WEST WORD
COMMUNITY NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR 2005 & 2008 & 2017
Lochaber Small Business of the Year 2015
Community paper for Mallaig, Morar, Arisaig, Lochailort, Glenfinnan
Glenuig, Knoydart and the Small Isles

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February 2022 Issue

Contents of the online version:

Top stories
Letter from the Editor
Monthly news from Knoydart, Glenfinnan, Muck, Canna, Rum, Eigg
Lifeboat, harbour and railway news
Birdwatch
World Wide West Word

Letters, e-mails and comments are welcome.
Contact Details & How to Subscribe to the Paper
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All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
Not to be reproduced without permission.

Road to the Isles Location Action Plan
We are all aware of the vast increase in tourism in the area recently, a significant part of which is due to Covid and the effect that has had on redirecting tourism. The three local Community Councils have been working on this issue for some months, and a draft action plan has now been produced by the Rangers appointed last year by the Highland Council.
The plan consists of 23 pages setting out the issues - including reports of tourism numbers etc - and a further 20 pages setting out proposed actions to be taken. This latter section is divided into areas - Traigh, Camusdarach, Morar Sands and Loch Morar. While we as residents have an interest in the whole picture, at Arisaig Community Council our particular interest is in the first two of these areas. The main focus for us will be pp24-30, and to an extent pp31-35, which list various proposals, and the feedback form at the end of the document.
Highland Council has asked for initial comments on the proposals within the next couple of weeks or so, so that further updates of the plan can be produced. It is clearly an iterative process, with a final version of the report to be completed in time for action to be taken before the season gets underway again this year. While the circumstances last year may be regarded as exceptional, we should still expect a gear shift in tourism numbers for the foreseeable future. The Location Action Plan is available on the Arisaig and District Community Council website www.community-council.org.uk/arisaiganddistrict/. There is also a feedback form. Matthew Bradley, one of the local Rangers will attend the ADCC meeting on March 21st. The CC has been asked to submit initial comments by February 2nd and will attempt to do so but making the point that it would be good to have a longer period for consultation to hear wider views.
If you send feedback, we would be grateful if you could send a copy to the CC at ArisaigCC@hotmail.com

CalMac Small Isles Summer Timetable changes
CalMac are making alternations to the Small Isles ferry timetable this summer.
Up until 2021, the Lochnevis had a morning and an afternoon run around all the islands on Saturdays, with the afternoon sailing timed to depart after the arrival of the Glasgow morning train.
CalMac intend to change this so that the four islands will be served in the morning by the Lochnevis but this run will take longer, coming back into Mallaig at 15.05. It will then depart at 15.25 to serve Eigg and Muck, whilst the islands of Canna and Rum will be served by a small passenger boat (MV Larven) which will connect with the 13.38 arrival of the Glasgow train but will depart before the Lochnevis arrives. Rum and Canna will also be served by Loch Bhrusda operating a freight and vehicle service, departing from Mallaig at 10.45 and arriving back at 16.50.
Whilst recognising the challenges CalMac has in delivering the service to the Small Isles, the Small Isles Community Council have expressed their Communities' concerns about the changes to the Saturday in the 2022 summer timetable, and issued the following statement:

The impacts of this timetable and operational changes of a passenger charter and MV Loch Bhrusda providing the service travelling to Rum and Canna on the Saturday instead of MV Lochnevis are:
- The Small Isles now have less connectivity between the islands for islanders and visitors alike.
- While we are encouraging people to visit our islands on public transport, the options for this are being reduced. - The small passenger ferry which will link up the Saturday train in Mallaig and Canna and Rum, is unsuitable for rough weather and/or rain, and passenger numbers are limited.
In this year of Covid recovery, our concerns is that this is, in effect, a reduction to our life line service and our aim will be to get all the decision makers around the table to identify a more satisfactory way forward for next year.

In the meantime, we urge the public to come forward and give us their feedback on the changes introduced as we plan to gather as much data as possible to demonstrate the impact the changes will be making. Please contact Fliss Fraser (Secretary of the Small Isles CC) with your comments.


