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March 2022 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
NEW MOTORHOME FACILITY IN MALLAIG VANDALISED
Volunteers from the Road to the Isles Facilities Group were deeply disappointed to discover last week that the new chemical waste disposal point in Mallaig had been vandalised.
Someone had chosen to pay to use the facilities and then had cut all the hoses and removed the connectors, meaning that no-one else could use the disposal point until new hoses and connectors were purchased and installed. An RTTI FG spokesperson said, 'We are all volunteers and put so much effort into this - not for our benefit but to benefit visitors to the area - so to see this before the season even starts is a real kick in the teeth!'
Photo by Kenny Merilees
The adaptors and connectors have since been replaced and the facility is now working again. Thank you to everyone who took the time to donate.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It's been horrifying watching events unfold in Ukraine over the last month. If you want to donate to a charity supporting people affected by the war, here are a couple of suggestions:
- The Disasters Emergency Committee unites 15 charities including the Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian Aid, and Save the Children, and the UK Government are matching donations pound for pound.
- UNICEF are working to protect children in Ukraine:
- and don't forget about the Coffee Morning on the 19th.
I'm always looking for contributors to the paper, so if there's something you'd like to write about, please do get in touch! Remember to take a copy of the paper with you if you're off on holiday for those World Wide West Word snaps too - thank you!
As ever, my thanks to Morag and Ewen for their help with the printing, and Jane for labelling the envelopes.
It's been so good for the soul to finally have had some nice weather, with actual blue skies and no constant rain. The snow drops and daffodils are bringing cheer, and there's finally a real feel of spring creeping in. The Ranger service held a pruning workshop, led by Sam and Liz, in the community garden at the start of the month, showing folk how to properly prune the soft fruit bushes and it will be good to see how this benefits the bushes as the year progresses. They plan to run more of these workshops, which will be themed around learning to how to grow better and more food. The Ranger service is also looking for a new Ranger to join the team for the season, so if you're interested in this just send a wee email off to firstname.lastname@example.org
Since we hit March, there has been a noticeable increase in the reappearance of visitors, indicating that it really is coming into spring. Hopefully it will be a good and exciting season ahead.
The Hall hosted its first big community meal, which should really have been the Burns Supper but as that didn't happen in January, there was a Tapas night where people made a dish and brought it along to share. A lovely evening altogether. Also coincided that it was Denise's 60th and I hear Frank made a rather moving speech. Happy Birthday Denise. Knoydart's youngest community members, Kai and Kodi also celebrated their birthday, turning two. Doesn't seem that long since they arrived home! Coming up on the 12th March, we have the Poozies playing for International Women's Day so that should be good. And long may the nice weather continue, I think we badly need it.
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
As we metaphorically huddled together, in an effort to stay warm and dry throughout what was an incredibly long and wet winter, others were feverishly busy, beavering away!
The Glenfinnan Museum is to open on April 1st and are happy to announce that the Glenfinnan Dining car, operated by the village's newest residents, Sandra, Steven and children, will also be sliding open its doors and welcoming us to feast on locally sourced produce. Welcome to the Glen and we wish you all the success in your new venture.
Our two local Hotels, The Prince's House and The Glenfinnan House Hotel will be springing into action at the end of March for what will no doubt be another super busy summer season.
It is not just on land where all the action is! Loch Shiel Cruises will be raising the anchor and setting sail in April for a drop of eagle spotting along with and a little tranquillity on the water.
Work on the community hut is progressing at a steady pace and our hard working village volunteers are putting in a huge effort and hope that the premises will be up and running in 2022 for future village projects/ceilidhs/shenanigans and of course, serious community business.
We wish our neighbouring villages the very best as we tread softly into the approaching tourist season.
Ge b'e mar a bhios an t-sian, cuir do shiol anns a'Mhárt.
(Whate'er the weather be, sow your seed in March)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello Muck Calling . . . February wasn't tied down so it has blown off in one of our . . . how many storms? We must be mid alphabet by now. By contrast, the last week which was positively tropical-like, so much so I almost cut the grass - what was I thinking? With the storms and swell came the normal CalMac issues where it was a lottery if the vessel would show or not depending on which Skipper was at the helm or what smelly end of the tidal timetable stick we would be handed..!!
