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May 2023 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
MALLAIG PETROL STATION CLOSED!
Johnston Bros petrol station in Mallaig has been forced to close temporarily after they discovered corrosion in underground pipes at the end of April, requiring urgent repairs. Johnston Bros said, 'We have to cease trading until repair works are carried out. This is a major undertaking and may take several weeks.'
Drivers of diesel vehicles are able to purchase fuel at Morar Motors but those needing petrol now have to travel to Fort William, or catch the ferry to Armadale, to refuel.
Ian Blackford MP said, 'There needs to be an early resolution to this. It is not acceptable that those that live in the Mallaig area have such a distance to travel to obtain fuel, adding costs during a cost of living crisis. It does of course also impact tourists who can arrive in the area perhaps being unaware of the lack of fuel supplies.'
Updates on the repairs will be displayed at the petrol station.
Wildfires threaten Glenuig, Roshven and Mallaig
Homes in Glenuig and Roshven narrowly escaped destruction after a fire which started in Kinloch Moidart was driven over three miles across the hills by strong winds.
Local firefighters battled the blaze from 19th - 21st April, with four appliances originally being used before additional crews from Oban, Appin, Fort William, Acharacle, Strontian and Mallaig were also called to assist.
Photo by Angus Macdonald
The fire came so close to Glenuig that internet connections went down and firefighters had to battle hard to save the Community Shop and History Hut. Houses in Roshven were also defended by fire crews and locals. Roshven resident and local councillor Angus MacDonald photographed the flames from his house window (above) and later said, 'The communities of Roshven, Glenuig and Kinloch Moidart are full of praise for the amazing work of the firemen and women who over two days and nights worked in real heat on difficult ground. A massive thanks from all of us.'
On the evening of 4th May fire crews were called to Mallaig to tackle a blaze in the hills just beyond the village. Crews from Mallaig, Strontian and Fort William fought the blaze for over 12 hours, which could be seen clearly from the Harbour and was watched by ferry passengers crossing to Skye.
The causes of both fires are currently unconfirmed.
Marine Waste to be transformed into Plant Pots
On Saturday 22 April, Ally Mitchell of Ocean Plastic Pots was able to take away 15 bags of ropes, ghost nets, end of life nets and fish box debris collected in the Small Isles for the Mallaig Marine Litter project. They would have otherwise been set to landfill, but thanks to this pilot project, supported by the Ocean Recovery Project (part of Keep Britain Tidy), most of this catch will be recycled as plant pots, and some will also be used to try out a new range of products. Ocean Plastic Pots have been working together with The Scottish Islands Federation Marine Litter Working Group, Skye Beach Cleans, and The Scottish Coastal Clean Up to recycle ropes, nets, and marine litter collected from beach cleans carried out by the communities of Eigg, Rum, Muck, Canna, Coll and Skye.
Jacqueline McDonell of Mallaig Harbour Authority said, "Mallaig Harbour Authority are delighted to be able to support the Small Isles and Skye communities in their efforts to recycle marine litter. The issue of marine litter, and the difficulties in collecting and recycling it, impact on all our coastal communities, and it's great to be able to play a small part in the solution along with some of these communities and Ocean Plastic Pots. The wider work being done by the Scottish Islands Federation, which included the recent Marine Litter event in Mallaig, is so important in raising awareness of the issue of plastic pollution, and the impact on our seas. If each of us can play a small part in reducing the waste in our oceans then cumulatively we can have a big impact!"
Ally was inspired to set up Ocean Plastic Pots when working as a commercial diver and witnessing first hand the threat posed by ocean debris to wildlife. Whilst working on the salvage operation of the MV Kaami, which ran aground off Skye during a storm with a cargo of shredded plastic and waste material, he started to collect waste plastic from the ship's hold and says, "I thought that if I could make it into a viable product, then there was an opportunity to reduce our consumption of new plastic and demonstrate that it was possible to turn a discarded material into a product with a net benefit for the environment." Ally's pots can be purchased from www.oceanplasticpots.com
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
It's been great to receive lots of World Wide West Word pictures this month - so many I couldn't fit them all in! I'll put the extras in next month. Please keep them coming! We love seeing them.
Lovely weather as I'm going to print . . . Two steam trains a day chuffing past the office, busy trains and sunshine - definitely a summery vibe!
Best of luck to everyone who is sitting Nat 5's, Highers and Advanced Highers just now. Hope they go well for you. My thanks as ever to Morag and Ewen for helping with the printing, to Jane and Anne for looking after the envelopes.
It seems no time at all since I was writing the last column . . . April seems to have been a very quick month! Easter was a good weekend, with nice weather and a good old ceilidh with local band, The Black Hills Ceilidh band featuring Lachie, Terra and Anna. There was a large turnout of visitors and locals alike and it's still a bit of a novelty having quite so much room to dance in the hall. On Easter Sunday the Ranger service (featuring Juliet) put on a grand wee afternoon for the kids at the market garden, with face painting, egg decorating, races and general fun all round. We were blessed with lovely weather in April, with some actual heat to it, at least for a week or two before it plummeted once again. Still, on the plus side, these late cold snaps may well mean that the midgies are somewhat thwarted later on in the year.