KNOYDART
Well I don't know about anyone else, but I personally feel like this January has been longer than usual. Non stop wind and rain will do that though, and it's been a relentless few weeks, with barely a dry day in between. The recent high winds caused a large tree to come down across the Torrie track causing a bit of damage to the old drystone wall, but thankfully the polytunnels, sheds, and whatever else withstood the gales. We sadly (once again) didn't have the Burns Supper, which is always the highlight of this driech time of year, but fingers crossed next year might be back to normal.
There have been a lot of geese around recently, which are nice to observe but always increase the risk of the power going out as they fly into the line on occasion. I mention this because upon telling someone about this, they suggested we put goose protection covers over the lines to prevent this happening and that gave me something of a giggle so I thought I'd share it with you.
The Tree Planters have been working hard, in all weather, and have nearly completed the planting at Glen Guserain. After this they will be moving on to the Kilchoan Shelterbelt.
Things are progressing with the Old Forge, the CBS group are in negotiations with the owner at present and hopefully there will be good news soon!
The Tearoom remains closed while the coffee machine is away getting serviced, but Kira and Freya are still doing Wednesday Pizza, and the Shop continues to serve us well.
That's it for now, hopefully next month may prove to be a little more exciting!
Heather Robb

GLENFINNAN
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
As we languidly tiptoe into February, Glenfinnan awakes from its winter hibernation with the exciting addition of a picnic area in the new car park.
Glenfinnan SCIO and Coast Construction have been busy creating a safe and welcoming space for visitors to enjoy a wee packed lunch, a flask of tea, or for the romantics out there, a champagne hamper with your Valentine. Situated next to the river Finnan it really is the perfect place to sit and relax!
We have recently welcomed new residents to the Glen and it is always lovely to see families making our village their home.
We bid farewell too to those who move on to new adventures.
Chan fhiach taigh mr gun straighlich
(A great house without noise is worth nothing)
Catriona Hunter

ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck calling . . . Now it's the Muck I fell in love with when I came to recce the Isle, and was stranded for a week - rain rain - storm force winds - damaged buildings - oh more rain - wall to wall mud . . . what's wrong with me?
Well that's the first month down this year and how wet has it been. My dog has probably spent more time watching me pull on layer upon layer of hi-tech clothing - top, boots, sealskinz gloves, balaclava, storm glasses - than actually walking! Good news though - Colin's new byre roof stayed on during last week's gale. The Island is awash with the keep fit new year's resolution bug with jogging, yoga and even a badminton evening started up (adults only - which is just as well, listening to the air turn blue). We are a jolly red-faced bunch the moment . . . Will it continue? Watch this space.

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Shooting season has finally drawn to a close, and it has been a full on time but now looking forward to much deserved down time. It ended with the ever fabled "Beaters Day" (above) which goes by in a blur, or should that be bloodshot minute, a great time was had and a record amount of forfeits doled out. The rest . . . well what happens on Muck . . . you know!! This is the time of year that just baffles relatives, as it's too busy in the summer to visit and in the winter it's a gamble getting here, let alone trying to get off, but a big thumbs up to CalMac for being proactive and either sailing earlier or coming out of timetable days to keep us stocked??. Another couple of weeks and attention will be turned on getting the Island ready for April and the first volley of excited regulars returning on their annual pilgrimage.
Well that's us for this month, stay healthy and safe folks,
Bruce Boyd

Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
We've been having some 'interesting' weather on Canna the last few weeks but certainly not as much snow as this image from February 1973 show, taken by Margaret Fay Shaw.

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Just the kind of weather John Campbell must have encountered in January 1941 when he skied down Compass Hill! Far better to stay inside Canna House, with a good book, a Siamese cat on your knee and a wee dram to keep the cold out!

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John in the sitting room at Canna House in February 1964.

