intentions and the arrangements for a party when they returned. As is customary at these events the bride was glowing in white, Chic wore flip-flops and kilt to remind him of the happy day, or rather to remind Joanne as she'd had a bit of a memory lapse. Archie and Robbie also had a big party up at the Byre, they were three. Much fun was had by adult and child alike. A book sale and soup kitchen was held in the village hall in aid of Amnesty International. The annual japes to mark International Women's Day went ahead although were more focused on the night at the pub, Still, £300 was raised for charity. The day had been taken up with Donald Tarbet's funeral at Morar. A sad loss for North Morar and Knoydart.
Round and about there's as much going on as ever. The road from Donald's corner to Kilchoan bridge has had a serious makeover with various people and organisations contributing. Neil Simpson, the Highland Council Marine Superintendent, was over and strimmed the pier - yes strimmed. Lots of the boats have had their MCA inspections. John and Kev were up for some serious Hydro maintenance - we also had a couple of short shutdowns as the turbine settled during the work. The Forest Trust were mounding, planting and doing ditch work while Lorna in the office put together paperwork for the latest Big Lottery claim. The Rangers were working out this years walking programme amongst much else. The Scottas fields were decked out in new feeding troughs by Iain Wilson. The pub had a freshening up with JM on the brush. John the ghillie seemed to be up to his arms in oil for much of the month. The builders were drinking tea or coffee and swearing.
This year is the tenth anniversary of the community buyout of 17,000 acres of Knoydart, it's something that is being celebrated throughout the year with various events, including the upcoming festival under the banner of K10. Today(Thursday 26th March) was to be the official do with folk joining us from all over the country. The weather put paid to that and Brucie couldn't run. The do went ahead though, although slightly depleted, with food and the kids singing in the hall. Trees were then planted out back, and as of now, 4 in the afternoon, there is every intention to have a bit of a party tonight. On Saturday coming, 28th, in the first of a good few music events, Vaguely Cajun are on at the hall. Alongside the festival, which the Arts group have put together, and all the other happenings (full programme on the Knoydart Foundation website) the trading company have put together a new package of merchandise (again look to the website). One of the comedy moments of the year so far was the male model tantrums at the photo shoot for the t-shirts when one decided there was need for fake tan, the other that shoulder pads were required. Watch out for the photos and decide which was which. Organising these events is no small matter, and needs a bit of forward planning. To that end there is to be a craft fair for the 27th of June, which will be followed by a ceilidh, the fair itself will be a great opportunity for folk to display their produce. There will be other stuff going on - a belly dance workshop!! - and the like. Anyone interested in a stall or doing a demonstration should phone Claire on (01687) 460318 or Morag on (01687) 460129. Well that's enough for the now, but remember and get your tickets for the festival.
Davie Newton

This month seems to have gone so fast, and much was done on those nice warm days that made up for the cold and windy spell at the end of the month, which led to our IEHT directors meeting being cancelled. A few more greenhouses have sprouted on the island, including the very fancy geodome at Eigg primary, constructed by Geoff from the Isle of Muck with the assistance of his wife Ros and a few Eiggach. This geodome should be able to provide the schoolchildren with a sheltered play space as well as a growing space for their expanding garden project to which Eigg parents contributed their much appreciated labour.
Many calves have appeared on the crofts, and are seen sunning themselves in sheltered spots. Sandavore and Kilidonan farms are being kept busy too, with lambing due to start any day. The pier tidy was carried out by the primary school children as part of their eco-school badge campaign, and the Pier building is being spruced up with new displays about the green challenge and our electricity system on the inside and outside walls to let folks know what we are up to in this important year for us.
Climate change issues were looked at in a fun, musical way courtesy of the Manjinga 7, a Brighton-based company which can also deliver a mean tune, Latin-gypsy-klezmer, you name it, it was boogy time at the hall for young and old: to be thoroughly recommended! More liveliness and a wonderful take on traditional tunes with Box Club on the 25th and finally Lewis Pate's 40th birthday bash on the 28th with members of Salsa Celtica and other groovy outfits, including Glasgow DJ Mark's cool tunes; all this was able to shift any remaining winter blues, and get everyone on top form for the coming "mad" season. Mind you, there seems to have been a few sore heads on the First Aid course which followed!
We also said goodbye to Megan, the Norwegian American volunteer , who has gone back to her little island in Norway, and welcomed a Braazilian volunteer who is here for a month! Those folks obviously like contrasts…
One great improvement in Cleadale is the levelling of the site near St Donnan Catholic Church. Gordon Mackenzie and his lads have done another great job of pulling the ruinous church house down and burying the rubble in such away that we now have a great parking place, a new road for Angus's croft and a beautiful flat space to sow with grass seed which will look great next to the chapel. A few benches dotted around should make this an ideal place for contemplation.
The Croft n6 Museum, scheduled to open for Easter, is also taking shape nicely: the old clock that was moved for the wall to be painted even started to chime after 30 years! Spooky? Surely not, Old Morag would be pleased to see the house looking so tidy, with all her linen, crockery and little baubles on display, ready for any early homecomer to experience what it was like to live in a crofthouse between 1920 and 1990!
April birthdays: Nora Barnes, Ruairidh Kirk, Maggie Fyffe, Kenneth and Sheena Kean..
Camille Dressler

