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April 2016 Issue
Contents of the online version:
All photos are copyright either of the individual photographers or West Word.
The 23 car capacity Lochinvar based at Mallaig for the 2016 summer season
CONCERNS ABOUT POOR FERRY SERVICE
Statement from the Sleat Transport Forum 7th April 2016
Tourism operators and the community in Sleat are increasingly concerned at the unreliable and poor quality service now being provided on the Mallaig /Armadale ferry route. The service was downgraded by CalMac with the agreement of the Minister for Transport and Islands together with Transport Scotland for the summer of 2016. The MV Coruisk was redeployed to Mull and replaced with two smaller vessels and the Lord of the Isles (LOTI) during the down time from her regular run from and to Lochboisdale.
Sleat Transport Forum has consistently expressed concern to the Minister, Transport Scotland and the Company that the new replacement service was unsustainable and this has been borne out in the first two weeks of operation. During the second week the replacement vessels have been unable to operate in low tides and no fewer than 12 of the scheduled services this week have been have been cancelled. The Company has now been made aware of the periods of low-tides until the end of September and it is believed that a programme of cancelled services and rescheduled departures is now being prepared for publication for the whole of the summer season! Today's operation (7th April) utilising three vessels has been nothing short of catastrophic with disruption not seen on the Mallaig/Armadale route for many years. This pattern of disruption is expected to continue at regular intervals over the coming months unless remedial action is urgently taken. Tourism operators who have taken on staff for the season are now faced with great uncertainty and will have to review their staffing levels as a result. This is very bad news not just for the whole of Skye but for Lochaber as well.
A spokesman for Sleat Transport Forum said " This situation was predicted by us for months prior to the implementation of this timetable but we were unable to convince Transport Scotland and the Company of the unsustainability of their proposals. The two small vessels currently deployed on the route were built to operate using fixed slipways rather than linkspans and the problems with varying tidal conditions should have been foreseen. This coupled with the absence of any form of service on board these vessels make them an extremely unattractive option for travellers who will sadly vote with their feet leaving local companies deprived of business which would otherwise have come their way. The threat to the economic prosperity of the communities and businesses affected is already obvious to see.
Mallaig /Armadale is an attractive route which has shown growth over recent years and which is predicted to continue to grow over the next five years. The downgrading of the service is perverse and indefensible. Those who work hard to sustain their businesses and create employment in this area deserve a better deal and Sleat Transport Forum urgently appeals to CalMac and the Scottish Government to find a solution which will lead to a reliable and robust service not just for this summer but for years to come ".
The Sleat Transport Forum's extended campaign to challenge the viability of the route proposal for Summer 2016 is documented at this link: http://www.sleatcommunitycouncil.org.uk/sleattransportforum.asp
Rob Ware, Secretary, Sleat Transport Forum
Well that will be the season under way. March was a busy month with everyone getting geared up for the onslaught of tourists that arrived with Easter Weekend. The Tearoom has an amazing new deck wrapping round the front, built by Mark and Johann, and they have done a cracking job. This means there is now a much larger capacity (at least on nice days!) and what a spectacular view it is. Just have to hope for a decent summer to enjoy it now! Fiona has also been busy painting the windows at the bunkhouse and it's all freshly painted inside courtesy of Fraz, so it's looking very nice indeed. The new bike hire business, Carbon Cycle, run by Amie and Will as head mechanic, is up and running. This is a great new venture, allowing tourists and locals alike to hire mountain bikes and explore the peninsula that way. Even better is the fact that you can now stop at Penny's at Doune for lunch, and then carry on to Airor and visit Veronika's new café, End of the Road. She has done an amazing job, turning an old workshop into such a quaint little café. Well worth the trip to Airor, with lunch options and home baking available. he Easter Ceilidh was a great night, with Heron Valley. What a brilliant band. They certainly got everyone dancing alright. In fact, it was one of those nights where, when you took a second to actually look around, in the middle of a dance, you realised that it looks completely insane, all these people whirling around with barely any space! Never mind Zumba, ceilidh dancing should be where it's at!