Jenny and Ben of the Bunkhouse celebrated being here for a year and their new E bike business is picking up steam. If you've never been on an E-Bike before I truly recommend giving it a go. It makes for effortless uphill riding and some amount of distance covered at a far faster rate of knots than you'd get huffing and puffing your way along in the normal way.
Jacqui's tree nursery is doing extremely well, and she has now obtained a plot in the field at Millburn which will allow for a significant amount of more growing space, both outdoors and with another poly tunnel. It will also allow easier vehicular access which should make everything easier.
A Foraging expert, Clare, came and ran a workshop on foraging for local food and herbal medicine, providing a vat of information and instruction on making infused oils. Two interesting facts for you here . . . Did you know that the reason we say "oops a daisy" when someone has a small accident is because daisies can be made into a balm similar to Arnica cream, which reduces bruising? I certainly didn't. The other one that got me is that Periwinkle (a very pretty but invasive plant with dark green leaves and purple flowers that spreads like wildfire) can be made into a tea to treat vertigo, headaches and menstrual issues. Wish I'd known that before, since I have an abundance of it in the garden!
The end of the month saw the return of the Ultramarathon runners, who came in their hordes, with mountains of rucksacks and a lot of enthusiasm. They were fairly lucky with the weather, pretty sure it was a lot better than the last time they came and it rained constantly! There was certainly a good vibe on the beach on final night, with a campfire, music from local band Ape House and a caterer supplying vast amounts of curry.
That's it for now folks,
Beannachdan bho Gleann Fhionnain!
This year brings us the 26th Loch Shiel Spring Festival between the 4th and 7th May. The festival offers a host of musicians performing in the breath-taking surroundings of Loch Shiel with venues located in Strontian, Glenuig, Roshven, Acharacle, Glenmoidart, Kinlochmoidart and of course Bonnie Glenfinnan, which hosts our local lass Megan Henderson playing music from her debut album, Pilgrim Souls. Megan will be joined by Su-a Lee on Cello and Alistair Iain Paterson on Piano. The festival surely guarantees some "Truly transformative listening experiences". For information on the annual festival please visit www.lochshielfestival.com
The Scottish Six Day Trials has arrived! Running from Sunday 30th April - 6th May, 288 trials bikes are currently buzzing about on our Lochaber roads which brings me seamlessly on to the road works that are currently taking place in the Glen! There are temporary traffic lights set up outside the National Trust for Scotland while a new pedestrian crossing and lights are installed. This, as you can imagine, is causing a 'little' disruption but the staff at the Trust and the community car park are working extra hard to try and ensure as little chaos as possible but as you can imagine this is a tough task. With the introduction of the afternoon steam train, the additional visitors and the possible SSDT traffic, may I suggest if you need to pass through the Glen that you try and avoid the busiest times between 10am-11.30am and 2pm-3.30pm. Not just to steer clear of the whacky races - it could help to keep your blood pressure down too.
The footpath and wooden bridge leading over to Callop is sadly still closed! This is such a blow to our community as this walk was used by not only Glen residents but also many locals from the surrounding villages and visitors to the area. If, in addition to the community involvement, if you would like to contact Forestry Land Scotland and ask when the works will be undertaken, please contact https://forestryandland.gov.scot. As stated on their website "Forests for everyone" but that may only be applicable to trails that are maintained and opened to the public.
Ged a chual' iad an ceòl, cha do thuig iad am port
(They heard the music but did not understand the tune)
ISLE OF MUCK
Hello, Muck Calling! April seemed to have just zipped past with pretty much everybody going flat out . . . lots of lambs now across the island as well as boisterous calves getting up to all kinds of mischief; they definitely appear to be more lively and curious than normal . . . not sure what's in the milk!! Sandy has enjoyed and made use of the settled weather and has
thankfully managed to resume fishing on the new Heather Belle.
We celebrated a milestone Birthday on Gallanach Beach with a BBQ and libations in some fantastically sunny weather for Rosie's 80th - she is now Muck's oldest resident but no signs of slowing down just yet. The month saw the return of our migrating feathered friends which is a welcome sight considering the Avian Flu that has effected so many species in Europe . . . even a European Goldfinch has settled (camera shy . . . but will persist). We are starting to see more boats in the water and daytrippers out and about, which is always a positive as we look forward for the season, and a small pod of Dolphins graced us with a visit for a while in Port and with the High-ish tides the ever inquisitive seal population are right in most mornings. Well that's us for this month,
ISLE OF CANNA
Lambs, lambs, lambs!!! The lambing season has started in earnest and by some luck, the weather has answered. The sun has been shining pretty much non-stop for the past two weeks, and it has been mild despite an occasional north easterly breeze. The fields are filling up with sheep and their lambs as they move from the labour ward in the big barn out to the lush, green pastures of Canna. Gerry, Caroline and Isebail have been working around the clock, fuelled by cake, fruit, chocolate and no small amount of caffeine! There is an air of extreme focus around the farm square ensuring the whole operation runs smoothly. The farm has seen many twins and triplets born this year which is largely due to Canna's rich grass throughout the year and top quality tups.
And we mustn't forget that the calves are still appearing either! Mini Belties are standing looking slightly indignantly at passing vehicles or scamping after their mothers or simply sunbathing. O the life of a Canna calf!
