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.

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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…

Bramble Attack….

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!

How varied a week can be!

We went from this…

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To this, in a day!!

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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!!

Volunteer season is here!

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!

Bramble attack!

No more mud sliding!

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.