Fiona MacKenzie

ISLE OF RUM
Due to damage of one the fenders at Rum Pier, MV Loch Nevis was unable to berth at Rum for a number of weeks. CalMac put on replacement boats, which fulfilled the timetable obligations, but it was a difficult time. Northwest Marine was out as soon as soon as they could to fix the problem and Loch Nevis has now resumed normal service. Working with Highland Council and the Small Isles Community Council, a rolling programme of annual checks is in place to help prevent issues like this arising.
Back on island, Rum Bunkhouse hosted its first event of the year, having invited KalaWela pizza (and beer) over from Skye. We had very tasty takeaway pizza for a couple of nights and it was glorious. Alex has booked him to come back again a couple of times this year for more. The bunkhouse also has two new staff ready for the start of the season; volunteer Paul has returned to complete the finishing touches to the renovations and made a rather stunning bookshelf shaped like the branch of a tree. In March, the bunkhouse will be hosting some stargazing events from Cosmos Planetarium: for more details, check the revamped bunkhouse website.
As we were all planning on eating pizza on Burn's night - the draw was too great to resist - there was only a minimal celebration of the bard in the village hall, organised by Dave, though we have rearranged, and are having a delayed Burns Supper this Saturday instead. Sadly, Jed is not here to address the haggis in his inimitable style, so a new volunteer is needed to tackle this tricky poem.
Nursery is now taking place in our overburdened village hall until Easter when accommodation for the nursery teacher will be complete and it can return to the school.
Sean is carrying out the 'local big year' bird survey, to see how many different species of bird he can see or hear on Rum. Currently on 60, which seems like an awful lot to me, he hopes to get to 115; he got to 113 last year. Best birds so far, he says, are a male Goosander, a Bullfinch, a Jacksnipe and a Turnstone. He has also recorded migrating Barnacle Geese and a Whooper Swan.
Lastly, a quick word about the summer ferry timetable. There will be changes to the Saturday service so please make sure you check the CalMac website before you travel. You can read more about these changes on page three.
Fliss Fraser

ISLE OF EIGG
We've had a grand beginning to 2022 here on Eigg. After the Hogmanay revelries there were a few early January birthdays to celebrate, my own included. A great evening first footing at Damian's and a few tunes was order of the day on the first day of the year and then John the Post also enjoyed a few sociables with his nearest and dearest on the 4th. I think most of us agreed on the morning of January 6th that we were happy to put a lid on the seasonal celebrations! For a week or so at least!
Apart from birthday celebrations, we have had a few brilliant community events at the hall. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful space while we wait for the new pier development to be completed. Thanks to Angie and Dougal who organised the Games Night. Dougal served up delicious pies beforehand and then it was down to business. A great night of healthy competition and sportsmanship.
Speaking of sportsmanship, I must mention our hugely successful Table Quiz organised by myself, Saira and Fee. What a night's craic! Participants were told to leave their general knowledge at the door, as this quiz was all about fun and eegitry and Eiggcentric facts and stories. Many thanks to Dean who was an outstanding life model (don't worry, he remained fully clothed this time) and a special mention to his mate Pete who supplied us all with a good laugh with his intimate knowledge of Brian May. Congratulations to the winning team, The Cleadale Crew, pictured below, who ran away with first prize. Stellar security from Fee ensured that the wee rifts that broke out between rival teams remained above board and overall, it was a laugh a minute! We are already planning the next one!

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Work on An Laimhrig has recommenced after the Christmas break and it's all systems go now with an aim for opening in time for our 25th Community Buy-Out anniversary on the 12th June.
The Isle of Eigg Brewery held its first AGM at the beginning of the month on Zoom which was very well attended. Stu gave everyone a tour of the brewery and reiterated his thanks to all the community members who have so generously helped him get the brewery up and running. Exciting times for Stu and the team!
At Eigg Primary School we were so sad to say goodbye to our Nursery teacher Katrin who has left her post to pursue other passions. She will be leading a Wellbeing Weekend here in March as one of her first projects and we are all looking forward to that. Thank you Katrin, on behalf of all the children, parents and staff of the school, past and present. Your hard work and devoted love and care did not go unnoticed and you will be very much missed. A very warm welcome to Angie who takes over from Katrin. Angie brings a wealth of skills to the job and we are all so happy that she is joining Babette in Eigg Nursery.
And finally, many congratulations to Maggie and Wes who this month became great grandparents! All the best to Sean, Shireen and baby Zach. Thrilled for you all!
Nan Fee