But no matter the challenges, nothing can compare to having wee Calves dropping into the world while blowing the proverbial 'Hooley" and biblical freezing rain as a welcome . . . but once a bit of sun hits the beach off they run around chasing each other and playfighting like the kids they are . . . it never gets old.
It's the time of year where we proclaim, 'where has the time gone?' Will we ever be ready for the fast approaching season? So much to do in such a short period, painting, repairing, and new ideas to keep moving forward wishing it was October! It's been such a slow month even Colin has been asking what the Island chat is . . . what a fish wife. But he has been working hard to bring Pier House up to standard before Lambing begins in earnest; the fish farm have been hard at it with new fish being delivered so working round the clock most days and as always are generous with their time and resources, so thanks to them.
ISLE OF CANNA
A little Egret appeared on Canna for a few weeks this month; this was only the third recording of this species on Canna. Unfortunately the bird was very weak and didn't survive.
This little stone seat has been for years covered in soil, weeds etc but thanks to Jane Baser it has now been cleared, cleaned and hopefully if we get dry weather it will get a lick of paint.
The seat is on the woodland path between Canna House and Tighard and was used by the Thom family, Edwardian ladies, to rest and view the scenery as they made their way up the steep path.
Update on Tighard Guest House and Seasonal Ranger next month.
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
The weather on Canna may have been pretty wild over the last few months but at last there are signs of Spring emerging in Canna House Garden. Apart from broken branches down, the House has survived relatively unscathed. Plans are continuing apace for the forthcoming extensive renovation works on the House and we have had visits from a team of surveyors, architects and conservation experts, drawing up detailed timetables and scope of works for 2022 and into 2023.
I spend a lot of time working on transcriptions of the diaries of both John Lorne Campbell and Margaret Fay Shaw Campbell and came across these excerpts written by Margaret from Taigh Mairi Anndra in North Glendale in March 1930. They tell us much about her lifestyle spent in that glen between 1929-35.
March 12th 1930
A letter from Carry [Caroline, Margaret's sister] this AM - A lovely day - took photographs of Mary and Donald and Bean Angus Ruadh carrying seaweed in creels on their backs from the shore - also Sandy Currie & his wife with their white horse doing the same thing.
Practiced [Gaelic] at the Fergusons & pleased with progress. Had tea & walked slowly home feeling rather seedy. Met Kate on the road, the Bean Iain Campbell & her two boys - with eyes like bits of the loch - a divine blue loch tonight, never was so lovely. I stopped for tea, scone & cheese at the Curries' home to find all away & door locked. Angus John arrived & pulled the lock out of the wall! We fixed the fire - cleaned the lamps, had a good yarn before Mary came home then whist.
Angus John Campbell
This a fine cold day. Took photographs of household and with fear I am taking cold - so cancelled trip to pier. Had tea with Katy in her new digs, very nice. Had canned tomatoes for dinner - delicious. Angus John came in with half bottle. Had whist and heard fine ghost stories.
And as Easter approaches, a proverb collected by Margaret for Easter -
"Ugh air an Inid, Ian air a'Chàisg.
Mura bi sin aig an fhitheach, bidh am bàs.
Egg at Shrovetide, Chick at Easter.
If the raven does not have that, it will die."
ISLE OF RUM
A quiet month with lots of weather.
The bunkhouse is finished its refurb; they have kit for hire for the cabins and lots of fancy merchandise with a swish new logo. Derek has been tending to the groundskeeping outside and has uncovered the delightful burn next to the bunkhouse. He has cleared all the undergrowth and there's even a wee path to wander along.
Events in March are: the Scottish Islands team coming to do a workshop about the Islands bond on the 14th; Stargazing at the bunkhouse on the 26th /27th March; and the wonderful Well Being weekend for the 25th to 28th March being held on Eigg. CalMac have published the summer ferry timetable for the Small Isles. If you find it confusing at all, we can help! but also do let CalMac know if you have difficulty deciphering it and maybe the format can be changed for next year. Please let us know what your experience is when you travel to the Small Isles on the ferry; we could do with visitor feed back to help us plan for future ferry provision.
The Community Trust has started fund raising to renovate Harris Lodge before it deteriorates further. The idea is to fix it up and turn it into an off grid holiday destination; Harris lodge is wonderful, I have spent many happy days and a few nights there, it's a magical place and when done up should prove to be a popular destination on Rum.