It's been a good month for the Northern Lights as well. Not that I've actually managed to see them yet! Mark, however, seems to capture them spectacularly every time. His photos and time lapses are amazing, check them out on his website www.mh-photographic.co.uk
What else… Happy birthday to Robbie and Archie, who turned 10 on the 22nd, they had a great BBQ in the market garden for their birthday and very generously asked people not to buy them presents but to put in a donation for the swimming pool. Aww! (See photo.) Wee Ethan also turned 2 this month - where does the time go?
On the 24th of March, there was a talk in the hall by Dr Duncan Halley, of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA in Norwegian), looking at landscape history and land use in areas of Norway that have the same climate and landforms as Knoydart, that we could get ideas from. This was an informative and interesting talk, showing the similarities to SW Norway and the Scottish Highlands, concerning tree regeneration and herbivore impact. I never knew that we were so similar to Norway! Wonder if they get Norwegian midgies…
Thinks that about it for now folks!
ISLE OF MUCK
Spring is here! The island is becoming greener by the day; daffodils in flower, cock pheasants everywhere and in the bay in front of the house, eiders paddling in circles as they try and impress the opposite sex.
No lambs yet but as I write on 1st April they are 8 days away. This year lambing could be different due to the arrival last September of six not so bonny Beltex tups from Fearn Farm owned by the now celebrity John Scott, one of the stars of 'This Farming Life'; among one of the best ever productions of BBC Scotland. It has kept me glued to the box for part of the last four weeks. So there is an element of trepidation as lambing approaches. Will the new lambs arrive without too many problems and will they be able to withstand the adverse weather which sometimes comes at lambing? We shall see!
And at sea on the east of the island, at the Fish Farm, a new consignment of smoults is arriving into new improved cages and new nets better able to withstand the rigorous sea conditions found at the Muck site. Sea conditions which have resulted in salmon of a quality up with the best in the Marine Harvest empire.
At Camas, our arts organisation, a busy summer is unfolding. The schedule has still to be finalised but the first event, a basket making course on 7th/8th May, still has a few spaces. Toby Flichtner-Irvine is hoping to organise a local Clay Pigeon competition at a date yet to be decided. Expressions of interest would be gratefully received. And while on the subject of Toby (and Mary) I must mention their success at the Scottish Rural Awards. Congratulations at a well deserved win.
And another reminder: The Muck Open Day is on Sunday 19th June
ISLE OF MUCK PRIMARY SCHOOL
We have had another very busy month. For our Victorian topic we have been finding out how transport developed, and how the rail network grew during the Victorian era. We have also been singing 'A bicycle made for 2' song as we found out about tandem bikes. We have made lollipop people and we dressed them in Victorian costume with card and string. We are also making a theatre which we have painted red and we will use our puppets in the theatre.
On Thursday the 3rd March 2016 was World Book Day and we all dressed up as our favorite characters from our favorite books, and we talked about our characters and who we would recommend our books to once we had finished reading them (see photo on the front page). Thanks to Mrs McFadzean we were able to add some exciting books to our library and we worked on books that we are making ourselves. There were lots of great costumes such as Florence Nightingale, Indian Jones, a 'Secret Seven' character, a Borrowers character, a pirate, dinosaurs, Mr Willy Wonka, Tron, a cat and a Dalmatian puppy. Hugh was a dinosaur and shared his book with A-Z dinosaurs. Judy shared her love of the 'Borrowers' which we really enjoyed finding out about. We enjoyed hearing the story that Mr Murray read to us on the big screen. We liked his 'Where's Wally' outfit too!
We have also been using our soil testing kit to test our soil so we can add the right nutrients to help our plants to grow.
Next issue we will let you know all about our trip to Glasgow!
ISLE OF CANNA
Here we were thinking spring had sprung when we had a week of decent weather and even managed to get out of waterproofs for a few days, however, it didn't last and we are back to the rain.
A huge thank you to the Ambulance Service who have very kindly donated a Defibrillator to the island which has been set up beside our Coastguard Station.
