Adventures

As with this job you end up in parts of the woods you wouldn’t normally go, or just the fact we are out exploring different parts of the island all the time you come across some exciting and interesting things…..

Rare Butterfly Orchids, stunning egg shell, munched hazel nuts, delicate Herb Robert, cool lichen to feathers on a branch to unbeatable sunsets…

Drying work gloves, Shield bug mama and babies all squeezed onto a Birch leaf(!) a wasps nest with a bramble going right through the middle and an impaled Rowan berry!

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July

July has been a fine mixture of bridge making, path maintenance, stone work, helping some kids achieve their next steps within the Junior Award Scheme for Schools (JASS), Shorewatch training, initial site surveys for further peatland restoration project,  training on tree seed collection, butterfly transect, bird survey’s, Sycamore removals, helping Gillian with the bugs and butterfly event, path clearance, helping out at Earth Connections Centre, clearing bracken in the community orchard, recycling rubbish after the Howlin Fling Festival and helping out on a farm! Who says volunteering on Eigg wouldn’t be full of diversity and variability….

Beach Bridge! Saves having to do the long jump when doing the beach circuit or accessing the beach from the Laig Farm side. It was reported on more than one occasion this year that the jump was getting to big for some and a few found themselves having an impromptu dip in the stream!!

Assistance from two Grandsons of an Eigg family achieving some of their JASS targets. They helped us plant some Magnolia trees, very kindly gifted to the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust from the Booth’s.

Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) training days.

Sorting an incredibly muddy section to the path we call the ‘Old Cart Road’ running through the woodland behind the community hall. We re-used some rubble from the remains of the very old volunteer house. A fine bit of recycling! We also had to fight off a LOT of midges the day before when digging was necessary in the bog on a still day, really we were asking for a midge attack in hindsight!! Day two was far more pleasant with sunshine, a breeze and could even stand still to pose for a photo without getting eaten alive!

Next up was helping Wes build a structure to display the Geopark interpretation panel. Pretty impressive all in a days work! It was getting very ‘experimental art’ when we had an old chair, a fence post and a metal ring as part of our guide to work to and did attract some very dubious looks from the passers by… but it all worked out in the end even though none of us really knew what was being built until it was finished. We had believed that Wes knew what he was doing but even he admitted at the end that he was making it up as we went along. Pretty good result for experimental stone art I’d say!!

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A very hungry bunch of volunteers after a very wet morning of bracken bashing around the fruit trees in the community orchard! A bit of a change in weather from tropical climates of the day before!!

June

Wow, can’t believe two months has gone by since the last update..sorry about that! Since the last update we have been very busy with preparations for the 20th Buyout Anniversary celebrations that included many days painting inside and out of our community hall, cleaning and grafting away on the surrounding area to make it ready to host a week of events from the 12th of June. We had an exhibition of 20yrs of projects, slide shows, newspaper collections following the buyout story along with incredibly inspiring people power talks from Alastair McIntosh and Maggie Fyffe covering the trials, tribulations and personal memories of the buyout story. A very special time years ago and a chance to remember and acknowledge the worldwide support that were received throughout that time. It is also very important time to reflect and recognise the ethos behind the community buyout and ensure the future continues not wavering to far from the track! All serious things should be completed with a good ceilidh, which of course we did on the 17th in style!

 

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Back to work we went after all the fun and frolics, it was unanimous with the full volunteer team how wonderful it was to be working away from the community hall… as we moved onto catching up on path clearance as our eye was off the ball and looking at other things everywhere seemed to grow metres high and of course the bracken starts to take over! We spent the rest of the month concentrating on clearing paths, with the route  around the Community Orchard and then skirting the edges of the manse woods. We  also cleared the main forestry path.

And for a bit of a change of scenery from bracken and brambles we worked away at removing sycamore that is trying to smother out Hazel trees in various areas of the Manse Woods with help from the SWT warden Gillian and her volunteers.

Busy busy…

We moved on to bashing Rhody’s next, not that fun a job but highly satisfying! We pulled small new shoots and did our best to dig the roots of the larger regrowth.

 The volunteers then spent the rest of the week resting the weary muscles after severe Rhody bashing and spent a couple of days with Gillian the SWT Ranger doing a butterfly transect, the Wednesday Wildlife Walk and then looking for a curlew’s nest (inconclusive!). They then went on to help out at Earth Connections Centre in the house and out in the garden with a final day for the week spent on a croft.

