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April 2020 Issue
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
KEEP ON KEEPING ON . . .
'We're in it with you' was the headline for many local newspapers all over the country - and we want to say the same.
Since West Word began in 1994, it has been instrumental in bringing the widely scattered parts of our North West Lochaber community together. In those days there were no internet and all the social media that goes with it, no mobile phones or emails and it really was the first time that the various villages and islands found out what was going on in other people's lives, and I can remember some very heart warming stories. Goodness knows what the current situation would be like without the internet - all that Skyping, Zooming, Facebooking etc, bringing families and friends together like nothing else can. Not everyone has or can use the internet though and there is still comfort and relaxation in picking up a paper copy of local news that you can read at your own speed and leisure.
My initial fears were that we wouldn't be able to continue during the lock down. What if the printer broke down? Loss of income - fewer adverts! Loss of content - no what's ons, or reports of what's ons, or school news, or photos of activities! No help for our editor - Morag and Ewen confined to barracks, unwillingness to ask Anne and Jane to stick on labels!
I have been soothed by sterling work and confidence from our Editor Kirsty, who was determined from the start that we would carry on and has ensured we have several months stocks of paper and toner and that maintenance call outs will still happen if the machinery develops a fault. We are hoping our content will be swelled by you - how are you spending your time? We all live in amazing communities - what in particular are we appreciating? What I particularly enjoyed in this issue was finding out how the islanders are getting on.
Yes, we will lose income, like everyone else. We are prepared to do so, in order to bring you your own local paper. Please continue to support us and we will be happy.
Chair, Mallaig and District Newspaper
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
How dramatically things have changed since the last issue of West Word.
The spread of Covid-19 and the measures put in place to curtail it are affecting us all. In a month where we'd normally be gearing up for the tourist season the area instead feels deserted. Empty trains, quiet roads, schools shut, events cancelled, most businesses and shops closed. So many reasons for anxiety all at once - loss of income, threat of illness, cancelled exams, and no-one knowing how long it will last or what the long term impact will be.
A whole new vocabulary seems to have sprung up in the last month - 'self isolation', 'social distancing', 'shielding', 'flattening the curve'. There's been some crazy panic-buying (e.g. apparently in the peak stockpiling week in the UK, Tesco sold 6 million tins of beans, more than double the usual amount, and 3.6 million packets of toilet roll, an increase of 76%). There wasn't a bag of flour to be found in the Fort William shops for weeks. And now there's lockdown and home schooling to contend with.
But our communities are doing a wonderful job of looking out for each other. Hang in there folks! We'll get to the other side of this.
I hope West Word helps to pass the time meanwhile, and perhaps you'll be inspired to contribute - we always want to hear from you!
New Tea Company Launches in Mallaig
Building on the success of her first online business, the Jeannie B Collection, which sold writing paper, recipe cards and bookmarks, she's now expanded in to blending and selling teas.
What a month it's been here; a lot of things changing rapidly in response to the Coronavirus effects. It's been amazing to see everyone pulling together and trying to help everyone out. I thought I'd be really organised this month and write the West Word early but by the time it's got to the end of the month it's all been irrelevant!
There's been an incredible community effort here to set up a Resilient Knoydart group. From Food Production to Deliveries and Medical Care, everyone involved has put so much of their time and energy into whatever they can help set up. Despite Knoydart seeming so quiet for this time of year, many folk are busier than ever working to put new systems in place.
The grand opening of the Village Hall has been postponed understandably and we will have to wait a wee while before we get to try out that first dance on the new hall floorboards.
The Table is now a "Virtual Table" zoom gathering where we can welcome friends from far and wide. I've managed to miss the first couple of get togethers but heard folk were still partying til the small hours.
The Tearoom has been holding an online tea break each day at 11:30am and enjoying a wee chat over a cuppa (and a biscuit if we're lucky).
We have finally had some sunshine and the first lamb was born at Inverguserain on the 18th March - a good month earlier than it should be but healthy and happy.
Keep safe everyone,
ISLE OF MUCK
Anyone who knows me would tell you that I'm rarely lost for words. "He can talk for Scotland"! Well not anymore. I have started and then deleted this month's missive from Muck three times, such has been the speed and scale the current crisis has developed. This is not the medium to discuss what has been done/ should have been done to thwart the spread of the virus so I will stick to the effects and trying to describe everyday life in these uncertain times.
The effect on the island businesses has, in common with businesses globally, been catastrophic. With the 2020 tourist season put on hold, the economic impact is going to be profound. Taking away tourism is like slashing an economic artery. It's encouraging that visitors who had booked are hoping to resurrect their holiday plans in 2021, but that's a long time, and a long winter, away. With farming being the other mainstay of the islands economy, one can only hope that, come September, lamb sales can go ahead and prices hold up.