Thanks also to Chris Deplano for collecting it and bringing it to Canna.
All the local small businesses are open and ready for visitors, Cafe Canna, Tighard Guest House, Canna Creations, Hebridean Beauty, Burnbank Self Catering and Isebail MacKinnon's new Canna Campsite Business which will add another option for visitors. She has two caravans currently for let and next month there will be an update on progress: check her out at CannaCampsite.com
There are lots of calves on the farm and as Murdo got the fertilizer out early there should be a good bite of grass for lambing which starts on the 20th.
Canna 'waulkers' gather around the kitchen table to support Maggie's Highlands and make a difference for people affected by cancer
The people of Canna island got together recently to hold a 'waulking' for Maggie's Kitchen Table Day - Gather and Give, a new fundraising campaign for the charity which offers free practical, emotional and social support for people with cancer and their family and friends. Six members of the tiny community of 17 gathered on Friday, 4th March at the kitchen table in Canna House and raised more than £100 to support people affected by cancer. They were joined in the celebrations by folk singer Christine Kydd. Maggie's Kitchen Table Day saw friends, families and colleagues getting together across Scotland to create their own events to "gather and give" to make a difference for people affected by cancer.
The event on Canna involved 'waulking the tweed', the traditional practise of beating newly woven tweed while singing to keep the rhythm. Canna House was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1981 by folklorists John and Margaret Campbell who had lived on the island for decades, collecting thousands of Gaelic songs and stories from the Hebrides, including hundreds of waulking songs.
The house and the Campbells' collection are cared for by the Trust. Fiona Mackenzie, who is the archivist at Canna House and a Gaelic singer, organised the event. She said: "The traditional kitchen of the House has a big table which is perfect for the ancient craft of 'waulking the tweed' and the local residents have established a regular Friday afternoon session of singing waulking songs.
"Singing songs for Maggie's seemed a perfect activity to do in the big kitchen of Canna House, giving something back whilst having fun at the same time - so important when residents may be marooned on the island for weeks in the winter!" The big kitchen table is at the heart of Maggie's Highlands as a place where people come together to talk and share their experiences. Maggie's Kitchen Table Day aimed to celebrate that togetherness by inviting people to come up with their own event which could be as creative and original or as simple as they like. It could be a tea party or just a coffee with a friend, or it could be a table-top craft sale, a book club bake off or a night of cocktails and card games. It could take place at home, at work, in school or even on a mountaintop!
Carole Bridge, Centre Head at Maggie's Highlands, said: "We are so grateful that the people of Canna took part in Maggie's Kitchen Table Day. Maggie's Highlands relies entirely on voluntary donations to allow us to keep on developing our unique programme of support for people affected by cancer and to be able to offer that support to everyone who needs it."
Funds raised by Maggie's Kitchen Table Day can make a real difference to people in the Highlands and Islands who have been affected by cancer: £30 pays for an exercise class for up to 10 people, £50 pays for a Centre visitor to spend an hour with a Benefits Advisor getting financial advice and £65 pays for one hour of psychological support for a family.
Built in the grounds of Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, Maggie's Highlands is a warm and welcoming place, with qualified professionals on hand to offer an evidence-based core programme of support that has been shown to improve physical and emotional wellbeing.
Maggie's Highlands relies on voluntary donations to support and grow its network of Centres and to develop its unique, high quality programme of support. The charity's aim is to make the biggest difference possible to people living with cancer and their family and friends.
To find out more about Maggie's Highlands and to see how the Centre supports people with cancer across the Highlands and Islands please visit the Centre at Raigmore Hospital, Inverness or go to www.maggiescentres.org/highlands. Advice and support are also available from Maggie's Online at www.maggiescentres.org/onlinecentre. The online Centre is available 24 hours a day and staffed from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
Criomagan (Crumbs…..) from Canna House
March has been a very busy month in Canna House with the documentation process proceeding and lots of interesting objects being discovered! Indie is working very hard on her documenting of Margaret Campbell's collection of cats, in particular - ornaments and all sorts of other feline manifestations! Numbers increase every day!