The following week we worked away on the forestry path and track clearing back brambles, general overgrowth on the path and pulling stray naturally regenerated conifers. we also had a half day clearing brambles from one of the newly planted tree sites. Very pleasant weather and even more enjoyable as pre midge season!

Creation of a new path was up next… with the help of Dean we took a route from just before going into Galmisdale field with a path that leads you from open woods, to a mossy fairyland, to bluebell paradise! The first part of the path was simple and straight forward, however the steepness of the bank (pictures below) myself and Dean had remembered quite differently when we planned it out last year! Everyone took the challenge and started digging a zigzag path to begin with, adding in steps here and there… sometimes you can’t forward plan you just have to start and then decide the next stage when you get there!

We took some time out of the path after some intense planning, digging and logistics for a more peaceful time on the hillside on our Shorewatch site. Eigg  is part of the 32 sites around Scotland that is a recognised site by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) that volunteers keep data from regular watches for Whales, Dolphins and porpoises. Not many people know that Scotland is one of the best places for land-based whale and dolphin watching in Europe! It was training day for some new, on and off island volunteers, what a perfect day to sit out on the hill. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything this day. But then the more you watch….you may just see……

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In with 2017!

The volunteer season has swung into action at extraordinary speeds… it felt only a few days ago the family were gathering around the table for Christmas dinner!

Anyhow, April saw the first enthusiastic volunteers arrive and the amount of tasks that have been achieved since then has been, perhaps record breaking! The first week we, ‘attacked’, (is the only word you can use to describe the work) as we started cutting back and taking charge of one of many Escalonia hedges that have been left to go out of control in the Lodge gardens. They have been good for the birds to hide and nest, along with the kids have had much fun running through the tunnels on each side or jumping on the top as a giant trampoline (I have received an official complaint from the kids about cutting the hedge!). It does look rather severe but it does grow back and will look much healthier for it, it just might not be that good as tunnels or a trampoline for many years though…. well done to these three ladies that took on the challenge as it was by far an easy task and all by hand, no chainsaws to be seen!

Day one and we didn’t know our own strength! Even with the rain it didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm.

Day two was as if we were working in slow motion and none of us believed how much we managed to do on day one. I don’t think I took any pictures from day two as the progress seemed so slow! But day three we were cracking on again, although by the end it did look I had maybe killed off a couple of volunteers as they weren’t looking to enthusiastic after a break! But then we were perked up by a visit from out wee Robin pal…until it had a wee poo on Stef’s leg!

 

Just as we were loosing the will to hedge any longer, we got done at last! The tidy up takes as long as anything. At this point we could then really appreciate the amount of work we had done and  how much of the field on either side of the hedge we have gained. For a final day before two of the girls departed we had a gentle days tidying the roadside from the hall towards the pier clearing brambles and anything else that required to come out. This is when we found the wee fern coils uncurling, a very vibrant colour. If we hadn’t been sprachling around we would have missed this moment of natures beauty!

We then moved on to making a new flower bed, weeding the Herb Garden, we even managed to draft in the assistance of our new Scottish Wildlife Trust Ranger, Gillian for part of the day! Off we then went to finish off the roadside clearing down to the pier. Then we were treated to an very impromptu bit of craic on a lunch break! Imagine, small pipes, cello and spoons with a variety of tunes and styles being played and Charlie taxi finally got a rendition of the Game of Thrones theme tune! The most unexpected things happen on a lunch break some days!!

Out with 2016

We have flown into 2017 with extreme speed that I didn’t even manage to get time to post the final days of our season of fantastic volunteers! Thank you to everyone that helped out in 2016, every year we are so lucky to get a great bunch of folk. Always an absolute pleasure to work alongside and at the same time we get to spend the days in the fresh, sometimes wild outdoors and get many tasks completed to boot!

We spent much of our last days working on paths, opening up old paths that were heavily overgrown, like the one above from the forestry Hydro Dam down to Laig. This one kept us busy for quite a few days as we fought through bushes, brambles and pulled heather to make the path open and clear to follow once again.

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Alberto entertaining the ladies while we shelter from a shower of rain!

A before and after moment while the other two pose for page 3 of the volunteer news!

 Off we want again for the final day working on this path which involved heading to the top of the hill on the first of these pictures to build a stile over the fence, but first a welcome rest and moment to enjoy the spectacular views before we got started!