Lochaber Area Committee approve Place Based Investment Programme funding
Two projects in the West Word area have been allocated funds from the Scottish Government's Place Based Investment Programme.
The Isle of Canna Community Development Trust have been awarded £49,244.00 (subject to funding conditions) towards the new Community Hub at Canna Pier.
Glenfinnan Community Facilities (SCIO) have been awarded £20,900.00 (subject to funding conditions) towards the capital refurbishment of a vacant property to create a community hall.
The Scottish Government allocated £1,963,000 of ring-fenced Place Based Investment Programme funding to the Highland Council for the current financial year. The Programme seeks to support capital projects which deliver on place policy ambitions such as town centre revitalisation, community led regeneration, 20-minute neighbourhoods and Community Wealth Building, and are shaped by the needs and aspirations of local communities.
The funds are distributed via area committees. The funding application process for Lochaber opened on 29 December 2021 and closed 21 January 2022. The Lochaber Area Committee met on 7 February 2022, having received a total of twelve applications. The total grant amount requested was £314,763.03, exceeding the Lochaber allocation of £154,144.00.
Two further projects in Fort William were awarded funds, and the Members agreed on a prioritised reserve list which includes applications from Lochaber Housing Association for the Mallaig housing development, and Arisaig Community Trust, for the Arisaig housing development.
Subject to no changes being made to the distribution formula, The Highland Council can expect to receive a further £1,704,710 for distribution in 2022/23.

News in Brief
Road to the Isles Events are happy to announce that their Marathon and Running Festival will take place this year on Saturday 7th May in Arisaig, followed by the Traigh Triathlon on Saturday 10th September (at Traigh, of course!)
This year's Co-op Community Fund projects are:
Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust, for the new community hub; Mallaig lifeboat station; and the Fifth Lochaber Mallaig and Morar Scout Group.


Help Save the Isle of Rum's Harris Lodge
Would you like to live in a lonely cottage on a remote Scottish Island for a week? To experience the Atlantic ocean at your feet, eagles soaring overhead and iconic mountains towering above you? If so, the Isle of Rum might have just the place - only it needs a little work done on it first.
The Isle of Rum Community Trust are looking for expert and non-expert volunteers to help with an eco-restoration of a tiny cottage at Harris, on the southwest edge of the island, eight miles from the next, nearest inhabited house.

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As Alex Mumford, manager of Rum Bunkhouse (and a director of the Trust) explained, "We have had some excellent success with recruiting expert volunteers from around the country to help with recent upgrades to our Bunkhouse. We would like to see what resourceful and imaginative people might be out there looking for the experience of a lifetime helping us restore Harris Lodge."

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The Trust are keen for people to live once again, as visitors, within this emptied landscape which was once home to many. The grass covered ridges left by their lazy bed agriculture surround Harris Lodge and gaze out at the Atlantic, providing grazing for the Rum ponies, red deer, feral goats and highland cattle that currently inhabit this corner of the island. Harris Lodge was built as a sporting lodge in the late 1800's. It is now in a serious state of disrepair and, thanks to its incredible views of Atlantic storms, will soon very likely lose its roof. Intervention is urgently required to rescue the building and to renovate it to modern standards.
As Covid things begin to settle, the Community Trust aim, through projects such as this one, to open up the island to new income streams and markets, aiming to diversify the local economy, and support local businesses. The complete closure during Covid of Kinloch Castle, which was formerly the single most popular tourist attraction on Rum, makes the success of initiatives such as this all the more important. To help in this, the Trust have raised some initial finance for rescue works, but need much more support, to achieve full restoration of this iconic building.
IRCT's chairman, Cllr Denis Rixson, noted that, "Without the generous support of a benefactor with strong connections to Rum the project could not have moved beyond the feasibility stage. We are now seeking to match this funding from agencies, charities and other funders to make this exciting project a reality."
The lodge at Harris is a stunning resource that would allow unrivalled access for a wide range of people to an incredible Scottish landscape. The Isle of Rum Community Trust are on a mission to ensure that at Harris, people can live again. That visitors from around the world can have a unique, affordable, off-grid, high-quality experience of the very best of what Scotland has to offer. We need your help to make this happen.
Contact harris.isleofrum@gmail.com for further information.


Mallaig Lifeboat Log

12th January 2022
Stornoway Coastguard alerted the station at 10:39 that the Local Fire brigade were attending an incident in the harbour. An ex fishing vessel which has been moored in the harbour for a considerable time was taking on water. The Coastguard asked if we would also attend and render assistance. Three crew members who were at station attended with the station's spare salvage pump. Along with the Fire Brigade's pumps the vessel was pumped dry and inspected to find the source of the ingress of water. The owner was on hand and was making arrangements with the Harbour Authority to have her beached for further inspection and repair. Crew returned to station at 11:45.