March saw Canna House participating in a fundraiser for Maggies Highland Hospice and organising a 'Kitchen Table Day'. Out activity was to hold a waulking around the kitchen table and having a bake sale to raise funds and have fun at the same time. The tiny community on Canna managed to raise over £100 for the charity.
Later in March, Canna archivist Fiona J Mackenzie, made a 'song' presentation about the life and work of Margaret and John Campbell, to an audience of 800 at the Inverness Fiddlers rally at Eden Court and was delighted with the response. Fiona will shortly be travelling to Nova Scotia to present lectures on the work of the Campbells at conferences and Universities throughout the State.
"Latha na Gogaireachd" or April Fools Day, passed uneventfully on Canna apart from an unusual picture of a Heinz tomato ketchup bottle appearing alongside a brass pan in Canna House reported to have been used by Mrs Heinz to boil up the first ever batch of tomato ketchup…..
ISLE OF EIGG
Not the most eventful month in the year so far, just busy with the lengthening days and taking advantage of what precious few days of glorious weather there were to be enjoyed!
Few things do stand out though. Community spring cleaning at the pier and orchard pruning have taken place, leaving us feeling very virtuous. Steven's stag do in Mallaig which was by all accounts a very enjoyable affair. Saira and George had a house warming for their bothy on one of the few weekends it's not been booked: a great space and a great location. Pascal and Catherine had a well-attended willow workshop in their newly organised workshop space, everyone leaving with a basket or a clutch of table decorations. (They are the next Eigg couple which will be tying the knot!). Big flurry of excitement about the sightings of Northern lights, prompted by Ben and Greg's lovely pictures, although they provide pretty elusive most of the time. Then we had the arrival of our new Wildlife warden, straight from the isle of Samos where he was having an interesting time working hard to persuade the local die hard hunters to stop from blasting tiny birds out of the sky. Dean Jones- now nicknamed Derry Dean - originally comes from Derry and says he inherited his twitcher genes from his father who taught him all about birdwatching by taking him to Rathlin Island, a place which is not that dissimilar to Eigg, so that he already feels right at home. The Isle of Eigg residents association had its AGM and returned all current office bearers. There were some discussion about the new Glamping scheme for the pier area, but on the whole everyone thinks it will provide a useful facility. Watch out for wooden wigwams this summer! Finally, the Easter weekend brought us many friends and visitors, together with the return of Sandy Brechin and his crew. Sandy who was last playing on Eigg 10 years ago is so brilliant at calling dances and it was a pleasure to experiment with some new steps: the lively Riverside Jig might well become an Eigg favourite… it was also nice as always to hear Marie and Angus playing the button box together in the café. Angus has such style!
Meanwhile, there was much relief all around when we heard that Calmac had managed to work around this summer 's very busy Mallaig ferry schedule to keep the Loch Nevis in its usual berth, and prevent the use the gangway as had originally been thought of! Thanks goodness that common sense does prevail at times, as there is enough disruption to travelling from the work carried out in Glasgow Queen Street station…In any case, we wish Cal Mac good luck for the ferry tender bid, it is really appreciated that they have taken on board all the issues surrounding freight that have been discussed for the past few months.
ISLE OF RUM
Other than a few crocus and daffodils, there are still no discernible signs of spring. The persistent rain has taken its toll on the waterlogged ground moving any attempts at planting seeds inside and under plastic.
Life goes on regardless… new pigs arrived on Croft 3, Nic and Ady have taken in two very big pigs to add to the menagerie, it is hoped that the new boar will replace the late Tom to breed with the sows. Croft 3 will also have a string of volunteers this summer to help on the croft and with other more creative pursuits with their cob building - the pizza oven worked really well!
Joss and Eve and Rum primary are all about Stick Man at the moment, he is everywhere and nowhere … there was a respite when the postman brought news that both girls' poems, which had been entered into a competition, were being published. Huzzah!!
Jinty is having improvements carried out at the post office courtesy of a successful grant application, to make the post office counter a bit more official and a bit less 'island'. Jinty's new cabin on the campsite has also just started its first season too and with the possibility of a couple more from another budding entrepreneur, we should see the number of beds available to visitors increase to a better level.
