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…
I can’t believe three weeks have gone by so soooo fast!! A lot of those days we have been on the bramble attack in many different locations to keep things a little different every day!! We also had a fair bit of scorching sunshine to contend with on some days and then the last week, so much rain that drying gloves for the next day became a bit of an issue. One volunteer, not mentioning any names, became rather attached to the rake and had zen gardens (a sign of how dry it was) raked into the road on the final clear up of each day!
Here is day 1 and my favourite photos of one location, Team Bramble…
We then set about a fuchsia bush that had got out of hand, or, we got out of hand with it, unsure which way round it was! We did start just trimming it back but it slowly revealed a mad maze of branches and cutting it back completely seemed to be the best option for healthier regrowth. Our wee Robin pal has kept us company, inspected works and no worm was spared!
Weeding was carried out on the herb garden, along with refreshment of the markers.
Revamp to the Old Shop Museum and Swap shop with a bit of paint scraping, which was surprisingly difficult on corrugated iron… then a repaint to give it a little sprucing up. This was the thickest paint in the world and we were even able to complete painting when the rain came on in the afternoon. Never mind singing in the rain… then we helped Camille inside the Old Shop Museum cleaning and redoing some of the display items including fixing a whale. Along with the random tasks for that day we had an unusual visitor help us out, good old Winnie the Pooh! If only I had had prior warning so I could have got a pot of honey for him as way of thanks!
Other days we spent clearing back one of the forestry tracks from overgrowth, brambles from the roadside giving the delightful bluebells a chance to breath and show off their intense colour, dead heading hydrangea’s and not forgetting some beach cleans!
We went from this…
To this, in a day!!
Very eratic weathers, thermals off, thermals on, you never know what your meant to be taking to work sun cream or ski’s!! Despite some crazy weather we have managed to get quite a bit done this last week we did some roadside pruning to the Snow Berry, in hindsite I think that must have been a bit like a rain dance but a snow dance intead!!
We worked on pruning along the roadside going up towards the community hall for two days. Then on Wednesday we headed to the forestry to complete the replacement spirals and canes to the wind and cow damaged trees and did a bramble attack on a seperate newer tree site. To then find we were snowed off work on Thursday!! Then it was Croft Day Friday, all in all a varied week of weather and tasks!!
The volunteer house got finished, (despite the gorgeous weather slowing progress) just in time for the new SWT Ranger to move into by the end of March. Dean our new ranger had one night to himself before we had our first group of volunteers arrive. With Easter being in March this year it seems as though the summer season has also started early before we were quite ready! Volunteers have arrived earlier than ever before too! We had a group of five friends that made a last minute booking. They timed it nicely to coincide with the Easter ceilidh and then very efficiently helped out with the hedge cutting by the community hall. We worked on trimming the sides off the hedge with volunteers in 2015 in preparation for cutting it back closer to the base this year. For those islanders that never realised this had been a work in progress over the last year, there was a little shock to say the least at the severity of the ‘pruning’! Fingers crossed it will now grow back bushier, healthier and more like a hedge….
The next volunteers arrived on the 4th, just for a short week but we managed to get a fair bit done and was very lucky with the weather. We worked in the forestry replacing canes and spirals to trees planted in 2014, as quite a few of them had damage from cattle entering the area after a gate being left open by accident but also a fair bit was winter wind damage. Now the trees are snug and secure with their new supports!
We had a couple of days working around the community hall with a mixture of pruning, general tidying, a start on the war against brambles and gravelling off an area that continually becomes a mud slide at events. The last day was spent on a croft finding out a different way of island life. The next volunteers are due to arrive on the 23rd of April when the season is booked solid right through to the end of August!
No more mud sliding!
How am I meant to concentrate on being inside painting and spring cleaning the volunteer accommodation when this is going on outside….!!
Progress is slow as I have been taking many tea breaks on the doorstep soaking in as many rays as possible, what an amazing week of weather. Here’s hoping the summer will follow suit….
Isn’t it always so wonderful to see signs of spring! The snowdrops have burst open and the birds are chirping away to their hearts content! Even the weather seems to be playing along with the spring theme with today showing temperatures higher than we had last summer…. long may it last! This winter on Eigg seems to have been unusually busy for some reason and anyone that did manage a little hibernation I would say, it is now well and truly over! Accommodation providers have been scrubbing away and wielding dusters around, visitors have started arriving, even day trippers and Easter is just around the corner.
On the volunteer side of things I have been working away on what the itinerary for the volunteer season will be, signing up lots of lovely enthusiastic volunteers for 2016 and then the biggest task of all getting the volunteer accommodation cleaned and its even getting a coat or two of paint (!) ready for the busy season ahead. The only availability for volunteer places left are in April and June with a few weeks here and there in July and August. The volunteer house will also be shared this year by the new SWT ranger, due to arrive at the end of March so hopefully the house will look a bit better than the photo above by then!
The first of our community volunteer days kicked off with pruning in the orchard last Sunday and next week will be a clean up around the pier, t-room & shop. Then the week after that will be spent getting the hall ready for the Easter ceilidh on Saturday 26th followed by the craft fair on the Monday 28th. Busy times for March!