Still no news of the other semi derelict building. . . it being Kinloch Castle. The only information the community have is what we have gleaned from the media: we think it's being sold but don't know who to, on what terms, or what land goes with it. We hope the new owner will be happy to work with the community and be understanding of the multiple existing uses some of the castle grounds have: the fields are used for the Small Isles Games, the school uses the old tree nursery for sports, the dairy is currently a Heritage Centre and there are two polytunnels sited in the castle grounds. We hope all of this will be allowed to continue; the last thing the community need is an anachronistic landowner who wants a big house and a private estate.
News that our local councillors Allan Henderson and Denis Rixson are standing down has reached us. Allan has been involved with the Community Trust since its outset in 2008 and was chair for several years, and was replaced by Denis when he stepped down from our board. We wish them both all the best for any future endeavours or just a well-earned retirement!
ISLE OF EIGG
February always manages to blindside us with storms a-plenty and many's the cancelled CalMac sailing but the unsettled winter is hopefully on the turn, with snowdrops and daffodils poking out to offer some consolation and hope for more settled climes and times.
Work is going full steam ahead at our new pier development, An Laimhrig. Eigg is a hive of activity with lots of construction workers over to get the project finished in time for our 25th anniversary celebrations, all being well. The new building now has huge windows at the front which offer amazing views over to the mainland and Ardnamurchan point. I can just picture myself now whiling away an afternoon gazing out of those windows, a pint of Isle of Eigg Brewery beer in my hand.
Socially, we've had yet another great month of gatherings. Eigg Events put on a hugely successful Valentine's Disco. Love was in the air as folk young and old danced the night away to 90s bangers. A brilliant night and many thanks to all who contributed to make it so.
Our hardy crew of sea swimmers, under the new moniker Eigg Mermads, have been spotted submerged most days this month. All welcome to join! Express your interest to our good capitan Labhaoise and she will keep you informed with daily timings.
On International Women's Day a few of us braved the water at 7am as part of a worldwide Women's Day Swim. It was freezing cold; exhilarating and life-affirming. Later on Lucy and Labhaoise organised a special film event at the hall to raise money for a Ukrainian charity. Many thanks to all who came along and donated so generously.
The community enjoyed a very beautiful pruning day at the orchard at the beginning of March. After all the hard work, it was lovely to relax with an apple juice and a piece of cake by the fire. Many thanks to all who came out to help.
And now, we look forward to the Small Isles Health and Wellbeing event which takes place at the end of this month. Katrin, who is running the event, is really keen to have as many Small Isles participants as we can. The entire weekend is fully funded and we have a whole host of opportunities to relax, regroup, reground and recuperate after a difficult few years. Don't miss out!
MALLAIG BIODIVERSITY INITIATIVE HIGHLAND COUNCIL NATURE RESTORATION FUND
In November 2021, the Highland Council made available funding for Nature Restoration: in short, a capital fund to support new projects to restore biodiversity that will deliver nature restoration, safeguard wildlife, and tackle causes of biodiversity loss due to climate change and other factors.
Many have you will have noticed that the banking area on Fank Brae has been sadly neglected over the past few years - partly due to the recent Covid pandemic and also partly due to the Council's recent change in grass cutting regimes.
With the support of Mallaig Community Council, a plan was drawn up to enhance the banking area, in creating native wildflower areas, along with tree planting, an herb area, insect boxes and a native wood pile for habitat. These plans were submitted as an Expression of Interest, but needed approval before progressing to stage two - the final submission. It was clearly stated that all submissions would be considered but those with match funding would stand a better chance of approval. No match funding was in place. Despite this, in mid-January, the final decision was reached and Mallaig Community Council received confirmation that the funding had been approved and granted.
The first part of the project will be to completely cut back all the grass and clear the existing area of scrub grass. Three native wildflower areas will be created with longer grass areas in between, and a few trees will be planted, forming a wind break against the Northerlies. Followed by the sowing of seeds ready for spring /summer, insect houses will be put up, the herb patch formed and the creation of a log pile.
A social media Facebook page will also be created, which will keep all informed of dates of groundwork and further progress. This will be regularly updated with news of species that use the newly created area and the benefits seen on a previously neglected area as spring and summer progress. Continual monitoring and reporting of all species will take place also.