28th January 2022
On the morning of 28th, vessels in the area of Mallaig Harbour received a DSC distress message on their DSC radios. The message only displayed a number, no latitude/longitude and no identification. The station Coxswain was advised by the Harbour Authority of this alert, and the Coxswain relayed the message to Stornoway Coastguard who requested the launch of the Lifeboat to investigate. The number was identified as coming from a PLB (Position Locating Beacon) and as the Coastguard was not picking up the message it was presumed to be coming from a vessel in the harbour. The Coxswain, Second Coxswain and the Mechanic boarded the Lifeboat and used the DF (Direction Finder) to locate the PLB. The DF directed the crew to two vessels moored at the end of the fish pier. On further investigation of these vessels an accidentally activated PLB was located in one of the trawlers. The Skipper deactivated the PLB, and the Coxswain informed the Coastguard that the PLB had been located. Incident resolved at 13:23.

2nd February 2022
Launched by Stornoway Coastguard at 07:00 to the assistance of a 32ft fishing vessel aground of the west side of the Kyle Rhea narrows. Kyle ILB were also tasked to this incident. Mallaig Lifeboat on-scene at 07:30. Kyle ILB had already reached the casualty and transferred one crewman aboard to assess the situation. A small ingress of water was located in forward but was not posing any threat to the vessel's integrity. The ILB initially tried to tow the casualty but to no avail. As it was approaching the end of High Water slack the ILB came over to the ALB and took the end of the tow rope to the casualty. The tow rope was made fast on the starboard side aft but this only caused the casualty to heel over. The ILB crewman repositioned the towrope to the port side aft and this proved a better angle, and with a steady increase of power astern the ALB manage to re-float the casualty into deeper water. After the tow rope was recovered the casualty was able to continue on her way to her destination under the escort of Kyle ILB. Once the ALB was squared away she returned to Mallaig, berthing at the fuel berth at 09:15.
Michael Ian Currie


News from Mallaig Harbour
We were lucky on the Harbour to not incur any damage from the storms over the weekend of 29th and 30th January. It will be interesting to see what wind speeds were recorded here, as although it was wild, I suspect it wasn't as wild as elsewhere. There were fears for some of the more exposed buildings, as there were lumps of sea crashing over them, but thankfully all have survived!
January has been pretty miserable weather wise, but looking forward to the summer, Sail Scotland have launched a series of aerial videos, including one of Mallaig. You can find them all on their website, https://sailscotland.co.uk/plan/aerial-guides/, and we have shared the Mallaig one on the Harbour Authority's website and Facebook page.
Last month we were still hopeful of a late sprat fishery, but unfortunately this didn't materialise, and the pump has now been removed for another year. At this time of year, we always do a review of the fish landings, and the graph below shows how this has changed over the last ten years:

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Although landings in 2021 have improved on 2020, which was so badly impacted by the pandemic, the overall trend is still downwards. In part this reflects the reductions in the fleet based in Mallaig, and there are implications from both the pandemic and Brexit, so it will be interesting to see what the trend is in another five years!
The Summer timetable for the Skye and Lochboisdale ferries has now been published, and by the time you read this the Small Isles timetable will also have been published. We are looking at some temporary improvements that can be made to the marshalling area for this season until more permanent works are possible. The Loch Bhrusda is due back for the third year of the trial of additional sailings in March, and, because Easter is late and affects the MCA certification, the Loch Fyne cannot start operating until 1st April so the Loch Bhrusda will service the route on its own until then. The hope is that the Coruisk will have returned by the start of May.
North West Marine's 'Meercat', which is a fairly regular visitor to the Harbour, undertook the last of the investigative works in the Outer Breakwater on Friday 29th January and Monday 1st February, so work is still progressing in the background. We have also been granted planning permission to replace the portacabin at the Marina, and are awaiting the building warrant. Ideally we would like to have this done before the Marina opens for the season, but that might not be achievable now!
The work to create office space from the old Denholms office is also almost complete. Our intention is to lease two of the offices, and to keep the third as co-working space, which people will be able to use to hot-desk, or to book out for a meeting if required. We have some interest in the two offices at the moment, but to be open and transparent about the process, you will find an advert for the offices elsewhere in West Word. We'd like to gauge overall interest in office space locally as there may be other opportunities as we undertake the larger developments.
Sometimes it feels like I spend a lot of time filling in surveys and questionnaires to support various pieces of work. There are two of particular relevance that are open for public consultation at the moment. One of these is the Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2), which will inform transport investment in Scotland for the next 20 years (2022-2042). One of the recommendations is around Port Infrastructure, and in particular supporting ferry vessel renewal and replacement and progressive decarbonisation of the ferry services. Anyone can contribute to the review, which is open until 15th April 2022, via the transport.gov.scot website: www.transport.gov.scot/consultation/consultation-on-the-draft-second-strategic-transport-projects-review-stpr2-for-scotland/