September is usually spent taking a breather from the frantic pace that comes with the volunteer season and allowing the body to recover from the physical endurance of bracken and bramble bashing for a solid two months amongst all the other tasks we completed since March! October has been spent getting knuckled down in front of the computer catching up with all the paper work, forms and the yearly dreaded things like the end of year reports and the like. Normally a dead whale would have a subdued effect on me but after a report from the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme that there was a dead Minke Whale washed up on the north west coast of the island it meant a day out of the office, hurray! Myself and the SWT warden have been trained by the SMASS to carry out sampling and investigations towards dead strandings on our shores to send back for analysing and hopefully finding out the cause of death. On this occasion we had to wait until the weather calmed down for us to venture out as it is a bit of a trek over the saddle and round to the puffer cave. Unfortunately on arriving it was clear that taking samples was not possible or useful as the Minke was already in advance stages of decomposition but we did however take some measurements and photographs to be sent in for documentation. Other than checking out the male 21ft Minke whale it was a beautiful day with the welcome company of sunshine! After living on Eigg most of my life I am always delighted when Eigg can still surprise me with its beauty, the colours in the sea, walking up and over the hill to get such magnificent views it is a welcome reminder on how lucky we are here.
John reluctantly having to get in the picture for perspective reasons!
A tiny window of view of Rum and Skye after walking up and over the saddle
Looking back into Cleadale on our return journey.
August saw the season end of all the volunteers for the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. On the 31st of August we waved a fond farewell to the remaining 4, only 3 in the photo as one left on a different ferry just to avoid a photo!
It is always sad to see the volunteer season come to a close as volunteers add so much to our wee community and a reminder winter is looming! Not only does a whole load of tasks get done but the addition of six new faces makes quite an impact socially and always interesting where everyone comes from and each person usually has a fairly unique story on how they came to be on Eigg.
In 2015 volunteer season we had 11 SWT volunteers, 18 IEHT volunteers, 6 IEHT conservation holiday volunteers. There was also 18 volunteers for other organisations on the island plus a further 4 summer workers. That is a grand total of 53 volunteers from April to September!
Hopefully 2016 will be just as successful, next years application forms have now been updated and available for download.
I thought this was pretty cool and worth sharing… a previous volunteer has set up a little website with a sound map she created of Eigg click HERE if you are interested in hearing some sound bites of Eigg…
August was a fun month with a great bunch of volunteers to finish off the season. We even had some sunshine for a day here and there! We had a good varied task list for the month.
We completed some garden work around the proposed new health clinic building. Building work could not start until the front door could be found under all the overgrowth! We soon sorted that and removed the largest pile of brambles I have ever seen. Every year I think I have seen the most brambles in any one place, quickly to discover the record to be beaten once again. We wondered if there was an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest pile of brambles and if there wasn’t then we might look into entering one!!
We had a day helping the Primary School find their garden after the summer holidays and discovered the slugs (and maybe the mouse we found) had eaten quite a lot of the veg but also down the the rubbish weather we have had, it has been a pretty poor growing season for all here this year. Nonetheless the school kids do have some cabbage and plenty of tatties to eat!
We then headed down to the Singing Sands to carry out some path maintenance. We worked on drainage, fixing broken steps on the style, replacing wire on the bridges to keep them from being slippy and re-erecting the marker posts as the cows just think they are scratching posts especially for them!
Next up we headed to the forestry to clear around trees planted in February 2014 on our first tree planting Conservation Working Holiday. For the larger tasks like clearing around new trees we quite often join volunteer forces so we had the assistance of the SWT volunteers which was a welcome help as there is 2500 trees! The Douglas Fir look like they may be struggling a bit but still alive so that is good! The Larch are doing ace and popping their unruly branches over the top of the plastic protectors. I was also very enthused to find the Scots Pine have also taken as we have never had any luck growing them previously. We also have a random assortment of species growing as a trial along the boundaries of Cherry and Horn Beam both surviving well. Then some more natives that we know do well like Oak and Rowan. The thing that kept us going the most was finding patches of wild raspberries growing, a welcome rest and a fine energy booster!
Larch Scots Pine
Throughout the month we completed a couple of beach cleans, one on Laig beach and the other on Kildonan helping the primary school kids.
We also had the Monday Craft Fairs pictured below and the Friday Croft days so yet again the month flew passed and many more tasks completed!
July passed so fast that I only have one photo from the whole month! We have been busy every Monday with the Craft fairs setting up the tables and manning the Isle of Eigg Heritage Trust table. Every Friday is ‘Croft Day’, giving volunteers the opportunity to see how the land can be used in such different ways by helping out crofters on a rotational basis. Volunteers have helped out Catherine and Pascal, they use the land to grow willow to make baskets All About Willow. Eddie’s croft, collects and harvests the Bluebell seeds for sale, more info by clicking here. Celia’s croft has Hebridean sheep, polytunnel and a garden but also has an exciting off shoot business Selkie Explorers. Eigg Organics have many things going on, find out by clicking here. Earth Connections have had assistance also this month, not a croft but a worthwhile organisation to help out with click here for more info. All crofts benefit hugely by the assistance of a volunteer for the day and volunteers gain many different skills by this opportunity. Out-with the Craft fairs and Croft days the main tasks covered throughout July was clearing around trees in various locations, attacking the never ending brambles and some trimming and pruning in the Lodge grounds. Still waiting for the summer to come…..
This is the one and only picture taken in July (!) a start of clearing around trees.