We have, over recent years, lost a great deal of our native biodiversity - it is in decline - it needs our help - maybe we won't see or notice the improvement, but the next and future generations certainly will. We can read books about the insect apocalypse which is happening now (over 40% of our insect life is in decline and a third classed as endangered). Biodiversity is essential for human life, from the microscopic species in the soil beneath our feet, to the larger life forms we know. Biodiversity is a scientific measure of the variety of species, habitats and ecosystem. From the food we eat, the air we breathe, we depend on it. We can help and improve the current situation which is in danger of significant species extinction.
Thanks to Mallaig Community Council for backing this project and giving it the support needed to make it happen and to the Highland Council Nature Restoration Fund in providing the funds necessary for it to go ahead. Marion Affleck, Project Manager
Small Isles to benefit from Islands Infrastructure Fund
At a special committee meeting on Monday 7th March, Lochaber Area Committee Members unanimously agreed Islands Infrastructure Funding (IIF) for four Small Isles projects based on local priorities, to sustain, enhance and develop transformational and critical infrastructure that align with the National Islands Plan (NIP) and its strategic objectives. Within the Islands Infrastructure Fund, The Highland Council received an award of £510,000 to be allocated to deliver infrastructure projects across Skye, Raasay and the Small Isles. The deadline for drawdown of the funding is 31st March 2022; however, it is expected that future tranches of funding will be made available with a more achievable timeframe to allow for an open call for projects to be made.
Interim Lochaber Area Committee Chair, Cllr Allan Henderson said: "Islands Infrastructure Fund gives a financial boost to a range of community led infrastructure projects across the Small Isles. The funding will allow for financial stability to complete two of the projects that are well underway on Canna and Eigg, allow the Foxglove project on Rum to go ahead and make improvements to the roads on Muck and Eigg. The £130,000 IIF awarded will make a significant difference to the people of Eigg, Rum, Canna and Muck."
The four projects awarded Islands Infrastructure Funds are:
Isle of Canna Hub, Canna Harbour - £42,760
The Islands Infrastructure Fund will meet the surplus required to complete the Canna Hub. The hub is a new 87 m² building close to Canna Pier and harbour which will provide fully accessible modern welfare facilities for the 10,000 - 15,000 annual visitors to Canna. The building will incorporate toilets, showers and a small laundry for visitors, it can also function as a reception and orientation point and a base for the NTS Ranger and a doctor surgery.
Foxglove, Isle of Rum Trust - £20,000
Capital works required to bring the Foxglove building back into use as new permanent accommodation on the Island.
An Laimhrig Community Hub - Isle of Eigg Trading Company - £50,000
Programme of external works at An Laimhrig - surface water drainage works, paving, accessible ramps etc. These aspects require to be completed ahead of tarring and to support opening of the building. These are essential infrastructure elements to the overall accessibility of the area.
Small Isles Road Infrastructure Improvements - The Highland Council - £17,240
Improvements to the road network on Muck and Eigg.
I am trying to solve a small mystery regarding artwork on the wall in the dining room scenes of the "Ferness Inn/Hotel" in the movie Local Hero. The scenes were shot sometime around 1982 at the old Lochailort Inn before it burned down in the 90s. The paintings pictured are extremely similar to the style of watercolour art that my father, James Messer, painted. He sold his art all over Scotland and the world. He passed away in Canada in 1995 so I cannot ask him, and unfortunately he didn't start keeping good records of his paintings until 1983, so the art on the walls of the hotel would predate his records. I am wondering if anyone might remember the interior of the old Lochailort Inn, have photos or knowledge of the paintings or more information on the art pictured in the attached images. It would be interesting to know if they are his works or not.
My father was originally from Scotland but emigrated to Canada in 1976, periodically returning to Scotland. He was a dentist by profession and a climber and watercolour artist. He painted mostly landscapes depicting scenes of Scotland and Canada. Maybe someone might even recognize the scenes depicted in the paintings.
Hilden, Nova Scotia, Canada
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR
I started last month talking about the storms, and it feels like there has been nothing but storms since. Although our weather hasn't been as extreme as other parts of the country, we've had our fair share of wind and rain, so much so that the boats have hardly been as sea for the last month. Let's hope March is a better month!