Preparation of the ground to fit a stile seemed to be a challenge after the long slog up the hill shortly followed by a whole load of hilarity, levitating roots caught on the first picture, singing and sawing!

Lunch time! The team seemed to feel the need to show off the muscles(!) before the final way marker being placed, a bit more hilarity and on to posing with the beautiful new stile with style!

Our final days were a bit on the damp side but nothing seemed to dampen the sprits of this lot, hilarity continued through the rain. The Old Laig Shortcut that was started earlier in the season was completed, cobweb watch was on as the weather was perfect fore showing of our many spiders hard work. Young trees were cleared from bracken and other encroaching weeds and rhododendron shoots were pulled. We joined Historic Scotland on guided walks to sites of interest of hut circles, Stuidh and Five Pennies. Unloaded a delivery of wood ready for a new path planned that we didn’t have time to do in 2016 but will be first on the list for spring 2017… and finished off with giving outside the community hall a sprucing to fit in with the newly fitted windows along with being blessed with a welcome ray or two of sunshine! What a busy 2016 it was!!

August

The team of volunteers has fluctuated throughout the month. We started the month with two, briefly up to three for a week and then down to one but we have ended the month a full team of three. So all is well in the land of volunteering and it looks like we might even get all our projected projects finished for the year… well almost!

We were back thinking about the bird hide briefly and removed bark from the trees. After our amazingly skilled ways and new talent for our CV’s of bark removers, the trees will be planked for use on the main structure of the hide any day now hopefully!!

We then moved on to the major task of one of the branch off’s from the main forestry path that leads past Eigg Electric’s hydro dam leading down to the hydro at Laig farm. The first few days while still on the main track wasn’t so hard going just a lot of brambles taking over another area of Eigg!

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We ducked out of bramble duties for a day to join our SWT warden, Dean Jones on his very last guided walk for the season. We were blessed with sunshine, damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies (some all the way from France) and a wealth of knowledge on the herbal uses of the abundant wildflowers and plants. Some flowers and plants I usually class as a weed have incredibly vital and beneficial herbal uses for the most common of complaints to more preventative potions! We never saw one bird, I think they were all in hiding seeing as Dean got sunshine for the walk as it has rained 9 out of 10 walks. You can’t have it all!

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And then we were down to one! Ellis, had signed up to volunteer for 6wks then found herself the only volunteer standing for a week! We started on the original Laig shortcut path focusing on the heavily overgrown first section down to the bridge. This track hasn’t been used for many years which became quickly obvious when we began…. I started to wonder if I had bitten off more than we could chop! We had to cut our way through the fearsomely spikey blackthorn shrubs which was, well prickly! This shortcut was the route a local used to walk to school every day back in the days before the school bus! Once we got down to the bridge I was completely stumped as to where the path used to go so we have had to call a pause on works until verification is made! Laig shortcut – To be continued….

I then managed to set Ellis up for the following days volunteering on the Isle of Rum through the Ranger. This seemed to work well and the trickiest part was finding the days the ferry connects directly with each island which seems mad when we are so close. By the time Ellis returned we had a full team of three to round the month off nicely. With our larger team the antics seemed to heighten also with all sorts of hilarity and shenanigans being carried out!

With our larger numbers we were able to continue with the forestry path making it down past the hydro dam and through a lot of heather, brambles and shrubbery. Enough to set folk a tad murderous! Don’t worry nobody was hurt in the process of the path clearance! I never added this kind of thing to my risk assessments….! Here is some pretty pictures from the path to finish up with this month.

Team July

I didn’t think it was possible for time to go by any quicker than June but actually, July did exactly that! A lot of clearing for July of bracken and general growth from paths, roadsides and around trees although to get a break from clearing for a day a week the Craft Fairs have started up every Monday from the beginning of July until the end of August.

We worked away on clearing the forestry path that then links up with the main forestry road. A lot of midges and flies kept us company….

Back to continue clearing back the main forestry road, sunshine today though! We even got to play with draining the larger puddles from the road, what fun…!

More clearing but this time around trees in the largest of the newer plantation sites in the forestry and along came a grass hopper checking up on progress…. then onto pulling thistles from our graveyard with a very pleasant sunny stop for lunch.

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Team July – left  to right, Kathryn, Rachel, Andrew and Ewen.