My apologies for no contribution to March West Word. It has not happened often in the last decade! (Only the second time in 14½ years we think! - Ed)
But it was great to read the minutes of the Small Isles Community Council. Meetings are infrequent for obvious reasons so it is all the more important to hear reports of those which do take place.
Jenny has advised me that Craft Shop food prices (already among the lowest in the west) will be frozen 2009 Also David Barden has been hard at work with his spade so he should have vegetables available every day of the week and a wide range by August. So why not come out to Muck this summer, enjoy a superb lunch and return with boxes of the freshest vegetables. And if you have a travel card come on a Tuesday free on the Loch Nevis. Otherwise Ronnie and Angus will look after you on Sheerwater.
Camas and the Community Hall team are sponsoring a number of events over the next six months and when you add others such as the Open Day and Homecoming, 'Summer on Muck' will be a busy time. Below is the almost complete programme.
April: Singing tuition with Margaret Greenwood. For the first time on Muck, continuous training over a period.
May 2nd & 3rd. Basket making with Jane Wilkinson. There are still some places available. Tel.01687460057.
May 9th. In the barn. Colin and Sharon's 10th Wedding anniversary ceilidh. (Sharon's mother is Nessie Jones!)
June 7th. The Open Day. Annual event with an agricultural theme but plenty to see otherwise.
June 10th. Story telling with Malcolm Greene. Return event.
July. Date TBA. 4th visit of the popular young musicians-the Ceilidh Trail.
July 25th In the barn. A community Hall fund raising ceilidh. Band to be announced.
September 4th 'Island Nights Entertainment' with Mull Theatre
September 14th to 17th. Homecoming week with Catriona White and musicians from Nova Scotia.
September 19th. In the Walpole Hall Shandwick Place Edinburgh. With Freland Barbour and the Occasionals a ceilidh!
That is about it a the moment but for updates see future West Word, or visit the Isle of Muck website part of the Road to the Isles marketing group.
Lawrence MacEwen

March came "in like a lamb and out like a lion", which is the wrong way round but whatever! Perhaps we can attribute it to global warming or climate change, alternatively we can just blame S.N.H. as we usually do.
Congratulations to Morag MacKinnon on her appointment as Schoolteacher and also to Mike Werndley on his appointment as Isle of Rum Community Trust Ranger.
We welcomed onto the island Susan and her three daughters, Cally, Cheyenne and Taylor which brings the number of children on the island to double figures and we also welcomed back Georgie, Sarge and Sareth who will be helping out at the castle this year. They have arrived just in time as the castle starts to get busy at the end of the month.
Through various activities the school children managed to raise an impressive £122.00 for Red Nose Day.
The celebration to mark the transfer of assets to The Isle of Rum Community Trust went ahead despite the dignitaries all cancelling due to the inclement weather, any excuse for a party eh! The missives for the land transfer have now been signed and we look forward to progressing the first phase of development with phase two scheduled for next year. Finally a special thank you to the representative of Calmac who managed at the eleventh hour to open the rear doors of the castle van with a crow bar, which allowed us to get the guests luggage out. All our attempts had failed and it was starting to look like a Mel Brooks film.
David Birks