Storm Dudley disrupted the harvest schedule for MOWI on 16th February, and instead of being overnight the harvest started at 2pm. Gillie kindly invited Mallaig Harbour Authority staff over for a tour round the factory, showing us how the fish are harvested. Some of the longer serving staff had seen the process before, but for me it was a first, and really interesting to see. Whilst people may have different opinions about the merits of farmed salmon, there is no question that the welfare of the fish is at the forefront of the harvesting process.
I also mentioned last month the publication of the Summer timetable for the Skye and Lochboisdale ferries, and the intention that the Small Isles timetable would be published imminently. As I'm writing this, the timetable for the period from 25th March until 6th May, utilising the Larven and Spanish John to sail to Rum and Canna on a Saturday to support the Loch Nevis, has just been published, and Saturday sailings for the peak summer period have not been finalised. I'm sure there will be comment about this elsewhere in West Word. CalMac have also issued a statement that the Lord of The Isles will not be available for the Mallaig - Lochboisdale route for March, as she is covering an alternative route. In the meantime we have moved ahead with the proposals to provide a bit more marshalling space. Working with CalMac, three shipping containers have been moved onto the Breakwater to enable us to create a one-way system and utilise part of the car park between the snack bar and the Loch Nevis berth to provide additional marshalling. If you had a space in this car park, you should have received a letter from us with more information, and where necessary, a new parking permit. CalMac have also been talking to us about the project to build a replacement vessel for the Lord of the Isles, which is in its early stages. As part of their community consultation, they will host a public webinar on 16th March, and we will publish more details on this on our website and Facebook page.
Parking is going to be a hot topic for the next few months, as the new Parking Enforcement Officer has started work and we are all going to have to think a bit more carefully about where we park. We've been getting lots of enquiries about parking permits on the Harbour. All our spaces are allocated and we have a long waiting list so unfortunately we can't provide a solution for everyone.
We have taken the opportunity this month to tidy up some of the Harbour area, disposing of old nets and fishing gear from the Harbour and the area around the West Bay Stores. It took two 16 tonne skips and a further smaller skip to achieve this, so we are hopeful that the area remains tidy!
During the storms this month we were also made aware that some people had decided it was a good idea to jump into the water from the harbour while all the boats were tied alongside. It goes without saying that this is never a good idea - jumping into cold water in amongst ropes and moored vessels is not a sensible move - especially not in the middle of a storm. We are extremely lucky that there have been very few incidents around the Harbour and we'd like to keep it that way! We don't want to have to close off parts of the harbour because of the actions of a minority but we also have to take our Health and Safety responsibilities seriously.
Our Marine Licence for the works in the Outer Harbour is now being processed by Marine Scotland, and alongside these works, the Board took the opportunity at our February meeting to consider the future strategy for the Harbour Authority, and to look again at our Masterplan, which was published in 2016. Lots of things have moved on from then, and we wanted to take the opportunity to consider what we might add to the original plans. This is a work in progress, but we realise that there has been lots of activity within some of the communities served by the Harbour since 2016, and that we should be engaging with the wider community to see what other future demands there might be if more space was available on the Harbour. We hope to get the opportunity to do this over the next few months so watch this space!
On and Off the Rails
Important Nine Day Railway Line Closure
From Saturday 19th March to Sunday 27th March 2022 (inclusive) engineering works will be carried out 24/7 for a total of nine days, closing all railway lines between Mallaig and Fort William, and Fort William and Crianlarich. Bus replacements will operate as per the ScotRail current timetable with the exception of Corrour and Rannoch stations which will have no service during the closure.
The Crianlarich/Oban line will not be affected to and from Glasgow Queen Street. Passengers from all stations on the West Highland extension line and the West Highland line will join trains from the buses at Crianlarich for Glasgow Queen Street. If you are intending to travel during the closure period please check services nearer the time of your travel, especially if you require assisted help with transfers or were hoping to travel with a wheelchair or bicycle. Mallaig and Fort William booking offices will be able to answer your concerns or there should be information displayed at railway stations. The National Rail and ScotRail websites will also have information. Due to the current roadworks at several locations on the A830 road bus replacement times will alter slightly as journeys progress. Currently at times it can add at least half an hour onto your journey to Fort William from Mallaig! Don't forget you can use the customer contact phones at railway stations for checking journey times.