The second review is on an updated Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland, which has an earlier closing date of 22nd March 2022. There are five objectives for the strategy, which can be found at www.gov.scot/publications/marine-litter-strategy-scotland-consultation/pages/6/. These objectives include; Improving public and business attitudes and behaviours around marine and coastal litter, in co-ordination with the national litter and flytipping strategy; supporting the removal of marine litter from the marine and coastal environment; and reducing marine and coastal based sources of litter.
Both of these surveys are important to the Harbour and to the industries using the Harbour, but also to the wider community, so please, if you have an interest in either or both of these topics, take some time to complete the consultations.
Finally for this month, we are looking at implementing some traffic calming measures on the road in front of the West Bay net stores, and we would remind anyone using this road that they should do so with caution as there may be fishermen working at gear outside the stores.
Jacqueline McDonell
01687 462154
jacqueline@mallaigharbourauthority.com


On and Off the Rails
Calm down dear! It's only two predicted storms in two days - how bad can it be?
As it turns out, and now heaving a sigh of relief, 'Malik' and 'Corrie' have abated, and we all can think ourselves lucky that we cautiously got away with it - damage, that is. Silence when a storm abates is almost as scary! Apart from a couple of power outages and absolutely essential total public transport shutdowns, and lots of phone calls asking - almost gleefully - 'How bad is it then?' I'm left with everything that can be charged still fully charged and not used, flasks of soup and hot water not used, fully prepared and feeling slightly cheated that nothing went wrong!! Bizarre isn't it how calm we can be once 'yet another' two amber warnings have fired us up - and yet -
I feel for each and every person that had to travel and work through them, and some thousands of folk are again without power and running water for two more days yet. As I write this the Kyle and Inverness railway lines are still closed to rail passengers as safety inspections are taking place. Of course we had a couple of trees across the line near Arisaig, and the transmitter masts took a battering - Freeview TV and wireless signals were down for a while, and BT signals intermittent, but maybe, one day, the power cables will all be underground, not in the air where of course falling trees get tangled in them! I digress!!

Network Rail- essential improvement works
From 22.00 on Sunday 30th January until 06.00 on Friday 4th February, and again at the same times from Sunday 6th - Friday 11th February, teams of track maintenance and essential repair work teams will have possession of our branch line using equipment, plant and track gear to repair and replace track - working each night in order to cause least disruption to trains, between Fort William and Mallaig. Stay safe teams and thanks for being pre-emptive.
Another Network Rail project, currently underway between Craigendoran and Helensburgh Upper and lasting approximately 10 weeks, is a groundbreaking biodiversity trial. As part of the project trees and vegetation will be removed within a minimum of 4 m of the track, then any trees that could strike the line if they fell will be pruned or cut down to remove the risk to the railway. This will be over a 1.5 mile section of the railway to help keep passengers safe and improve performance by reducing the impact of leaf fall. Unmanaged vegetation can pose a serious risk to rail safety as trees can (and do) fall onto the line during bad weather or, when overgrown, branches and foliage can obscure signals from a driver's view.
Once this stage is completed the area will be replanted with native trees and shrubs including Holly, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Rowan, Hazel and Elder. Habitat piles will be created throughout the site, and bird and bat boxes will also be installed.
As you will see from the photo the vegetation on site is really out of control. This new manageable project will make a huge difference and is being carried out now just before the birds start nesting. It will be interesting to follow this project from the train as we start to travel again.

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Photo courtesy of Rail Business Daily

Model Rail Scotland 2022
Talking of travelling by train again - how about being bold and travelling down to the SEC Glasgow to visit Model Rail Scotland on 25/26/27 February by train? Cautiously and advising you to check all the details online at www.modelrail-scotland.co.uk for times, prices and covid restrictions etc., it really is a great day out. There will be over 40 working layouts and 120 exhibitor stands. The catering at the SEC is very good, plenty of sit down areas, all under cover! You are able to get really close to that working layouts. There will be several Scottish ones, and Friends of the West Highland Line are having a stand - with the promise of the Spring edition of the anticipated West Highland News + On The Waterfront available to purchase. A popular feature of the exhibition will be the free vintage bus service by Angus Transport Group using its ex-Glasgow Corporation AEC Regent, to run a circular route around the city centre serving Glasgow Central, Queen Street and the SEC. After a two-year absence the dedicated organisers deserve thanks for having the courage to go ahead with Model Rail Scotland. They deserve to be supported.