Though it's felt a long winter, I'm thinking that although it's been very damp and dark there haven't been quite as many storm days this year. No doubt someone will correct me on that one. The clocks went forward and confused a lot of us, though the changes went unnoticed by the few very small children who simply continued their form of getting up at some ridiculous time of the morning, regardless. "Yes, I know it's…o'clock, but what time is it really?" It's been a fairly quiet couple of months on the island, what with a few folk away on extended trips to the mainland and few visitors…mind you, for many it's been a time to catch up with clearing out and tidying, ready for the season ahead. We had our first visiting yacht at the beginning of the month (those crazy fools!), and it won't be long before we see more arrivals and increased numbers off the Wednesday and Saturday boats.
Farm business has been ongoing as usual; maintenance-wise there's always plenty to organise and do…time to capitalise on the extended daylight hours. Many of the calves arriving at this time of year have been welcomed by some pretty nasty weather, but as soon as the cold and rain passes and the sun shines, they appear to be fit, healthy and strong. Last month saw two NTS work parties involved in clearing the gardens at Canna House and helping out on the farm. There doesn't appear to be any shortage of volunteers, just a lack of suitable accommodation - there are ongoing issues with Kate's Cottage which may well see it out of action for the next couple of months at least, which will be a disappointment for many groups who come here each year.
Plenty eagle activity recently, between the showers…spring must be one of the best times to see these birds in action as they perform their mating flights and the males gather food for the nesting birds. Awaiting the return of our puffin friends sometime soon…
The Homecoming celebrations continue to evolve; so far we have planned a brief visit by Dr. Margaret Bennett and a few other musicians - the "Homecoming Newfoundlanders", including three generations of MacArthurs. Unfortunately their schedule doesn't allow them much time on the island, but we'll do our best to show them around some of their own peoples houses. We will have an exhibition of photographs from Canna and Nova Scotia on display on the Island, and we hope to have a smaller selection on display on the MV Loch Nevis.
Birthday honours this month to Ms. Mac, Ms. S-P and Mr. B; Not forgetting Sinead, who turned 18 this month …happy birthday from all of us!
Geoff Soe-Paing

Well, I hope you've read all about the proposed Community Company and the call for members. Even if you don't feel a particular interest or think 'this isn't for me', take a moment to think about your children and grandchildren, your friends and neighbours and their families. This is about the future as well as the present; it's has the potential to be a great thing for Arisaig but to make it work well we need as many members as we can. The future is ours....
If anyone wants to see minutes of the meetings, please ask Hilary Trodd, the Secretary of the steering group, 3 Beasdale, tel. 450740. We will display minutes in the village later on. Meantime, the next meeting is on 23rd April and all are welcome to come. Thank you to the Arisaig Fund for a start up grant of £500.
What else has been happening in the village? I was away for most of March but I don't know if I missed anything.
The work down at Arisaig Marine has been going on well, nearly finished - read more about it in a future West Word.
The official opening of the improved A830 will result in a closure! But only for an hour while people gather at the Larachmore layby to hear the piper, the Minister's speech, and a song from the Primary School pupils.
We thought it would be a nice idea to celebrate the opening with two evenings of music, so we kick off with Duncan Chisholm and Ivan Drever on the Tuesday night, followed by a Family Ceilidh on Wednesday night with music by Ross and Eilidh. The proceeds of the ceilidh will go to the Swimming Pool.
Adults coming to the concert will receive a £2 voucher off the price of entry to the ceilidh.
Ann Lamont

There was a Glenfinnan Shoot on 14th March 2009. The Weather:- Heavy rain and very windy. 20 hardy men braved the elements
First Competition
Won by Alan Currie (Fassfern)
Second Competition "The Tennents Shield"
Won by Gordon Shanklands (Acharacle)
Third Competition "Dewar Cup"
Won by Gordon Shanklands (Acharacle)
High Gun "Glenfinnan Gun Club Cup"
Won by Gordon Shanklands (Acharacle)
Local Double Rise "Duncan Stoddard Cup"
Won by Michael Rhoden (Fassfern)
Local High Gun "Donnie Strang Quaich"
Won by Ross MacLean (Conaglen)
Under 18 "Glenfinnan House Shield"
Won by Luke Mitchell (Edinburgh)