Earlier in the year, Canna took part in the Small Isles Marine Litter initiative. Winnie and Pete each chose a stretch of coastline to clear. Each item was documented and the data was sent off. We now have a large stash of fishing nets and rope to be collected; this will be taken away and recycled to be made into useful, everyday items.
The Canna Compound has sprung into life with the Canna House Project getting underway. Simpsons have arrived on island and work has begun preparing ground works, shipping containers and various bits of moving equipment. The thing that has the islanders talking though is the arrival of a pool table . . . I can see an islanders vs builders summer league in the pipeline!
Cafe Canna will be opening its doors for business on Friday 28th April. Gareth has been busily preparing for the coming season, frequently seen marching off for a seaweed forage and large deliveries of goods have been arriving ready to be turned into delicious meals for our visitors and locals to enjoy! This year sees the launch of "The Jack" in a bottle which can be enjoyed with your meal or taken away to sip whilst watching an infamous Canna sunset!
This month we welcomed Nathan and Vikki Cridland to Canna. Nathan is our new gardener and will be working in and developing the Canna House garden as well as maintaining some of the wider Canna landscape. We are looking forward to working with Nathan to create a bountiful garden for all to enjoy. As with all things Canna, Vikki will no doubt find herself being roped into things as soon as her foot touches the slipway! With their arrival, our human population increases to 18 and our canine population increases to 10 - welcome also to Fergus, the golden doodle!
More yachts and visitors have begun arriving as the Spring/Summer season gets underway. We have welcomed two groups of rock climbers to Canna in recent weeks and they have reported that the climbing here is excellent with good routes and stunning backdrops. They also appreciated our Community Shop where they could stock up on tasty, energy fuelling treats ready for a day's climbing. The Community Shop is fully stocked in preparation for our visitors and locals alike.
The first Corncrake has been heard with its familiar, somewhat grating call. It is the earliest a Corncrake has been heard on Canna for a number of years. The farm has been working to maintain our Corncrake habitat over the winter so we are hoping to see/ or hear plenty more of them arriving on our shores. We had a visit from a large flock of swans back at the start of April. There were around 50 of them that stopped in for a night, then headed off the following day.
The Puffins are back! Every year hundreds of Puffins make our sea stacks and cliff tops their home. It is a good idea to take your binoculars with you so you can see them clumsily coming into land on top of the stack as well as the impressive display of them peeling off the stack in large numbers creating a wave of puffins swooping over the sea. Our Puffin Trail will soon be up so visitors can make their way there enjoying the sights of Sanday as they go. It is a good idea to stick to the trail as otherwise you might get dive bombed by our Great Skua population defending their nests!
The National Trust for Scotland, owners of the Isle of Canna, together with the Canna Community are committed to developing a long-term, sustainable tourism strategy that reflects their aspirations and meets the National Trust's objectives. That's where you come in - your feedback can help inform this vision and shape the future of this incredible destination. If you've had the pleasure of visiting Canna we invite you to share your thoughts and experiences with us. This survey will take about 5-7 minutes of your time and your input is greatly appreciated.
Please scan the QR code to take part in our survey!
Criomagan (Crumbs) from Canna House
As I write this, it is the day before the Coronation of King Charles. Pondering what crumb to offer, I remembered the letter I was gifted three years ago by Sheila Lockett, the friend and assistant to Margaret and John Campbell in the 1950's. I spent a very lovely afternoon with Sheila, then in her 90's and as sharp as a tack, at her home in Reading, looking at photographs and talking about her memories of her time in Canna House. Sheila sadly died shortly after that, but I will never forget that afternoon.
Sheila Lockett in the Garden with Reuben the cat 1952
The letter which Sheila gave me that day is one I think would be a perfect way to link the 2023 Coronation with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. In the letter, Margaret Campbell describes how the people of Canna celebrated the Coronation itself. Not only did she use words, she also drew little caricatures of the people involved and described all the food and drink consumed! Here is the text of that letter and some of the original cartoon drawings in her own handwriting.
Here we are in the act of climbing Compass Hill and that is Father Denys putting the torch to it. All day Tuesday we were in a hurry to get cookies baked and all food ready and I was not out of the kitchen until I took Pooni to the ash pan at 8pm and got caught there in my filthy corduroy breeches by Father R, So I had to get Norah in her sock feet put him in the fireless yet tidy living room while I ran out the boiler house door & in the back - tore upstairs and appeared in five minutes in my best black suit. Being quick at changing if nothing else. Norah meantime lit the fire and all the stage ready. Everyone came but Sandy Steele, the 2 Annies, Morag Steele and Penny. It was too bitter cold for Annie MacKinnon - and impossible for Penny. The rest would not. But High came. We had a buffet supper of delicious tongue & stuffed devilled eggs, buttered parsley potatoes, tea and hot buttered scones, cakes of various sorts. John Macleod gave the toast to the Queen, Fred 2ndd it and added more - all very serious. We ate in both rooms - best silver, pretty flowers - it [the house] really looked very pretty - then at near 11pm, we all set out but Allan who gets too puffed to climb the hill - 22 of us, even Jane.