Looking back to 2018 - fast forward to 2022
I wrote in my column pre-covid (and some) about a Network Rail proposal to end the flagging down of an oncoming train at request stop railway stations in Scotland. Well, blow me down with a feather, the proposal is gaining momentum.
Scotscalder, near Halkirk, has been chosen as the location for a trial. A request only station, it will have new equipment installed in a kiosk which will allow passengers who wish to board the train there to speak to the driver in the cab to request the train to stop. The stop had fewer than 240 passengers flag down trains (by waving their arms in front of the approaching train) last year. Existing radio communication masts have been enhanced and antennae and new equipment installed at Muir of Ord and Wick stations to enhance radio coverage and enable the project to go ahead. Once tested, other kiosks will follow at Dunrobin Castle, Altnabreac, Kinbrace, Kildonan, Rogart, Invershin, and Culrain.
Why does this affect us? The answer is that eventually Beasdale will use that the same system! Followed by all the other request stops on our line. Network Rail said the £5 million project will make it easier to use the more remote stations on the network and hopefully encourage more people to travel across Scotland, to walk, climb, cycle and sightsee.
The new technology will allow for less braking of trains, and, in theory faster journeys as drivers will only stop if the request has been made to them from the booth ahead of approaching the station. Currently the driver has to slow the train down before approaching the station in case someone is going to flag them down.

ScotRail announces new COO
That's 'Chief Operating Officer' to you and I. Joanne Maguire has been appointed by ScotRail and is due to take up the role on 1st April 2022 - the day that Abellio, who currently hold the franchise, hand over to Scottish Rail Holdings, a company at arms length, created to oversee the delivery of services by 'ScotRail Trains Limited' on behalf of the Scottish government.
Joanne will take over from the current COO Ian McConnel. Joanne is currently Vice-Principal of Resources at the University of the West of Scotland. There she oversees a range of departments including finance, HR and industrial relations, health and safety, sustainability and information services.
Transport Scotland has announced the appointment of two senior management roles to Scottish Rail Holdings: CEO is to be Chris Gibb, and Finance Director, David Lowrie. Their positions are on a fixed term basis stop they both bring with them a wealth of knowledge in the rail industry.
Outgoing Transport Minister Graeme Dey said, 'I'm pleased to announce these two senior management roles have been appointed to Scottish Rail Holdings, the company which will oversee the delivery of services by ScotRail Trains Ltd on behalf of ministers once the Abellio ScotRail contract ends on 1st April 2022.'
On 25th January Nicola Sturgeon thanked Graeme Dey for his work in government, announcing that, in a mini reshuffle, Jenny Gilruth - who has been serving as Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development - would replace Graeme as Scottish Transport Minister. Ms Gilruth was first elected in 2016. She said her new post was 'an exciting opportunity to not just shape the infrastructure of our country, but also to help Scotland become a world leader, in achieving our goal of Net Zero by 2045.' Speaking for myself I don't think I will be reporting this for West Word then!
It is certainly changing times for all public transport systems. Covid - understandably - has particularly slashed train usage. With ScotRail last month bringing in rail fare increases of 3.8% and England following with the same in March it is going to be a hard task to encourage customers back. Meanwhile, rail tour companies, where the journey by rail is part of a total package, report strong support for forward bookings. The tours which include Hotel accommodation, food and very often a cruise ship package are selling out. The luxury train company Northern Belle have offered three week-long rail tours in March 2022, teaming up with five-star hotels, celebrity hosts, entertainment over seven nights including a cruise ship operator, staying in London, Bath, Manchester, Edinburgh and Gleneagles: a staycation where all the planning is done for you. Despite the hefty pricetag of £4499, two of the three weeks sold out immediately, and interest is so strong that more weeks are being added for June and September!
For more information, or just to dream, go to www.imaginecruising.co.uk/uk-staycation-holidays or call 0800 8405800.