With "social distancing", "lockdown" and "self isolation" being the watchwords, daily life is very different but we are very lucky out here. The one thing we have is space. We can take exercise without any danger of bumping into anyone. With the ferry service for essential supplies and travel only, and said supplies being sorted by one person and then collected individually, it's easier to protect the vulnerable within our community than for most people. Islanders are perhaps more comfortable with their own company than many people. Yes we are sociable, yes it's normal to have get togethers, pop in for coffee with someone, but distancing is less of a wrench than it must be for many. We still wave or call to each other across the bay and the internet allows a level of contact that wouldn't have been possible not that many years ago. It has to be said that Bruce and Pam at the Craft Shop have done a sterling job under the circumstances. There can't have been a worse time to start a business but, undaunted, the Mother's Day take away menu was a great success.
Some elements of island life march on regardless, driven by the seasons. You can hardly ask the sheep to put off lambing for a couple of months, or to get on with it by themselves. With lambing due to start on 10th April, preparations are well advanced. All the ewes have had their prelambing inoculation to protect their lambs against the usual range of ailments that can afflict them in the first few weeks of life. Shortly they will be sorted, based on lambing dates, and the first lambs will be heard bleating all round the island. I, for one, am looking forward to it. It will underline the fact that there is some form of normality and that life goes on. After the wet and windy weather it's nice to have some bright and sunny days. The signs that Spring is just around the corner are everywhere. The trees and shrubs are just starting to break bud and daffodils are in full flower across the island. Thanks to historic planting, many of the woods are turning yellow and the bluebells are starting to emerge, ready to take over when the daffodils fade.
The quantity and diversity of bird life is increasing daily. The daily dog walk still offers the opportunity to observe the migration as it gears up. 85 barnacle geese, nine Canada geese ( a record for the island) and a lone pink footed goose have added to the pack of resident greylags. A lone juvenile hen harrier is often seen quartering the island and our semi resident pair of sea eagles have returned. Fieldfares and curlew are a common sight at the moment, along with a flock of up to 70 skylarks. The herons have returned to their nest site on the west side of Port Mor and the Long Eared Owls can be heard most nights in and around the same area. Snipe can be heard "drumming" all round the island, the eider, shelducks and black guillemots and back in the bays and it can only be a matter of time before the harbingers of summer, the swallows, chiffchaffs, wheatears and corncrakes, grace our shore again.
Though on hold for the moment, rolling out the fibre optic broadband cable has been progressing well. There is only one run left to do and then all the houses in Port Mor will have a cable awaiting connection to the property. Once again Ewen MacEwen has applied his usual tenacity to the project, overseeing the community input and ensuring the cable has been correctly laid. I can also report that the blisters, from digging through some of the tougher sections, are healing nicely. There are still the two long runs to Gallanach and Godag to do but, hopefully, they will be easier as the trench can be dug mostly mechanically.
None of us can predict how long the current situation will afflict one and all. But please remember. This will pass, we will emerge from enforced hibernation and when that happens Muck will still be that haven of peace and tranquillity it's always been and we look forward to welcoming you back. Stay safe.
ISLE OF CANNA
As we reach the end of March, it seems there is just one main topic of conversation - the coronavirus pandemic and its far reaching effect on individuals and communities . . .
Living on an island might in itself be considered a form of isolation, not that we ourselves would normally think of it that way. Once the government 'stay at home' advice was issued, any Canna residents returning to the island from Sunday 22nd March immediately went into self-isolation at home, and will remain so for 14 days. A kind of 'isolation in isolation', so to speak. Otherwise we do our best to carry on with our daily lives. It may sound strange, but the fact we are a small community of currently only 19 people, in some ways makes it easier to manage something approaching 'normal life', and still maintain social distancing.
There are, however, still lots of knock-on effects from Covid-19.
The nationwide travel restrictions have resulted in CalMac extending the winter timetable to the Small Isles - but now titled the 'Essential Lifeline' timetable.
We have measures in place to avoid contact at the pier, including the delivery and offload of supplies and food, some of which are becoming increasingly hard to source. The Mallaig Co-op have placed restrictions on the amounts of food we can purchase, which is challenging when you only see two ferries a week - though we can only imagine how other people are coping in the supermarket aisles on the mainland.
The travel restrictions also means no visitors to Canna. Just as we were gearing up for Easter and the start of the holiday season, we are going to be virtually the only folk here for the forseeable future. This results, of course, in a particularly worrying time for local businesses - no Cafe Canna, no B&B, no self-catering, no campsite and no customers for the Community shop - and the effect on the island economy.
Gerry and Murdo continue to keep the farming operation working as close to the annual calendar as any unforeseen restrictions will allow. Animals still to be tended, calves and lambs still to be born...