And we went up the path by Tigh Ard and the pine wood. The rain was off and clouds in dark streaks but high wind that had already blown some of the firewood down. But we all reached the top - clinging to each other for the gusts could knock me flat - and Father Rutledge lighted the fire with a torch. It hissed and flamed up - rushing from one side to the other as the wind kept changing in seconds. All kept well back or else running to dodge it for it was a huge fire and kept going sideways - with a mountain of sparks that worried Norah in case they caught the wood.
We trailed down without mishap and arrived back in the house very cold and made tea, drank beer, had songs and pipe music. It was all the greatest fun. We thought it the best party we've ever had. They enjoyed the food!! I had permanented my hair for the party! And I know that will relieve you all. Next day, I woke with a terrible throat. I doctored it but had to stay in bed Thursday and Friday. I am still in it but no fever and feeling much better. I will get up later today. I think I was foolish to have done my hair on Saturday and now Norah and I were like rung out rags when we retired the night of the party - 2AM. It was all worth it".
ISLE OF RUM
For those of you who don't know, May is the best month on Rum. The eiders are oohing, the bluebells are starting to blossom, the ferns are slowly uncurling and reaching out to the return of the sun.
Our economy is blossoming too: with the bunkhouse, Ivy Cottage and assorted cabins and campsite pretty full most of the time, Rum is bustling!
Rum crafts is open and now called 'Drift' - it needed a new name and wanted its own identity. Tattie House crafts is open soon and will be full of Kate's wonderful artwork. The island is bristling with creativity; there will be two art workshops at the bunkhouse this summer - check out the website if you want more details.
Rum Primary has been busy this term, and this month they have four schools coming to visit for outdoor learning; the children are helping to organise the trips and teaching the visiting children about Rùm and the outdoors. April bird sightings from Sean are Chiffchaff and Swallow on the 1st, Sand Martin (3rd) Willow warbler (7th) Black Cap (17th) Cuckoo (24th) and Common Sandpiper (26th).
The Dark Sky application is proceeding nicely and Rum was feature on BBCs 'The Nine' last week with a piece showcasing what we have been working on.
On the seashore, a survey was carried out by Hayley Wolcott from Skye, with funding from the Skye and Lochalsh fisheries Trust. We're interested in the potential for Sea Grass restoration and finding a suitable site for this somewhere within Loch Scresort. The survey was fun and we found a lot of interesting things; my knowledge of seaweed has increased and also where to find some of the more obscure species and starfish. Don't think I'd been looking hard enough for those little fellas.
Over at the shop, we're getting by, community run and well stocked. We have had our teething problems but have managed to keep everything going until a more fluid system was set up, which it is, except for trying to get a bank account set up. I have no idea why these things take so long - it is frustrating.
There are three bank holidays this month so there'll be lots of visitors to keep us all busy.
ISLE OF EIGG
It's been another busy month on Eigg in April, with plenty going on as usual. We had a brilliant Easter Cèilidh at the start of the month, which landed on Maggie's birthday this year! Eigg puts on fantastic cèilidh, and this was no different. The Scottish Wildlife Trust held an Easter kids club event where local and visiting kids got together to learn about the many nesting birds around the island. They got a chance to build their own nests, experienced what it's like to be a Lapwing chick hiding in the grass, and learned about how some birds use camouflage to hide their eggs. And of course there was a chocolate egg hunt to top it all off!
There was another well attended Scottish Islands Federation beach clean in April on Laig Beach, which unfortunately had received a large amount of fresh beach litter following a large storm. The volunteers did a fantastic job clearing up what they could, while also helping provide vital data about marine litter. Plastic causes considerable harm to wildlife and cleans like these really do make a difference. Thank you to everyone who has taken part!
We were treated to a showing of the production Spin by the Vanishing Point Theatre on Friday 14th. The event really captured people's attention and there was a great turnout. The children also got to watch Raya and the Last Dragon at the hall, which they really enjoyed!
Tickets for Howlin Fling sold out in under two minutes this year. Look forward to the festival in August! Sheena celebrated her 70th birthday at the Crows Nest this month, surrounded by family and friends. Some of our musically talented locals even broke out into a few tunes for the occasion! Happy birthday Sheena, and to everyone else who celebrated birthdays this month - there was quite a few! The long awaited Wyre River and John Madsen dredgers arrived at Eigg pier this month to carry out work which will hopefully enable the Loch Nevis to be able to use the pier without having to make tidal amendments in the future. This is great news for Eigg residents, businesses and visitors. John Chester writes: Undoubtedly the natural history highlight of the month was the appearance of an Alpine Swift over the croftland on the 3rd and again on the 5th. A birding highlight perhaps but a definite birder 'lowlight' as a particularly ill-timed hospital appointment resulted in a most unfortunate absence from the island for one potential observer! With the good weather the expected summer migrants trickled in throughout the month with first appearances of such as Common Sandpiper, Cuckoo, Swallow, Sand Martin, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Passage migrants were generally rather scarce but more notable records included a flock of 170 Pink Footed Geese moving north on the 25th, an Osprey on the 19th, six Golden Plover on the 26th, a Brambling on the 16th and 18th, and a Yellowhammer on the 12th. The fine weather of mid month brought out a sudden profusion of spring flowers and good numbers of Peacock and Green Veined White butterflies while the moth trap finally began to produce some moths. Oddly though the most dramatic moth of the period, an Emperor Moth, was not attracted to the trap but to Angie Softley's shoulder where it posed nicely for photographs.