Mallaig - the wind turbine proposal
Thanks to all those who have taken the time to comment on the proposals to install wind turbines to power the Community Centre, and to those who attended the public meeting to make their feelings known. Firstly, I would like to make it clear that no decision on whether to proceed has been taken. The MMCCA committee and directors did not start to investigate the possibility of wind turbines lightly, but the reality is that the centre is not profitable due to high energy costs, and we have to do something. Unfortunately, although wind turbines are not always the best option for providing renewable energy, the situation and power usage at the Community Centre make them the best option for us.
Several people have suggested that there must be other community buildings which would benefit from renewable energy, and perhaps larger turbines than the ones we are proposing could be installed away from homes. The reality of this option is that it would require a concerted effort from a wider organisation, such as a community trust, and such a body does not exist in Mallaig. Also, the turbines we are proposing would feed directly into the Community Centre, reducing the amount of energy that we would have to buy from traditional suppliers through the National Grid. We would also be able to sell any excess to the grid, producing a small income. Larger communal turbines would have to sell their energy directly to the grid, rather than some of it being used by the community buildings first.
Unfortunately, the price paid for this energy by suppliers is lower than the price charged, so this would not reduce our bills by as much.
I have a picture which was made up to show the scale of the turbines, and we have done some research into noise, shadow flicker, impact on wildlife etc. which we are happy to make available to those interested.
Again, you can get in touch by e-mailing mmcca@btinternet.com. Please note that the office is only staffed on a Thursday and Friday so it may take a little time to get back to you.
Jacqueline McDonell, Chair, MMCCA


Dear Sir or Madame,
Your plans to augment electricity supply with wind power are excellent and worthy of great praise. However I am horrified to learn where the turbines are to be located. It is a terrible plan to build them in an area close to people's homes as the constant noise - however quiet the manufacturer claims they are - and the constant movement of the blades causes immense distress to people nearby. There are reports of people in Canada who lived close to newly installed windmills having to move out of their homes because of the constant noise level from the nearby machines. In Mallaig and area their must be equally suitable sites away from private homes.
Please give careful thought to your proposed plans and find a better site for the installations farther away from residents.
Yours sincerely,
Judith Garforth

As the co-owner of an American tour company and a reader of West Word, I was surprised to see that months after discussing ways for attracting sailors to your new yacht facility you now plan to block the view with wind turbines. That is not the view my clients wish to see. Their main attraction besides the people is the aesthetic appreciation of small islands, forests, mountains, waterfalls and wildlife Mallaig is noted for. Wind turbines may well have a proper place but it's not where you plan to put them. I urge you to again re-think this placement and not rubber stamp it.
John Ennis, Hudson, Florida

I object to you putting the turbines in the location you are thinking of in Mallaig. The noise and the blockage of the view and the harm to the wild life would be horrible to such a peaceful, quite place. Choose the place closer to the hall to put the turbines where less of our environment will be harmed. Thank you in advance for not harming this lovely place
L Richard

Mallaig and Morar Community Centre committee,
Surely you can find another spot for the wind turbines without putting them in front of peoples homes or anyplace near the village.

I was very surprised to read that the Mallaig and Morar Community Centre Association is considering the possibility of installing two wind turbines to provide electricity to power the community centre, which is in the centre of the village.
As a 'foreigner' who has ancestors from the area, I had imagined that efforts would be made to keep the scenery in the area looking compatible with its history and environment. Is there not some other way of providing the energy in a more discreet form? Would it be economically viable, compared to the small amount used in the traditional method of supply?
How do the residents affected by the sight of it feel about the change? Have their feelings about their village been considered?
If I can ever visit there again, I would be very disappointed to see such a beautiful place exhibiting such an ugly reminder of the modern world.
Gillian Johnston, Adelaide, S Australia

We have been all over the planet this month and have been in the presence of famous people!

Left: Ross Martin also went on a tour of the US, with the Karen Casey Band, and had his copy with him when he visited Rocky's statue in Philadelphia..

Catherine and husband Steve Brown left Arisaig for a tour of America and took their copy to Graceland. Can you see Elvis standing on Catherine's right?


Meanwhile the Ed and husband Richard took their copy to Cyprus, where they met up with Alan and Angela Broadhurst, former owners of the Old Library Lodge in Arisaig. Alan and Angela have lived in North Cyprus for six years now and were pleased to catch up with news from here. They’re pictured at pretty Kyrenia Harbour. photo