It also means we have taken the difficult decision to cancel this year's 10k run, scheduled to have taken place in May. We were looking forward to building on the success of last year's inaugural event, but are instead offering participants the option of carrying over their entry to 2021. Anyone interested in purchasing 150 T-shirts printed "Canna 10k Run 2020". . .?
We have posted information and advice on our website for anyone to read, as have most of the other islands. It's good that the Small Isles communities are giving out consistent messages, and sharing information and ideas about offers of assistance and community resilience.
Meanwhile - in the rest of the world - nature carries on into the Spring and Summer. Heron and ravens nesting, plenty of sightings of eagle, waders on the shoreline, shelduck, and thirteen Whooper swans settling down in the bay. The wind has finally subsided to a breeze, and the sun is shining...!
Don't forget to turn your clocks forward (though by the time you read this...) - I'll still get confused.
Stay well and look after each other.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
A quieter March than most for Canna House, understandably in the current situation. But that does not mean that plans do not go ahead for later in the Summer when hopefully, life will return to some form of normality. The week of 'Solas' events planned for the end of June has been postponed but planning will carry on to make the Festival even bigger and better. It is likely that the Symposium and Film Festival will take place in Spring 2021 but the 'Cuairt Chladaich' or 'Shoreline Walk' will hopefully take place in late summer. Watch this space for details!
Fiona travelled to Kentallen and Duror Community Centre earlier in the month to give a presentation to the NTS Arygll Members Centre, together with Prof Hugh Cheape and John Lorne Campbell's biographer, Ray Perman. The presentation focussed on three elements of the Campbell's story: John's early history and life with Margaret, John's academic career, and Margaret's 'life though the lens', and was presented to a capacity audience with many stories and anecdotes from audience members! Fiona included some of Margaret's earlier, lesser known photos taken in Argyll over the years.
Building the road in Glencoe
At the King's House Hotel
Maybe we will all have a little more time to tend our gardens this Spring. We have lots of pictures of Canna House Garden in the Campbell's time but we also have the pleasure of looking after the photo collections of the Thom Family, who owned Canna before the Campbells.
Here is one of "Minnie" tending the roses outside the drawing room window (which are still there today incidentally). This image is labelled c.1890.
And if any of us are tempted to lie abide of a morn, with working from home the rule, then take heed of this Gaelic proverb:
"Am fear a bhios fada gun èirigh, bidh e 'na leum fad a'latha" - "He who is late rising will be in a hurry all day"!
Sheila Lockett, John's secretary 1950-59
ISLE OF RUM
Corona on Rum month one.
It's quiet, like island-in-the-winter quiet, but without all the socialising at the shop and barely seeing another living soul outwith your household from day to day. Trying to get your head around all this is tricky; with no precedent for a pandemic in our lifetime and most places with movement restrictions being associated with military dictatorships in faraway countries, it is difficult to make sense of what is happening. We have written a basic resilience plan - fit for a community of our size, and set up a community forum - which we should have done before actually, as it's a better idea than using emails and a few WhatsApp groups to keep the chat going.
Jinty was quick off the mark with a well organised system of buying goods without there being loads of us in the shop spreading germs, and supplies appear to be coming okay so far. Gardening seems to have taken off, no surprise; extra time and general panic that everything might run out has fed that fire though sadly the social distancing has meant we can't get together and put the plastic on the community polytunnel…yet. We will probably get competitive and have a biggest veg contest later in the year.
Meanwhile back at home, trying to be socially distant from the chickens and cats was proving difficult but then we realised we didn't have to and are now copying their behaviour i.e. pecking at anything that looks like food, just cos, and sleeping a lot.
That said, the exercise bike and weights have moved into a space where they may well get used . . . at some point.
Jed is using his time to broadcast more tunes on Facebook - we may have an online gig from him, and Ian and Kate have got their windows in at Tattie House, the first time there has been windows there in living memory, and they look really fab.
Before the lockdown Eve and Joss went on the Outward Bound trip at Loch Eil and the same weekend Ali did a triathlon at Fort William - here are a few words . . .
Eve Morris (11) said 'Outward Bound was the adventure of a lifetime for me, I learned some new skills, met some new people and saw some new things. I enjoyed the team building activities most of all but every aspect tingled with the excitement that always comes with a new opportunity. I am very thankful to our group instructor, and everyone there. It was a truly amazing experience.'
Ali Morris said 'Back in November, I signed up for The Wee Triathlon in Fort William. This was to take place while I would be waiting for Eve to complete her Outward Bound experience. As the date grew nearer, both of our nerves increased, but we completed our separate missions. I have never competed in a triathlon before, but really enjoyed the whole experience. I completed the swim, cycle and run in 1hr 54mins, coming 16th out of 34 in my sex and age category and 86th out of 169 total. I'm very happy with that and am now thinking about my next . . . when we reach the 'other side'. Stay safe everyone.'