Photo by Greg Carr
Finally an update on the fungus found last month by Tasha Fyffe. It has now been identified as Deer Truffle (Elaphomyces granulatus) by expert David Mitchel and is indeed a new species for the island.
Tasha Fyffe writes: Eigg Tree Nursery has had another busy month. After supplying and planting the trees restocking the first compartment in the forestry plantation last month, it is straight onto transplanting thousands of little seedlings for the next generation of trees planned for next year's restocking in the plantation, replacing the Sitka Spruce with native species from seed collected on the island and locally.
We are also growing extra stock at the tree nursery to have stock for sale on or off island. We can supply trees for woodland croft grant schemes or for farms taking initiatives to plant trees. We can also supply and deliver smaller orders for home gardens. if you would like to contact us you can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We had our very first trees exported off island last month destined for a rainforest restoration project in Glenuig through an organisation, Trees for Hope, www.treesforhope.net.
We are in the process of setting up a tree nursery website to showcase our work with a facility to buy trees online: watch this space. In the meantime, we now have the ability to take donations towards the work we are carrying out at the tree nursery: https://isle_of_eigg_heritage_trust.donr.com/treenursery
Erika O' Reilly
News from the Old Forge
It's been a manic few months and we are in the depths of the refurb with lots going on. We are now in a position to give a bit more of an update on our reopening plans.
We had hoped to reopen early May but this has been pushed back to the end of the month. We have installers coming over to do various things in the week commencing 15th May, so we definitely cannot open before then.
It will be a mad rush but we'll be trying our hardest to get back up and running before the last May bank holiday weekend. We'll probably not be able to confirm an actual opening date until mid-May.
The delay is as disappointing for us as we imagine it is for you, but that's just the way of it and it'll all be worth it in the end. Thank you all for your patience and understanding.
Moorings currently out of action
We are in the process of having our moorings upgraded, and as a result are asking visiting vessels not to use them for the time being. The pub moorings are marked with a 'V' on the buoy, and the remainder in the bay are private. As soon as they are ship shape again we'll post an update on our website.
The sun has been shining which gave us the perfect opportunity to get the new glazing in. The extension out the back is finished and insulated, framing is up for new internal walls, the first phase of plumbing and electric installation is in progress, and the new bar top has been set in place ready for fitting (pictured). The committee have also been starting to think about decoration, paint colours etc . . . you can imagine what that's like with multiple opinions in play, but we'll get there and the pub will look amazing!
Check out our social media pages for updates and photos @theoldforgeknoydart
Mallaig Lifeboat Log
21st April 2023
Requested by Stornoway Coastguard to convey Paramedics to Inverie at 18:10. After a cycling accident a female had a suspected broken arm. Also on board were three local Coastguards deployed to assist in the casualty's recovery. On-scene at 18:52 the Medics and CG's were taken to the casualty's location by local CG's and local residents. Once the casualty had been assessed, treated and pain relieving meds administered she was then placed in a stretcher. Ably assisted by residents and CG's the casualty was placed in the back of a vehicle and taken to the pier. With a high tide at the pier the casualty was easily boarded and placed in the Lifeboat's wheelhouse. Once everyone had reboarded, the Lifeboat departed for Mallaig berthing at the new ferry landing at 20:45. Once the trolley stretcher was brought down to the Lifeboat the casualty was transferred ashore and placed on the trolley. The casualty was transferred to Fort William's Belford hospital for further assessment. Lifeboat moored at her berth at 21:00.
27th April 2023
Tasked by Stornoway Coastguard to carry out a shore search around the Armadale pier area at 00:10 for a male in a vulnerable state of mind. On-scene at 00:35 and immediately stood down. The missing person had been located and was in police custody. Lifeboat returned to station at 00:55.
News from Mallaig Harbour
April has been a great month of weather, and we have been taking advantage of this to get lots of little jobs done around the Harbour. Some of the more observant among you will have noticed the new banners on the front of the prawn market, one advertising our participation in the 'Fishing for Litter' Scheme, and one advertising the 'Home and Dry' campaign, promoted by the Fishing Industry Safety Group (FISG). You can access more information about this campaign, and safety information for those at sea, at www.homeanddry.uk.
We've had a few visiting fishing boats again this month, which must be all the more frustrating for our local fleet, most of who have been tied up for all or part of the month for various reasons. We've installed more safety fencing over by the gear stores at West Bay. We know that behind these stores is a great place for local youth to hang out unseen, but it's not without its dangers, so we are trying to discourage this as much as possible. Our tenders for the Outer Harbour project were returned on the 14th April, and unsurprisingly for the economic climate we are in, these were higher than the original estimates. We are looking at what can be done to ensure that the project can go ahead in some format. At the time of writing we are still waiting on a decision from DEFRA as to whether they will award funding towards the project, and if so, then how much, as this will obviously have an impact on how we proceed. Our first priority is to demolish the old ice factory to make some space on the harbour to enable construction works to start. We have been talking to a local contractor about this, and need to apply for a demolition permit to undertake the works. The Northerly winds on Sunday 23rd April resulted in one of the corrugated panels on the seaward side of the building being blown off. This has been made safe temporarily until the demolition can take place.