The works being carried out are essential to provide a safe and reliable service on the lines and instil confidence for travelling back on the rails in the future. The Caledonian sleeper service will also be affected by the nine a day closure. You can also find the location of your replacement bus service by searching for your station information page at www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/default.aspx Good luck!
In the past - and soon to be again - a passenger train user, I appreciate the time, efforts, finances, logistics and proactive modern technology being brought together to undertake the projects involved in order that we can travel with confidence, safety and pleasure on any trains that traverse our railway lines. Thanks to all involved in this massive project.
West Highland Statesman Touring Train visits Mallaig
In the most perfect weather so far this year two 'top and tailed' Class 47 Locomotives operated by LSL (Locomotive Services Ltd) hauled the above-named touring Pullman coaches train into Mallaig on Sunday 6th March.
Photo Moe Mathieson
It was so good to see Mallaig coming to life again with rail travelling passengers spilling out, so happy to be part of the very well organised, three-day, tour of our area. Statesman Rail, whose tour it was, pulled into Fort William on the Saturday evening following a wonderful journey, which started from Stevenage, picking up also from Grantham and York, to give them a glorious sunset along the Clyde, across Rannoch and Corrour etc. After overnighting in hotels in the area they breakfasted on board before exciting the seagulls, local shops, many photographers, and me!! Following a second night in Fort William they departed, again breakfasting on the train, looking forward to a fully catered day's journey in glorious weather again, returning home to share their photos and videos online to encourage more guests to visit us!
I don't even need to say 'Haste ye back' as the same tour, this time departing from Milton Keynes, is visiting us this coming weekend! Such was the number of guests wanting to travel on the first one! It arrives in Mallaig on Sunday 13th March.
The catering crew, all very smartly turned out, wanted photographs alongside the train in Mallaig as did the cabin crew and cleaners.
Honestly, from my point of view, it was wonderful to behold. The travelling train crew buzzed about making sure all was well for the return journey and next week's visit.
Previous to this we were visited by the locomotives, with private coaches, on Thursday evening, 4th March, as part of a route refreshing driver training journey, to use the points at Mallaig etc. they overnighted in Fort William yard, arriving back there just before midnight.
International Women's Day 8th March 2022
As I write this column on Tuesday 8th March ScotRail have released an online interview, with photos, of one of the current trainee female drivers - Anne Cameron of Arisaig - who has worked her way up from being in Mallaig railway station's booking office to last year being 'one of the chosen' to be accepted on ScotRail's first ever all-female driver training course. The training course, like all others, was elongated due to covid precautions and ScotRail's HQ shut down but perseverance has paid off and Anne is quoted as saying that she will be 'more than happy to get safely passed out as a West Highland Line ScotRail driver.'
Congratulations Anne for being selected. You join a great team of drivers - men and women. Her Driver Team Manager is also female, and we have other female drivers and conductors on our line who have progressed the same route. Currently Fiona Hynd-Morrison is also a trainee driver, from the Fort William depot. I look forward to travelling behind both of them! You can read the full interviews here: www.scotrail.co.uk/blog/our-first-ever-all-female-driver-training-cohort
Start of the 2022 Jacobite season
As of today, there is only four weeks to go until the season starts!
Monday 4th April will see the first Jacobite train pulled into Mallaig. The morning service will run seven days a week until Friday 28th October. That's 30 weeks of seven day working!
The afternoon Jacobite will recommence on Monday 2nd May and run until Friday 30th September.
The locomotives and carriages, along with the crews, will have to come up to the Fort William yard the week before 4th April, after the line reopens as reported above.
At the moment I am leaving last year's growth on the shrubs and perennials at the railway station to protect the wee green shoots daring to poke through the soil from marauding seagulls - and the ground frosts and gusty gales, which still prevail! I can feel the twitching fingers wanting to prune - but it is too soon. I think Mallaig railway station island platform can wait yet!
In the meantime
Network Rail has commenced a £1.8 million improvement programme on the Mallaig extension line. The work started in February and will finish in June, and follows on from work undertaken at Lochailort in 2020 when serious weather caused flash floods that washed away 80m of railway track, leaving the line hanging in mid-air at the time - then swept under the foundations of Mr and Mrs Bryden's house next to the line.