Not much more to report; the ferry is still coming, albeit not much and the weather is getting better. Business and work has stopped for most (not all of us) and government assistance for self-employed people isn't terribly helpful for those who don't make much profit…
We are taking this seriously, people are dying out there, so I hope this article hasn't come across as too irreverent but injecting an occasional smile won't do any harm.
Hope everyone is feeling okay, big wave from all of us here.
ISLE OF EIGG
The first sign of Covid 19's impact on Eigg was when Eigg and Muck decided to cancel a visit by a Japanese academic in Mid March: Mr Mizuki was coming to have a look at the school and medical systems on our islands: just the places where someone who had travelled through busy international airports might be in danger of picking up the virus!
Then, a meeting was called where we observed the required recommended social distancing and the islanders took the unanimous decision to close everything down that could be closed except for the shop and Post office, and go into lockdown more or less as it was being announced. Having duly placed our Covid 19 recommendations on our Eigg website, an avalanche of booking cancellations for the next six weeks swiftly followed. There was however a unanimous request for the shop to stay open as it is as much our lifeline as the ferry is. The whole island is incredibly grateful to Sue and Jacqueline for putting together a tough safety schedule which allows to continue getting the necessary ingredients of daily life. A huge thank you to Eigg Shop for this wonderful emporium where you can get eight different types of pasta and a steady supply of good chocolate and wine!
Those few non-resident islanders lucky enough to come in at the beginning of the lock down are now still in the mandatory two weeks isolation; others, not fast enough, have had to stay at on the mainland and understandably so.
It was truly amazing to see the world as you know it changing so swiftly and islanders setting fairly rapidly into zoom, skype, and houseparty online communications, including a Covid 19 online forum to exchange on this issue rather than cluttering our Alleigg email with even more comments on the daily announcements. A good start has been made on the community resilience plan, and we pray not to get sick or have accidents as emergency care is no longer available, with primary care continuing by the online "attend anywhere" or by phone. Thank goodness for our pharmacy and Sheena who is making sure that no one on Eigg and the rest of the Small Isles is running out of their necessary medicine.
Eigg people are notoriously resistant to rules and regulations, but these seem to have been accepted with very little grumbling! Although this may be because people have a limited period in mind! It might be harder to continue in such a disciplined way for longer....
Our kids have settled pretty well to the routine of Joe Wicks exercises followed by the daily tasks sent over by the school! Although our teenagers are fairly disappointed with the prospect of not sitting their exams.
So far so good: everyone is safer here than in many areas on the mainland thanks to the restricted ferry access.
As most of us busy ourselves with chores in the garden and DIY tasks, it just seems for the moment that the winter season is simply extended. Just frustrating that it is now impossible to order wood or cement as per usual as everything is closed! So back to the old ways of swapping and exchanging. But as weather warms up, the inevitable consequences of a cancelled summer season will make it self keenly felt on the island economy. For the time being, we are enjoying the coming spring, with its bird song, Eagles and Raven dancing in the sky and a still fairly scant showing of primroses...
Happy Easter everyone!
Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust update
There was some very exciting news in February when it was announced that the Eigg's community had been successful in applying for a Scottish Government Regeneration Capital Grant Fund Award to the tune of £1.2 million. The funding is to be used to redevelop the An Laimhrig centre at the pier which will see the building size doubled to help better accommodate businesses and Eigg's community. An Laimhrig was first built in 1998, just a year after the community buyout. With a 70% population increase and a doubling of annual visitors numbers since then, the building just cannot keep up with current demand. The redevelopment will stand the community in good stead for the decades to come.
We are planning to break ground on phase one of the project in the autumn when power supplies, sanitation and other ground works are due to begin. The hope is that the entire building will be finished by late 2022. When finished the building will house an extended shop, with greater storage space, a larger tearoom better utilising the stunning views south to Ardnamurchan, a larger craft shop, new retail space for Eigg Adventures and improved office and meeting space for community companies and associations, interpretation and new outdoor areas.
We are working with WT Architecture for this project and they are well versed in the unique needs of rural and remote communities so it's full steam ahead for the next instalment of what we hope will be Eigg's continuing success story!
The Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust Tree Nursery has been continuing at pace over the winter, culminating in the restocking of the Kelpie Woods in Galmisdale. This is the first woodland on Eigg to be restocked using home-grown native trees from our own tree nursery. It has been an exciting time as we have watched as the first trees grown on the island from seed become part of our woodlands.
Lots of Eigg folk were on hand on February 27th to help with the planting on our community planting day, including the children from the primary school. It was such a joy to see so many residents out in the wind and rain planting the trees which will shape the woodland for years to come.