The ferry disruption continues, so at the moment the Loch Bhrusda is providing more capacity on the Sound of Barra run, and only the Loch Fyne and Loch Nevis are operating from Mallaig. Some of you may have seen the Pentalina passing Mallaig on its way back to Orkney on Wednesday 19th April. Its return will allow the Alfred to start sea trials with a view to providing more capacity to CalMac, and more resilience if maintenance is required on vessels. We are scheduled to have the Coruisk back in Mallaig from 16th May - all being well with the programme for the annual overhaul of other vessels. We said goodbye to the Vega De Lyra this month. She has had new engines installed, been renamed as Lady Chanelle, and sailed from Mallaig on 13th April; off to Malta, where she will be used as part of a Tuna fishery.
We've also been supporting the Small Isles this month with their partnership with Ocean Plastic Pots and Keep Britain Tidy to remove some of the nets and ropes from island beaches, which Ocean Plastic Pots will turn into flower pots. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product being sold locally. You can find the story of Ocean Plastic Pots on their website - www.oceanplasticpots.com and we have very kindly been given a couple of their pots as a 'thank you' for our involvement in the project. These are over at the Marina for the season.
We submitted our response to the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) consultation, and also published this response on our website. I mentioned this last month, and many of you will have been following the continued controversy over the plans. This controversy resulted in Skipinnish releasing a song titled 'The Clearances Again', along with Vatersay Fisherman Donald Francis MacNeil, which reached the top ten in the Itunes download chart. The next stage in the consultation is a series of workshops to be held between now and late 2024. Mairi MacAllan announced after the consultation closed that she would visit Scottish Coastal Communities to listen to concerns, so hopefully the schedule for these visits will include Mallaig.
Finally, a wee shout out to the Mallaig FC Under-18s team who won the Skye and Lochalsh Junior League after a play-off with Portree on Sunday 23rd April. Congratulations to them - as well as MHA being a sponsor, I say that as a proud Mum!!
On and Off the Rails
Hello, it's me again!
With so much activity on a daily basis happening on and around our railway, the last month has flown by. I hope that by writing this column I can make sense of it by the end - so here goes! Let's start with the terrific response to the competition to win a pair of tickets for a day out on The Aberdonian, steam hauled by the locomotive 'Tornado', courtesy of 21st Century Steam Ltd. Over 50 entries were received, and today (28th April) was the closing date. I have just spoken to the delighted winner on the phone. She lives in Edinburgh, and has a 15 year old son who has been a 'train fan', as she says, since he was really small. She purchased a copy of April's West Word whilst in the area with him at Easter to take photos of The Jacobite, and is truly happy to have the chance to make special memories of the 'Tornado' hauled trip. Congratulations and best wishes for your trip! Thanks to all who entered - lots of local entries, plus cards from Devon, Cumbria, Ireland and Wales amongst other places. It pleases me to receive all the entries. I will endeavour to spread the chance of a bit of happiness, any time I can!
ScotRail 'Highland Explorer' Coach news
Hurrah! We now have the extra bike and seating carriage operating out of Mallaig on the 06:03 service to Glasgow Tuesday to Saturday, and from Glasgow to Mallaig on the evening service on Monday to Friday. The reason for the delay to the service commencing was that Network Rail had to install 'stop' signs for the new length of carriages at all stations. We had a tantalising glimpse of the service in the week before it started running to Mallaig when the carriage travelled as far as Fort William, followed by a trial appearance on our branch line in the middle of a Sunday afternoon (empty stock) between service trains and The Jacobite. It has now been in service for two weeks. Two minor hiccups have occurred. In the first week, with the Highland Explorer leading out of Mallaig, power was lost for about 20 minutes on the Glenfinnan viaduct. The second was a similar problem before leaving Mallaig on Friday 28th April - luckily, again, power was restored after about 20 minutes allowing the service to run. I'm hopeful that things will now settle down and that the carriage will please many travellers. The seats are very comfortable, and can be reserved, free of charge, when booking travel whether you have a bike or not.
The challenge to get the catering service on our branch line fully restored continues! I have it on good authority that ScotRail are now advertising for catering staff. (No sign of an advert on the ScotRail website at present or we would have included it here - Ed) The details have not yet been provided to me. What a malarkey! I would like to see the catering on the branch line outsourced; that way it would be the responsibility of the catering firm to provide the staff, as happens on the touring trains. ScotRail say 'We don't do outsourcing', however I reply that our late night cleaning of the last train into Mallaig each night is outsourced! The carriages are cleaned inside and out seven days a week, by an outsourced company. I rest my case. Actually no I don't - the travelling public deserve to have catering on board. It would enhance the journey: what better than to have a juice or hot drink and sandwich, fresh fruit, water, and oatcakes and cheese to snack on? Now I rest my case.