West Word - ten years ago
April 1999

Last month I finished in a mist clad mystery. O.K. so you don't remember what it was, so just to jog your memory I'll tell you that I haven't had the chance to re-visit the area above the lead mines in Strontian. If you still can't remember just you go and dig out last month's issue and read it again!
The last few weeks have been fairly busy for me, not quite sure that I've achieved all that much, but at least I have been trying! Following the lost in the mist thing, I joined up with the Access Officer to walk the length of the refurbished "Silver Walk" and carefully map all the culverts (complete with pipe sizes!). On the face of it this would seem to be a fairly easy straightforward job, but I can tell you that it was very time consuming and involved me trundling a measuring wheel the whole length and trying to match it up to the original plan. As the route had changed from the original plan in various places, matching things to landmarks along the route proved to be a bit of an estimate at times! However the end result was satisfactory and the maintenance schedule can now be followed. The walk itself is rather nice and I would recommend it to anyone, but with the warning that the initial climb on the path from the Kinlochmoidart end is somewhat taxing - and that on a cool day!!
The following week saw us weary Rangers commence work on our new "Ben Nevis Adventure" game. This was our effort for the "Lochaber Mountain Festival" and proved to be a big hit with all the children. Having first done a "dry run" in Arisaig we then rolled the game out in schools all over Lochaber and even got landed with a couple in the Argyll and Bute area. As the game required rather a large floor area some of the smaller schools had to miss out, but it is hoped that in time we may be able to scale things down enough to give those who missed out a wee taster.
With the co-operation of the Mallaig primary school "Eco-Committee" I was allowed to scrounge some tree from the Lochaber Forestry Commission and assist with planting and "heeling-in" in front of the school. This area of what should be a very attractive part of the school playground is unfortunately little better than a marsh and desperately needs some draining. Whether the newly planted trees can stand these conditions is debateable, despite their ability to soak up a considerable amount of water. I have in the meantime been able to source a few Alders, and knowing how much they like very wet conditions, perhaps they will flourish and allow the others, Oak, Birch, Ash and Rowan to establish themselves. However, I would still like to see the front being drained so that the children can have access to it without having to wear waders! There is to be work done on the upper area of the playground so perhaps the contract can be extended to some draining, otherwise it will be "volunteers to the shovels"!
After already applying a bit of pressure to my Forestry contact for the trees, further squeezing of the friendship was applied as there was a requirement for timber for the manufacture of raised beds for Morar school. Because I had noticed some nice thick milled planks when collecting the trees I was cunning enough to make sure that what I was requesting was rather a good fit for what was available in the store, so agreement was reached! There is a small cost involved, but only a fraction of what it would have been from any timber supplier, so a small plaque will have to be made to say where the materials were obtained - something else to do in the spare time! Having spent a day collecting and cutting the timber to size, it will now be up to me to screw things together and get the children busy when they return from their Easter break.
To round off the month I had a trip to Lairg to a "Coppicing" course - also courtesy of the Forestry Commission. This I found very interesting as it was a lot more than just hacking trees down to a specific level, and is something that I can put into practice in some sites round about here. Despite the foul weather we, there were five Rangers, were introduced to woodworking tools that have been used for centuries in "greenwood" skills. We were shown how to correctly split logs and manufacture fences, wooden tools and even small stools. Some of our efforts were not quite A1 grade, but it was great fun, some of us even managing to cut ourselves on the razor sharp tools that were supplied! These specialised tools are hand forged in Sweden and are costly, a small hand axe for example coming in at £125! I suppose there will be some available that are mass produced, but I have to say it was nice to work with a tool that someone had made by hand for that special purpose.
Finally it was back to the grind with a new work plan to get done to yet another new template, and as soon as I finished that it was on to West Word report! So goes another day! The walking season is now upon me with the first easy outing on the 2nd. through the Arisaig Gardens and round the Glen, so hope to see some support from locals on this starter. You know how to book, either phone on ; 01687 462 983
Angus Macintyre.

Birdwatch by Stephen MacDonald
Bird report for March 2009

The first of our summer visitors arrived this month in the form of an early Wheatear reported from Traigh on the 18th. The next report was of one on the Rhue peninsula on the 31st. Other interesting sightings were two Snow Buntings seen on the shore near Traigh house on the 10th and two Canada geese in the fields at the Back of Keppoch on the 15th.
The Whooper swans on Loch nan Eala where still present until the end of the 3rd week of the month but there were still 15 - 20 Teal through out.
In Mallaig the immature Glaucous gull was last seen on the 12th but there were still several Iceland gulls present at the end of the month.
Increasing numbers of Siskins and Greenfinches reported from garden feeders as the month progressed, probably local breeders returning after wintering further south. During the last few days of the month Great Spotted Woodpeckers were heard " drumming" in
Arisaig and Snipe were heard calling by Loch nan Eala, another sure sign that Spring is on it's way.
Barn Owls were again seen regularly in Mallaig and Mallaig Vaig.
The two wintering Green shanks were still on the Morar estuary at the month end. There was a report of a Magpie seen in Arisaig on the 19th, an unusual sighting for this area.

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The paper version of West Word contains approximately 40 pages (A4 size) including:

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