Back to the good old Scottish weather we know! We worked on clearing the main roadside to allow better visibility for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists for the busiest part of the summer as there seems to be a lot of folk around this year.

Back to clearing back the bracken and overgrowth on the roadside. Kathryn is still smiling even after being here for a whole month and beating back so much bracken!! I hope Augusts volunteers are going to be just as enthusiastic towards bracken….

June

June seemed to fly by in a flash of wonderful weather, the finest display of Bluebells I have seen in many years, cuckoos cuckooing to their hearts content, birds on the busiest nest building, courtships and chick action and even the minke, dolphins and porpoises put in an appearance! Need I say much more… June was a very enjoyable month. Oh yeah, nearly forgot to mention the wonderful volunteers! Volunteers for June have been another fantastic enthusiastic bunch. Many more tasks complete, a lot less brambles and some  more cleared paths. Quite a varied month for tasks mostly down to having last minute cancellations or no shows, so plans had to be adjusted to suit our smaller numbers. I even managed to sign up new volunteers to boost our numbers for a couple of the days by chatting to holiday makers at the pier and they very kindly came along to help out!

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Burning some of the many brambles we have been busy cutting back…

Clearing one of the paths of which was totally spectacular with bluebells although the pictures really do not do justice to just how fantastic a display we were treated to.

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One of our Shorewatches for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation. It involves 10minutes of scanning the seas and noting down, weather conditions, bird activity, any cetaceans and beating off the midges while trying to concentrate on distinguishing the difference between a little wave cap or a surfacing cetacean!

Back to the bird hide to try and continue with the expert stone laying done by Daniel to form the floor. Emma was well up for the challenge and got totally into the zone that seems to come over you when working with natural sources such as stone. That is the main foundations ready for the wooden structure to be built. Just a massive amount of digging required around the edges next….

Naomi continued with the digging challenge, moving a lot of soil around and having a shot at landscaping!

We gave the digging a rest for a day to clear some overhanging branches from a pathway and then headed to Kildonan to clear the sudden takeover of the dreaded bracken that was growing so high it was hiding the access style down to the wee coastal path.

Onto clearing around small trees in the forestry. We managed to clear two different sites of mixed species – Rowan, Birch, Bird Cherry and Oak. We were very thankful to have the assistance from Pedro the SWT volunteer.

Then we had a complete changeover of volunteers to end June so as it was all brand new for them we went back to the bramble attack!

We then went on a ragwort hunt, although before any work could begin we had to get past the security guard goat…. we then got greeted by geese, chickens and ducks to then the horses cantering down the hill which was slightly frightening as we weren’t quite sure if they were friend or foe! After befriending all the many animals we got started on the ragwort in the horse field and along came the butterflies feeding off the wild thyme, quite magnificent!

We helped out the crofters on the common grazing by removing and collecting the old fence running along the cliff top between Laig beach and Singing Sands. Cutting the wire, and pulling up the old posts making sure any fencing staples were collected to avoid damage to the cows hooves. The rain made an appearance by the afternoon but we managed to get a dry spot for our lunch break under an overhanging down on Singing Sands.

Many other experiences and exciting things happened through the month of June like croft days, Eigg’s anniversary 19th buyout ceilidh, volunteers climbing to the top of the Sgurr to soak in the outstanding views with such clear days, I even managed to escape for a few days for a short break, not very far but took a picture from the ferry on route to Canna! We then had the Howlin Fling festival to begin July with the influx of an extra 150 people and many bands. All in all a varied and incredibly busy June.

Bird Hide Project

We have had a bird hide planned for many years now and the project has started, stopped, forgotten about for a while and then finally we have had new inspiration and the wonderful assistance from a volunteer to get the project on the go again…. Daniel from the Netherlands was kind enough to travel all that way to spend 10days on our isle and start making sense of previous plans that only existed in a locals heads, nowhere near a paper plan! Despite the lack of a plan, location and the challenge of using natural materials, Daniel made a fantastic start on the foundations. Daniel has made a strong  stone foundation edge that will hold a wooden structure eventually… and started to lay smaller stones for the floor. His hopes are on his departure that we will now continue with the stone work floor and complete some digging required to one side. Hopefully next week the now smaller team of volunteers will continue from where Daniel left off. Once the volunteer group has finished what we can do, it will be then be passed on to a local who will complete the wooden structure.  For now this is where we are at…