Other rail activity on our branch line
Since my last column we have been visited on the last four Saturdays by the touring train The Royal Scotsman. Magnificently luxurious, top and tailed by GB Railfreight, 10 carriages in length, it departs from Edinburgh on a Friday, stables overnight with guests in their own bedrooms at Spean Bridge station, and comes up to Mallaig on a Saturday morning. The guests exit the train at Arisaig station where a Shiel Buses coach takes them around the coast road to Morar beach and returns them to the train at Arisaig to enjoy lunch (and what a lunch it is!) as they travel back to Fort William. Again an 'off train' alternative is on offer before they return to a sumptuous evening of food and beverage and entertainment etc, returning to Edinburgh on (I believe) Tuesday morning. It is a real treat to see the line being promoted in this way by Belmond (the owners of the contract to operate The Royal Scotsman). I have had the pleasure in the past of being a tour guide for them, and have also stayed on the service. You are transported and treated for a few days to absolute luxury - and I know first hand how many guests on board return to the area to stay longer. It is very helpful that the company allows the guests on board to have a taste of our area - it makes the guests want to return, stay longer and help our economy. It works!
We were also visited at the end of March by the blue Midland Pullman touring train. The visiting guests spent two nights in Fort William accommodation travelling into Mallaig on a Sunday morning the week before Easter. The weather was glorious, and I had arranged, at their behest, to provide a piper to pipe the guests in and out of Mallaig. I also thank the five gift shops that I asked to open up on that Sunday morning. I know it was appreciated, and again when Mallaig comes alive to visitors, even if it is only for an hour, it shows us in our best light and makes every guest want to return. Thanks from me.
Photos by Moe Mathieson
The Jacobite is now operating seven days a week, twice a day until the end of September, with the morning service only continuing then until the end of October. Each train conveys guests into Mallaig for nearly two hours. The morning train, with catering on board, has two first class carriages, a compartment closed door carriage and open access carriages. Holding tanks have now been fitted to the facilities, making the track much cleaner and sweeter! Because the land close to the track is so very dry, to eliminate the risk of a spark starting a fire a diesel locomotive has assisted at the rear of the train allowing the steam locomotive to just run in light steam. Since the week before Easter there have only been five days so far when the diesel locomotive did not have to assist. The extra cost of fuel to West Coast Railways must be eye watering - plus the extra staffing and maintenance costs involved - but it has to be done, in order to comply. Trolley Service catering is provided at seats to the approx 350 persons per train. How lucky are we as a community to benefit from all this influx of visitors. We embrace everyone that comes and make them feel welcome. Thanks to all who provide services in Mallaig. I know it is appreciated by the touring public.
In between all these trains on the lines, Network Rail obtain permission to work on sections of the line to maintain the tracks, points, signs, signals etc. It can be a nightmare at times for Banavie Signal Box to juggle everyone who requires time on the line!
Late one evening two weeks ago we were visited by a Network Rail 'Clearing Britain's Railways' weed spraying and vegetation control MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). It is a bristling piece of technology; GPS software determines what treatment and herbicide will be used in advance. The GPS tracking system uses information from 'The Cloud' which shuts off the nozzles spraying the track when approaching a 'non treatment area' such as a water course or bridge. These areas are then visited by Network Rail persons with weed control knapsacks on their backs. So now you know!!
Almost time to stop writing - but just a couple of extra bits of news.
1) At Mallaig Railway Station we are trialling - in the Network Rail sidings behind the Heritage Centre - an inducement for seagulls not to build nests and lay eggs. It consists of a portable on track solar panel. This powers a motorised 'ducking and diving' black metal hawk attached to a large pole while screeching bird scaring sounds are emitted. We currently have about 80 seagulls!! So far, after two weeks, no nests have yet appeared, but the gulls are standing about, waiting to be fed chips, occasionally beak to beak fighting each other, and at least twice several of them have ganged up to attack the hawk, bringing it to the ground! Twice The Jacobite foot plate crew (who have the authority to go onto the line) have resuscitated it so it can fly again. Who will win the situation. No one knows!!
2) No room left for No 2. Will report again next month!!
See you on the train,
Mallaig FC Under 18s enjoyed a great end to the 2023 season with a) a fund raising curry night raising £709.50 (money that will be put to good use for travel, equipment and kit costs); b) victory in the final league match of the season which saw them crowned League Champions; and c) ultimate success in the Dualchas Cup - a round robin tournament featuring teams from Fort William, Lochalsh, Portree, Broadford and Mallaig.
So it's huge congratulations to Mallaig FC Under 18s in winning, for the very first time, the Skye & Lochalsh Junior Football Association League. On Saturday 22nd April they defeated Portree FC Under 18s by two goals to one with Freddie Patterson (who would also go on to win the Man of the Match award) and Michael Doherty notching the goals that clinched the title.
In the Dualchas Cup each team played each other in games lasting 20 minutes and the top two, Fort William and Mallaig, contested the final. The final ended 1-1 with Mallaig winning the trophy by 5-4 on penalties. Well done boys! Mallaig FC clocked up another two fine victories in the West Highland Amateur Football Association League competition. On Saturday 14th April they travelled to Portree and via goals from Andrew Sneddon and Kris Mackenzie notched up a great 2-0 win.