This involves rail and road. A new concrete drainage tunnel next to the existing Allt na Criche bridge (which carries the burn under the railway) is being installed. To allow the team to safely lift the culvert into place a 215 tonne crane will be used during a 78 hour period of working, from overnight on Friday 18th March to the morning of Tuesday 22nd March. Once the culvert is in place a new embankment 145 m long and ranging between 1 m to 2.5 m in height will be built, helping to protect the railway and surrounding land from future flooding - thank goodness.
There is already a half road closure on a section of the A830 operating until April 22nd with temporary traffic management in place during this time - as I am sure most of you are aware by now! Some rail equipment is stored at Mallaig next to the Heritage Centre. There are also five or six track working machines, banks of lights for night working etc. there are also depots set up at Lochailort and Glenfinnan.
Currently, those of us living next to the line receive notification letters of intentions for the next two weeks of working at night movements. Frequently, after the Mallaig class 156 sprinter train ceases service as the last train of the day, the workers obtain the token to operate on the lines and the depot machinery slowly trundles out past the houses, as quietly as they can operate it, and all lit up, returning to the sidings between 4am and 6am to enable the first train of the morning to depart from Mallaig. Busy times to keep us safe - indeed.
All change for ScotRail as it transitions
Friday 1st April 2022 is the official date for the ending of the Abellio franchise of ScotRail. The Scottish Government will run ScotRail services through what is known as the 'Operator of Last Resort'. The Government has set up structures to ensure they are running of the ScotRail services by an appointment of a 'company at arms length' titled 'Scottish Rail Holdings'. Senior management positions have been appointed and the company will oversee the delivery of services by ScotRail trains Ltd on behalf of ministers. It was deemed by the Scottish Government Transport Secretary that 'it would not be appropriate to award a franchise agreement to any party at this time, either through a competition or a direct award' when Abellio hand back the franchise.
Jenny Gilruth, Scottish Transport Minister, has said that the new company running the rail services will, like most other public sector arm's-length operations, fall under public sector pay policy. Ms Gilruth said to the Scottish Parliament, 'I can confirm that the transition of ScotRail into Scottish government control will take place on 1st April 2022. Whilst that's good news, it's clear that much work still needs to be done - and in a collaborative way - to ensure the long-term sustainability of rail operations in Scotland to best meet the needs of the people we all represent [. . .] Our rail staff have a vital role to play in shaping and delivering a successful future railway for Scotland.' Wise words indeed. Let's hope for more success than CalMac's transition!
See you on the train soon,
BIRDWATCH February 2022 by Stephen MacDonald
A mostly wet and at times very windy month, fairly mild with very little frost. Nothing extraordinary reported this month, although a Kingfisher was seen on several occasions upstream of the hydro dam on the Morar river from the 26th.
The stormy conditions had an impact on sea birds, with several species that normally winter further offshore being sighted along the coast with reports of Little Auks, Puffins, Gannets etc. A number of dead or injured birds were also reported. Several Puffins were found at Traigh, a dead Little Auk at Achateilasaig, a Fulmar at the head of Loch Ailort on the 17th, and several injured gulls in the Mallaig and Morar area. No doubt there would have been many more unseen casualties. The usual Iceland Gull was still around Mallaig Harbour throughout the month.
No change with the wintering waders, with at least two Greenshank and two Bar-tailed Godwits on the Morar Estuary. Purple Sandpipers and Turnstones at West Bay, Mallaig and Curlews, Redshank and Ringed Plovers reported on the Morar Estuary and Traigh.
The two adult Whooper Swans were on Loch nan Eala, Arisaig most of the month, sometimes commuting to other lochs to feed. On the 1st of the month a family party of two adults, three immatures were feeding on a hill lochan between Carnoch and Borrodale. Goldeneye were reported from Loch Morar and Loch nan Eala.
The first returning Shelduck of the year was on Loch nan Ceall on the 19th.
The first Skylark of the Spring was seen flying over Loch Ailort on the 28th.
Tawny Owls were heard calling in Morar and Arisaig and on the 24th a Barn Owl was seen in the early evening near Woodside, Morar.
A Cormorant ringed as a chick on an island offshore from Traigh on the 3rd July 2021 was found dead on the River Garry, Blair Atholl, on the 11th February 2022. This is the fourth ringed Cormorant from this island that has been found on an inland river, three in Scotland, one in Ireland.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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