The tree nursery at the forestry is going from strength to strength, led by Tasha Fyffe with already more than 10,000 seeds planted this year. These seeds will soon be finding permanent homes as well, as the Kelpie Woods replanting is merely the beginning. Projects now being worked towards include restocking the recently harvested sitka spruce plantation and a woodland creation site. A lot of hard work ahead, but very rewarding to start seeing the results.
Business Development Officer
Arisaig Community Trust update
Station Road Housing Project
After a buoyant start to the year with our Scottish Land Fund award to purchase the site at Station Road, the timescales for the housing project will undoubtedly be slowed now with the current 'lockdown' and restriction of movement, goods and services. Progress has been made in some areas however - we received three responses to tender for the construction of the project and have appointed our preferred contractor from these. We will hopefully be able to share the designs with you in our next article; in general we were very happy with the quality of the designs submitted and costs were within our anticipated budget. Whenever we are all allowed to socialise again, we will hold a public event with the contractor to show the designs and plans. If this doesn't happen for some time, everything will be available on the website and any questions can be sent by email.
In due course, we will have an 'expression of interest' form for those wishing to rent a home or purchase a plot for self-build. We're not quite at that point yet; however, if you submitted a form at one of our consultation events last year, these will still be held by the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust.
We will also be looking for community input in naming the new street! Quite exciting! If you have any great suggestions, please get in touch. We would like to do a poll and choose the most popular one from a number of suggestions by local residents.
Since a lot of the work now is desktop based - legal work for the land purchase, applying for planning permission, design of the site services, agreeing contracts etc. - hopefully this can continue as most professionals are still working from home. Obviously we are in uncertain times. However, it's our fullest intention to deliver this project and hit the ground running later in the year.
On another area of land we are purchasing as part of our SLF award, we planted 12 fruit trees to begin a new community orchard. This is situated behind the playing field and accessed by a gate from the field. Many thanks to the volunteers who came to help clear the land - lots of brambles, bracken and branches!! And to those who joined the planting day in co-ordination with the Eco Project at the end of February. We were delighted that children from both the Primary School and High School were able to participate and hope that in years to come they can enjoy the bounty of apples, pears and plums!
Arisaig Shorefront Despite the lockdown, we hope to continue consulting with the community about improvements to the shorefront. We will put together an online survey in the near future and details will be on our Facebook page and on the website. Reaching those of you without internet access will be difficult until restrictions are lifted.
You will know that we have had to close down the Land Sea and Islands Centre, public loos and playing field in line with the government's advice. We are supporting our staff as much as we can in these difficult times. Stay safe!
Arisaig Community Trust on Facebook
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
1st March 2020
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 19:30 to the assistance of two persons stranded on the Ardnish Peninsula. A party of two had attempted to hike out along the path to the bothy at Penmeanach on the Peninsula. Realising that their goal would not be met by darkness they decided to return to their start point at Polnish layby where they had left their vehicle. Amid showers of rain and hail and eventual darkness they lost track of the path. After being unable to locate the path they decided to move down to the shoreline and call for assistance. Arriving on scene at 20:25 after a reduced passage time due to weather conditions the Lifeboat quickly located the party who used their torches to identify their location on the south shore of Loch Beag at the head of Loch nan Uamh. Two crew took the Y-Boat into the shore and picked up the two individuals of the shore in the well sheltered loch. With the casualties on board the Lifeboat stood down the local Coastguards who had taken the path out from the layby to locate the stranded couple. The Lifeboat relocated the mere half mile to Loch nan Uamh to where the Fort William Coastguards were waiting at the beach to receive the casualties. A two minute transfer by the Y-Boat had them ashore and supping a welcome cup of tea with the team before they were returned to their vehicle by the Coastguards. With the Y-Boat recovered the Lifeboat departed the scene at 21:05 and returned to Mallaig, berthing at 22:00 and made ready for service.
2nd March 2020
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard at 16:55 to transfer six members of Mallaig Coastguard CRT to Kyleakin to assist local teams in a shore search for a missing person. On scene at 17:50, the Mallaig team were dropped off at Kyleakin pontoons. The lifeboat was asked to assist the Coastguards by searching Loch na Beiste and Loch Alsh for any sign of the missing person. With rapidly fading light the Lifeboat commenced a shore line search of the requested of area. As the search continued into the evening weather conditions deteriorated with strong winds, driving heavy rain and sleet which reduced visibility greatly, added to that the constant alterations of courses to avoid creel ends and negotiating large fish farms and their associated moorings. Kyle ILB along with the Coastguard Helicopter from Stornoway were also encountering their own difficulties with the weather conditions: all in all, a thoroughly miserable night. After completion of requested search area, Mallaig ALB was stood down to return to base. The return passage down the Sound of Sleat to Mallaig was not the most pleasant as the Lifeboat encountered strong head winds and two to three metre swells. Berthing at 20:50, the lifeboat was squared away and made ready for service.