On Wednesday 3rd May Mallaig FC steamrollered Fort William FC Reserve Team by eight goals to two in a match played at Claggan Park, Fort William. Mallaig goalscorers were Andrew Sneddon (2); Ryan MacDonald (2); Angus MacNaughton (2); Archie Gillies and Aaron McLean.
Birdwatch April 2023 by Stephen MacDonald
A very mixed bag weatherwise, with some cold and frosty spells with wintry showers at times and a very Spring-like week with some of the warmest temperatures of the year so far.
Many more summer migrants arrived during the month. The first Chiffchaff reported was heard on the 3rd near Woodside, Morar. The first report of Willow Warblers was also in Morar on the 7th. Blackcaps were reported from Larach Mhor gardens, Arisaig on the 14th. The next day the first Grasshopper Warbler was heard near Loch nan Eala, Arisaig; the next reports were near Mallaig Vaig on the 28th. Sedge Warblers were heard near Loch nan Eala and Rhubana View from the 27th. Sand Martins continued to arrive with widespread reports from Morar, Arisaig and Back of Keppoch. The first Swallows were two seen in Arisaig on the 9th.
The first Common Sandpiper seen was on the shore by Traigh golf course early on the 19th. The same day a single Whimbrel was seen from the Mallaig - Rum ferry and on the 23rd two were seen on the shoreline by Traigh House. By the month end at least 15 were seen feeding in a field by Tigh an Bruaich.
Cuckoos were first reported on the 21st at Traigh and Loch Ailort.
Large numbers of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Wheatears continued to pass through the area, along with smaller numbers of White Wagtails.
Several groups of Whooper Swans and Pink-footed Geese were seen flying north during the month. There were still one or two Whooper Swans lingering on local lochs, with one on Loch nan Eala until the 23rd at least. A group of nine Pink-footed Geese were seen feeding in a field at Back of Keppoch on the 13th, and a lone individual was seen around Traigh and Back of Keppoch until the month end.
Goldeneye were still present on Loch Morar all month, and there were 21 Red-breasted Mergansers on the Morar Estuary on the 30th. A pair of Goosanders were seen regularly on the Morar River throughout the month. Both Red and Black-throated Divers were back on their various breeding lochs during the month. Still many Great Northern Divers seen around the coastline, with many now in breeding plumage.
Three Common Scoter were seen offshore from Mallaig on the 17th.
Manx Shearwaters were seen in the Sound of Sleat from the 1st of the month. Only small numbers of Great Skuas reported so far: their numbers have been severely reduced by Avian Flu.
Several reports of Jays in the Morar area again, with two birds seen using garden feeders in the Woodside area. A Twite with colour rings which was seen at Traigh golf course on the 25th had been ringed on the 5th January 2022 on Rishworth Moor, West Yorkshire, near a feeding station set up by RSPB England Twite Recovery Project. It stayed in the South Pennines, using the feeding station, until April 2022. It returned to the same feeding stations in December 2022 and stayed all Winter, until it was last seen on the 14th April 2023. A number of Twite ringed in the same area have also been observed in Scotland during the breeding season, all so far on the Isle of Skye.
A late report of a large Swift seen over Mallaig on the 19th March may have been an Alpine Swift. There was a large influx of this species into the UK and Ireland around this time, and there were also reports from Eigg, Skye, and Plockton.
WORLD WIDE WEST WORD
Lots of photos coming in at present - thank you so much!
Please keep them coming! It's good to see our readers getting away on holiday again.
Suitably attired David Hurdle from Norfolk cruising to Iceland to see the Northern Lights, and reading about them in the West Word area in February.
He didn't see them but could have in Norfolk in March if he'd stayed home!
Arisaig's Blair Martin read his copy relaxing in his hammock on a camping trip to Glen Affric last month.
Liz McLean wrote to say, 'A March edition of West Word came to the Isle of Colonsay with us.
It came on a tidal walk, crossing the Strand over to Oronsay.'
John and Barbara Price took their copy to Spain:
'In February we took a winter break to Marbella, Puerto Banús and Mijas, and of course with our 'West Word', which always accompanies us on our travels!'
Iain MacLeod and his wife Dawn remembered their West Word when they travelled from Victoria to Vancouver by seaplane to watch Daimh in concert.
Iain is from Mallaig and now lives in Victoria!
And last but not least, Murray Riggs writes:
'We are regular subscribers to West Word living in Lancashire but regular visitors to Mallaig and Arisaig. My wife Beth celebrated her 60th Birthday last week (13th April) and when I asked her where she wanted to celebrate it there was only one answer. It had to be in Scotland, in either Mallaig or Arisaig. We spent the week staying in Mallaig with one night over in Inverie where we had a great day cycling using the new Knoydart e-bike hire - Thanks to Ben for a fantastic day. On her birthday we took the ferry to Eigg and had lunch in the lovely cafe with fantastic views of the snow capped mountains. On Friday we enjoyed a walk on Rhu and we were amazed to see a White Tailed Eagle flying very low over our heads. We have only seen them on Mull before that.
'I know you often include pictures of people taking West Word to distant locations but wondered if you would be interested in including one of Beth bringing our copy back "home" from Lancashire for a special occasion.'
Thank you Murray, and Happy Birthday Beth - glad you had such a great week!
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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