Off the rails and on to the buses
Just to remind you that if you do not yet be of a certain age when bus travel is free of charge with the bus pass from the Highland Council, never fear, Shiel Buses are operating half price fares on all its services until the 28th February. For further information call 01397 700700 or go to www.shielbuses.co.uk. That'll do!

Seagull alert
As daylight hours are starting to give us lighter afternoons I am noticing pairs of seagulls gathering at Mallaig railway station. I am now reliably informed that 'The control of seagulls at stations is a matter for the train operating company, or Network Rail where they manage the station in order to maintain a safe environment for passengers and staff.' I've heard one idea is to offer alternative nesting sites. Try telling that to the seagulls, Network Rail!
See you on the train - but still not quite yet!
Sonia Cameron


Auntie Mary's Creepy Crawly Corner
Janet would like to know what plant grows these bunches of fruit on stalks?

photo

These are the developing fruits of Ivy (Hedera helix), an evergreen woody plant which is also a semi-parasite. Ivy is unusual in flowering in autumn and producing its fruits in early spring. Ivy produces greenish-yellow flowers on stalks during October to December. The flowers are pollinated by insects crawling among the flowers searching for nectar, thus they are an important source of food for some invertebrates in a season when nectar supplies are very limited. The purplish-black berries ripen in spring and the plant is spread when birds eat the berries and spread the small seeds in their droppings.
Ivy grows as carpets on the ground; or attaches itself to trees, rocks, walls and buildings, by producing roots on one side, and its leaves grow to face the light. Ivy is referred to as a semi-parasite because it is green and therefore makes some of its own food, but it also steals from other plants. Ivy roots harm trees by tapping into their nutrient supplies and damage buildings by invading cement and lime mortar.
The use of ivy, holly, and mistletoe to decorate houses around Christmas may have come from marking the winter solstice with evergreen plants which survive through harsh winter weather and signify that life will continue through to the spring. Ivy berries can be used as a dye which does not need a mordant; it apparently gives a pinkish-purple colour.
(Information in this paragraph comes from Flora Celtica).
Dr Mary Elliott
References: S. Milliken & S Bridgewater (2004) Flora Celtica

BIRDWATCH January 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly mild and at times wet and windy month, with fairly typical reports birdwise for this time of year. Just the one Iceland Gull - an immature one - present throughout the month around Mallaig harbour. Still no reports locally of Glaucous Gulls so far this winter.
A few Puffin sightings in the Sound of Sleat and around the Small Isles, which is fairly unusual inshore on the West Coast at this time of year. A dead Puffin was found on the 16th at Camusdarroch Beach. Incidentally a Puffin found dead at Loch Brittle, Skye on the 14th had been ringed on the 10th June 2014 on the Farne Islands, Northumberland. A single Little Auk was seen from the MV Sheerwater just off Arisaig on the 26th.
Still two adult Whooper Swans on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig. Good numbers of Teal present there also. Goosanders were seen regularly on Loch Morar and Loch Ailort. Goldeneye and Wigeon were reported from Loch nan Eala, Loch Ailort, Loch nan Ceall and the Morar Estuary. A single female Common Scoter was seen on Loch nan Ceall on the 5th. Wintering Slavonian Grebes were also seen on Loch nan Ceall and 10 Little Grebes were seen there in a group during very windy conditions on the 29th.
Two Bar-tailed Godwits continued to winter on the Morar Estuary with up to four Greenshank there also. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones could be seen most days around West Bay, Mallaig. At Traigh on the 21st at least 15 Turnstone, 25 Ringed Plover and two Dunlin were feeding on the strandline adjacent to the golf course.
Long-tailed Tits reported from gardens in both Morar and Arisaig, mostly coming to fatballs. A single female Brambling in a Morar garden on the 3rd and 4th was the only report this month. A single Lesser Redpoll still visiting the same Morar garden and small numbers of Siskins reported back at garden feeders.
Yellowhammers were seen at several locations in the Arisaig area.
Sea Eagles were widely reported from Mallaig to Loch Ailort. Sparrowhawks were frequently reported from gardens in Morar and Arisaig. A Kestrel was seen near Drimindarroch on the 22nd.


WORLD WIDE WEST WORD

photo
Niall and Juliet Blackie's tour of the four corners of mainland Britain continues
- this month it's a picture from the most easterly point,
near Lowestoft in Suffolk, where their daughter lives! Taken last autumn - looks lovely and sunny!


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