7th March 2020
The lifeboat was tasked to convey Police Scotland personnel to Inverie, following reports of a potentially serious domestic disturbance. One individual was removed from the area.
Michael Ian Currie
As requested by some readers, here's an update on last month's Log (entry dated 26th January 2020 regarding hill walkers on Rum): the walkers spent the night at the bothy and walked out, safe and well, the next morning. Ed.
News from Mallaig Harbour
Who would have thought that when it came to writing this month's news for West Word that the world would have turned so upside down in a month!
March started for the Harbour Authority with a Board Meeting on Friday 6th, with an Agenda full of all the things that were going on, both in terms of maintenance and development. Some of you will have noted the works going on at the Loch Nevis berth. The metal facings have all been taken off and re-galvanised before being replaced. Unfortunately, the work is not quite finished, as local accommodation providers were forced to close, and the workmen had to leave before the work was completed. They have left the berth safe to lie alongside so that it doesn't matter when they get back, but if any of you are wondering why the crane seems to have been down there for weeks, there is your answer!
I mentioned last month the additional sailings to Skye, and these were relatively busy for the first two weeks, until the travel restrictions were put in place. Sailings to Skye are now all cancelled until 14th April at the earliest, the Loch Nevis is on an amended timetable for essential travel only, and the Lord of The Isles is sailing to Oban, so the ferry pier is much quieter than normal, as is the whole harbour. You might also be wondering why the Loch Nevis is going back to its berth each night when there is no other ferry traffic, and the answer to that is in case the linkspan is needed to transport the ambulance to one of our remoter communities to deal with a case of Coronavirus.
The weather finally improved at the beginning of the month, and the boats managed a few days at sea. Unfortunately, with Italy, France and Spain in the grip of Coronavirus, there is no export market for their catch, and the cold stores in this country are full, so they are now all tied up. This has meant that we have emptied the ice plant, and switched it off for the time being. Now would be an ideal time for the planned maintenance that it is required, but the engineer can't get here, so this will have to wait. All the parts have finally arrived, so we are hopeful the work will be done quickly when restrictions are lifted.
When the restrictions were initially implemented, we were asked how it would impact the Harbour. At that stage, things were running pretty much as normal - salmon still being harvested and fed, ferries still in operation, the Marina gearing up for the season ahead, and the fishing boats finally at sea for the first time this year. However, in a fortnight, much of this activity is now reduced, and although the Harbour is still open for essential services, we are running on a skeleton staff. Pimmy, Audrey and I are working from home wherever possible, and those pier staff who are still working are only onsite when required to be, not their normal 8am-5pm. We are trying to share as much relevant information as possible on our Facebook Page, and if you email us, we'll respond as soon as we can.
Following the guidance from the Government, the Marina is closed to all but essential traffic. In line with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, and the Small Isles and Knoydart, we are asking people not to travel to the area. We've added a statement to the website, https://mallaig-yachting-marina.com/news/, which includes links to guidance from Sail Scotland and the RYA, and our local communities only accessible by sea. For local residents, with a vessel moored on the pontoon year-round, then we recognise that it's less straightforward. The guidance recognises that it's important for people's mental and physical well-being that they should be able to go out and exercise if they possibly can, the Government has made it clear that this exercise should only be taken locally to home and within the guidelines for social distancing.
Please take this into consideration before deciding whether to use your boat, and please be mindful that the Small Isles and Knoydart are asking non-residents NOT TO VISIT at this time.
I'm not going to bother with my monthly plug for the Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, as events have overtaken us. In partnership with the Road to the Isles Marketing Group, we had submitted a funding application for a programme of events leading up to a Maritime Day in June, but this involved the local schools and other community groups, so is not really feasible in the current climate. The funding was due to be announced by the end of March, so we are hopeful that the whole process can be postponed rather than cancelled altogether.
On a more positive note, the Strategic Transport Appraisal (STAG) for Mallaig and Armadale is now complete, and we had a positive meeting with Transport Scotland about the way forward for Mallaig Harbour. CMAL, as the pier owner at Armadale, will take forward the infrastructure works for Armadale, and Mallaig Harbour Authority will have to take forward any works for Mallaig. There are a few differences between the preferred option in the STAG, and the preferred option from MHA's Masterplan, and we were keen to impress on Transport Scotland the need for commercial opportunities to be included in any development, a message that seemed to be understood. I've included artist's impressions of the two schemes so that you can compare them.
