Sunshine continues

How am I meant to concentrate on being inside painting and spring cleaning the volunteer accommodation when this is going on outside….!!

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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….

Spring is springing…

IMG_0222 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.IMG_0208   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!

October

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.

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John reluctantly having to get in the picture for perspective reasons!

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A tiny window of view of Rum and Skye after walking up and over the saddle

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Looking back into Cleadale on our return journey.

September

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!

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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

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!!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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                                    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.

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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!

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July

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.

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May & June

Even with the massive undertaking of the community hall steps project we still managed to get up to a thing or two else in May in between waiting for the wood to be cut or delivery of gravel etc….

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Bridge repairs

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Signage

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More hedge work

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More coloured route marking

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To finish off May, there is nothing like playing in the mud!

June 

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Kicking off June with a bit more drainage work and playing with more mud!

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Clearing round trees planted out in February.

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Completion of the massive hedge trimming!

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Clearing back the forestry roadside and saving some alders that were trying to make themselves at home in the middle of the road!

Community hall steps project

May brought on some fleeting sunshiny days and a whole load more rain! However we did manage to achieve a lot of tasks and got very at one with the mud! The main task for May was to build steps into a slope outside the community hall. There is a fire pit of which at events a fire is lit and throughout the night what is seen in the first picture as a grassy slope, this small hillside outside the hall becomes a lethal mud slide once fifty or more folk start walking up and down it. Large steps seemed to be the best option so with a fair bit of measuring and head scratching a plan was hatched and a starting line could be marked out. There was a fair few hiccups and delays along the way and a deadline of an island wedding at the end of the month which kept it all exciting and slightly stressful factors along the way. The hall had also been hired by Right Lines Productions for two weeks of rehearsals of Rapid Departure which involved getting their songs stuck in our head and the inclusion of some funny characters appearing in amongst our mud, see if you can spot one in the pictures below! Nonetheless with the determined efforts,  full devotion to the project and slight hysteria at times (!) the volunteers gave 150% and the finest steps were built, all in time for the wedding, just!

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Before

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Digging has begun… but what is that by the hall in yellow!?!

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1st step dug and a whole load of mud! Starting to take shape though.

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Large stones preventing progress…the only way was to dig them out!

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A WELL needed rest after a serious amount of digging, removing rocks/boulders (!) and shifting the excess soil and maybe a mild panic that I had pushed volunteers a bit to hard and no more work would take place!

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The long awaited planks of wood arrived, cut by Bob and his woodmizer on Eigg from a windblown Douglas Fir and with a fair bit of sweat, was cut by hand to size! This was after a mathematical nightmare, a lot of measuring, checking again, marking out the steps once again, and then maybe again to be ABSOLUTELY sure before the first piece was cut as we only had the exact amount of planks with not a millimetre to spare!

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Looking good! A few days of dry weather helped tremendously…

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Back to rain and squelchy mud! Fence posts were banged in to keep the wooden steps in place. A few more stones had to be removed….

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Delivery of the long, long, lost then found again, looong, awaited for gravel ! Only to find when we opened the bags it was bright orange and reminded me of cheesy wotsits!! By this point the wedding decor just had to fit in with the new cheesy wotsit theme! You will be glad to know that after a few larger events and a bunch more rain it has started to dull down…a bit! We then had to go and source some gravel already on the island as we didn’t have enough cheesy wotsit gravel! We were up to Wednesday by this point and the wedding was on Saturday, talk about cutting it fine!

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Hysteria had set in, the ‘Eigg measure’ was being used (water level prop from the play) to try and figure out step depth and levels…. 2 Eiggs worth for each step!

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Back to serious stuff…Some ‘normal’ coloured gravel we managed to beg and borrow on the island but did mean hand shovelling it onto the trailer and then back off at the other side. More back breaking work!

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An arty farty triangle and I think we may have a missing volunteer, anyone seen them!?!

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The finished steps!!

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One mighty team of volunteers, L to R – Jake, Maddie and Andrew!! Not forgetting to mention Ed who started the project but was gutted to have to leave and miss the completion party! And look, the steps double up as seats just as well we measured it to the two Eigg’s worth!

 

Spring was trying to be sprung

April, despite the weather tried its hardest to be spring. The birds made their best attempts at nesting, the cuckoo started cuckooing, the wild garlic made a mighty appearance  and the volunteers chirped away! By mid April we were up to three of the finest ladies to spend time with, we covered many tasks over the weeks along with many of life’s topics, laughed (a lot!) and even was quiet enough at times to appreciate the bird song and a flutter of an early butterfly and the buzz of the bees. A favourite day for April has to be building steps into a steep incline on a woodland path. We spent a couple of days with the assistance of Dean to keep us right, sunshine and the almighty aroma of the wild garlic!

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