I hope this month's news is not too depressing! We realise that we are more fortunate in the Harbour Authority than many of the local businesses who rely entirely on tourism, and we are definitely all lucky to live in such resilient communities, and in communities where everyone takes care to look out for one another. We've been receiving a range of information and updates about support for business through the Coronavirus crisis, whether financial or in terms of policies etc. so if anyone locally would like us to share any of these with them, then please just get in touch.
01687 462154 email@example.com
On and Off the Rails
There is one sure way of getting something done - begin!
So as I write this column it is strangely comforting - as I 'stay at home' - to hear the normality of the ScotRail trains clattering along the railway line in and out of Mallaig. Crewed by the local and the Fort William depot drivers and guard/conductors, the trains are still running to convey only "essential journey" passengers in and out of Mallaig. The staff are putting themselves out there to help others in need, but all are aware that they are in most cases leaving and returning to families who are for the most part advised and complying also to "stay at home". Safe travel to all of you. Thank you for putting yourselves out there.
Misquoting CS Lewis slightly you could say this un-beaconed future - after coronavirus - will be "like the sky; spread over everything". It will impact on public transport, tourism, economy and the willingness of people to visit us again. We all will have to pull together and pull ourselves through this - but we will. For myself the mantra is "I haven't come this far to only come this far"; as I move around my pond and see the new frogspawn, or plant dried peas into a strip of guttering, sow salad seeds and sweet pea seeds - all the time hearing the workmen still working, as reported last month, at Mallaig railway station on "Platform Two Improvement Works". My tubs, casks and barrels, plus the weeping cherry tree have safely (thanks boys) been impounded and will be reinstated, along with the moved wooden train with six wagons, when the work is completed. I cannot say when I will be allowed to resume planting again at the station, but get there I will - at some time in the future. Soothingly the teatime train has just past my window, giving a wee to toot to the workers. Nice one.
In the meantime I have at least eight railway jigsaws, and back issues of railway magazines to catch up on, let alone the DVDs never yet watched!!
Ness Islands Railway - update
The 7¼ inch gauge Ness Islands Railway, in Whin Park, Inverness is the UK's most northerly public miniature railway. Highland Hospice bought the Railway from the widow of the previous owner on 12th April 2019. Mrs Young and her husband Ian had operated it for over 35 years and the Hospice were delighted to be able to continue the business. It was staffed by a loyal group, some paid, some volunteers and all of them came to support Highland Hospice. During the 2019 season they carried nearly 20,000 passengers. This generated a surplus of over £10,000 which was donated to the Hospice to support the delivery of their services across the Highlands.
Following a malicious act of vandalism the Victorian suspension bridge which forms part of the track was fully refurbished (see photo) with the support of a grant from the Inverness City Heritage Trust. A further grant from the Inverness Common Good Fund allowed the railway to buy another engine. The Railway now owns two petrol engines - Uncle Frank and Uncle John - and a steam engine - Chrissy - owned by one of the volunteers, also pulls passengers on occasional days.
The railway was due to re-open for the 2020 season on Saturday 28th March but is now hoping to open in July. Look for Ness Islands Railway on Facebook for regular updates!
I wrote last month about the ScotRail alliance with the motor neurone disease charity MND Scotland. The following article is reproduced with permission from ScotRail and MND Scotland and tells of the joint journey so far. The article featured in the latest issue of "Aware", MND Scotland's magazine, issue 1 2020. As you know I am proud to be involved with ScotRail and MND fundraising.
Just the ticket!
Due to the unprecedented success of our partnership, the ScotRail Alliance has announced its continuing support for MND Scotland for a further two years. The partnership, which was set to end in March 2020, has been a huge success, with staff and customers raising a whopping £255,000 since 2017, smashing their target of £150,000.
Going above and beyond for the past three years, funds have been raised through staff fundraising, customer donations and gifts in kind, such as advertising on trains and in stations. Just last month we announced a £1.5 million investment into the UK's biggest MND drug trial. Funds raised through the ScotRail Alliance have contributed to this monumental step towards finding a cure for the disease and bringing hope to people living with MND. Alex Hynes, Managing Director of ScotRail, said: "I am absolutely delighted that we will be continuing our work with MND Scotland over the next two years.
"MND Scotland is an incredible charity doing extraordinary work right across our country, and the recent drug trials show just how valuable our fundraising efforts can be. I'm really proud of our people and customers who have helped to raise more than £250,000 for this great cause so far, and I'm looking forward to raising even more over the next two years."
Iain McWhirter, MND Scotland's Head of Fundraising, said: "We are delighted that the ScotRail Alliance are going to be joining us on our journey to a cure for another two years. We have been blown away by the support we have received, from staff jumping out planes and organising coffee mornings, to customers donating across the country, and advertising which has helped raise awareness with commuters throughout Scotland.
"Thanks to the generosity of supporters like this we have been able to fund the most comprehensive MND drug trial in a generation. This trial will be open to almost every person with MND in Scotland and we hope will lead to finding effective treatments and ultimately a cure for MND."
Clap for the carers, railway workers etc., Port of Mallaig style
Mallaig Harbour was a symphony of ships and boats horns at 8pm tonight (2nd April) which resounded into the night sky all around the area. It was greatly appreciated especially as the Co-op staff were just closing to start the night time restocking of shelves! Thanks guys. Also Glenfinnan viaduct was lit up in NHS blue by local lighting engineers and helpers and is on Facebook for all to see.
Following Scottish Government guidance that advises people against all non-essential travel, revisions to our local service came in to effect on Monday 30th March, and trains are running as follows.
Glasgow Queen Street to Mallaig
0823 and 1223 only
2020 Crianlarich to Mallaig runs additionally
Mallaig to Glasgow Queen Street
0603 and 1605 only
1815 Mallaig to Fort William runs additionally
The public are requested to please avoid unnecessary journeys and only travel where absolutely required.
Don't know yet when I will "see you on the train" but I will.
Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Thank you, Kirsty, for this splendid photo of an adult Buff-tip Moth and the question "What do the larvae eat?"
This beautifully-camouflaged moth is a Buff-tip (Phalera bucephala). When resting this large moth holds its wings almost vertically against its body, and its markings enable it to mimic a broken birch twig. This resemblance to a bit of birch twig is remarkable with a sheen on the grey wing scales so like that seen on birch bark and its head resembling a broken twig end. The species name 'bucephala' refers to the adult's head looking similar to an ox head from the Greek bous = an ox, kephale = a head. You may remember that Alexander the Great had a favourite horse called Bucephalus.
The scientific information comes from the reference book listed.
Adults are seen in flight from May to July usually, and rest on tree twigs or on the ground. Apparently they are more prevalent in ancient and long-established woods, such as those growing around Arisaig. Adults also frequent hedges and gardens.
The larvae hatch from large batches of eggs during July to early October and have been found feeding on trees and shrubs such as birch, hazel, oak, beech, alder, apple, hawthorn and dog-rose. At first they feed in groups day and night; and then become solitary. Each spends the winter as a pupa under the ground in an earth-formed cell.
The adult is an impressive species to look out for in the garden this summer.
Dr Mary Elliott
References: P. Waring & M. Townsend 2009 Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland
February 2020 BIRDWATCH by Stephen MacDonald
Little change weatherwise during February, although probably a bit colder.
On the 18th, presumably as a result of the strong and sustained west or southwesterly airflow, a Leach's Petrel was seen in Loch Ailort flying around the fish farm. An extremely unusual sighting at this time of the year as they normally winter far out to sea and much further south. It afforded good views as it flew around the salmon pens, although it was sometimes harried by the local gulls. It was seen on and off for about 30 minutes before heading back out to the open sea.
The first Glaucous Gull of the winter was an immature individual seen resting on the shore at the head of Loch nan Ceall near Morroch, Arisaig on the 25th. It was seen on several occasions til the month end, in the same general area.
During particularly stormy weather on the 16th, a lone Barnacle Goose was seen battling south against the wind, offshore from Traigh golf course. The male Mandarin Duck was seen regularly, mostly on the Morar Estuary, but also at Glenancross Farm and at Camusdarroch, where it would be found feeding in pools on flooded fields. Wigeon were reported from Loch Ailort, Loch nan Ceall, Silver Sands and the Morar Estuary. Goosanders were reported from Loch Morar and Loch Ailort.
The wintering Greenshank was still on the Morar Estuary throughout the month. An early report of a single Black-tailed Godwit in fields at Portnadoran, Arisaig on the 25th and 26th. Wintering Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones were seen regularly at West Bay, Mallaig.
From the 16th a flock of approx. 30 Fieldfares accompanied by a handful of Redwings were seen feeding in fields at Back of Keppoch, and presumably the same flock was seen several times in fields at Traigh.
A male Hen Harrier was seen on several occasions in the Invercaimbe/Back of Keppoch area as it hunted over the fields and rough ground. The Barn Owl was at the usual site in Mallaig throughout the month and Tawny Owls were heard calling in Morar and Arisaig.
WORLDLY WISE WEST WORD CHALLENGE
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As none of us can travel, please send us your pictures of you reading West Word in the most bizarre or silly place or way, or even the most comfortable, whilst in 'lockdown'!
A couple of pictures this month from trips taken long before everything changed . . .
Heather Simpson had a wonderful trip to Reykjavík in February, where there was snow everywhere and the temperature was about minus 4 C. She saw the Northern Lights and had a dip in thermal pools and despite it being pricey would love to go back any time!
Thanks to Tilly and Hamish for sharing another pic from their family's 'big trip' - here they are in New Zealand's South Island, on the way to Mount Cook village.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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