Dave has finished the road works in the village and SNH have completed their works on the Harris and Kilmory tracks. The upgrade to the Coire Dubh path is nearly complete - it is probably the most walked footpath on the island and the work carried out will make it accessible to more people and a much kinder walk. SNH plan to put in some interpretation and a viewpoint up at the dam as well.
The only fly in the ointment is the bridge over the Kilmory river being blown off its foundations in one of the storms, the only way to get over to the beach now is to put your wellies on and cross the river itself. We are hoping that it will be repaired or replaced soon.
A recent liaison meeting with SNH brought no new news about Kinloch Castle, which despite being open for tours around the principle wing is still struggling and in need of serious repair and on-going care. The Friends of Kinloch Castle visited this month and carried out some welcome voluntary work in the grounds and inside but with the castle staff complement down to minimal levels, it is difficult for all but the most basic work to be carried out.
After the success of curry night in the village hall, we had 'cheese night' - which I believe was a good mix of corniness and actual cheese based food! Next is 'childhood favourites' night, which will be all about fish fingers, instant whip, Swiss roll and those dodgy savoury pancakes that we had to eat.
News in Brief
A body recovered from the shoreline of the Isle of Rum could be missing kayaker Jason Chung Wai-Ho. Relatives of missing kayaker have been informed though no formal identification has been released. Mr Chung Wai-Ho, 39, from Glasgow, was last seen on Traigh beach, Arisaig on Wednesday January 13th with his inflatable canoe when an off-duty policeman warned him against setting off in unsettled weather. An extensive land and sea search was carried out by Police Scotland, Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team, Skye Mountain Rescue Team, Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Scotland, HM Coastguard rescue teams and RNLI Lifeboat personnel. The body was spotted by a member of the public on Friday 25th March and was taken to the mainland by police officers, who attended with the coastguard.
Our MSP Dave Thompson used his last speech in the House of Commons to make a case for the Inner Hebrides and West Highlands to be treated as special cases in their own right and to highlight the need for communities to have real power. He said "We must look at the Inner Hebrides and the west Highlands as special cases. Geography must be taken into account when we look at council boundaries and sizes, as well as when we are looking at constituencies for the Scottish Parliament. It is not fair on constituents that they have so far to go to meet their MSPs. The Government could give the Highlands and Islands a pilot project to see whether it works."
MARY AND TOBY ARE RURAL HEROES!
NEWS FROM MALLAIG HARBOUR April 2016
Ten Year Masterplan
The contract to produce a Ten Year Masterplan for Mallaig Harbour and the village has been awarded to Lymington, Hants based Fisher Consultants, a firm with extensive expertise in the production of Master planning documentation for Ports & Harbours. Initial meetings between the Authority and Fisher Associates have been positive and the consultants have been able to assimilate information and ideas from two Harbour Stakeholders/Users Workshops which occurred in The Community Centre on Thursday 7th April. Public consultation via an Open Meeting for anyone to attend, is scheduled for early July and will be advertised in West Word.
CalMac's 2016 summer ferry schedules commenced on Friday 25th March and although the Lord of The Isles (LOTI) did carry out its inaugural Lochboisdale to Mallaig crossing worsening weather conditions meant it was deployed to Oban where the booked vehicles on the Mallaig to Lochboisdale evening run were diverted.
Poor weather on the Saturday also impacted on both the Lochboisdale and Mallaig - Armadale runs and the same scenario unfolded on Friday 1st April when only the Lochnevis was able to sail to the Small Isles.
Problems have continued in to the second week of April with over 20 cancellations on the Mallaig - Armadale service being shown on the CalMac website. The reason given is tidal conditions!
It's interesting to note that MV Coruisk - not assigned to the Mallaig - Armadale route this summer - rarely if ever was affected by low tidal conditions.
MV Lochinvar, assisted by the LOTI will be carrying out the Mallaig - Armadale ferry service this summer with the Loch Bhrusda augmenting the Skye ferry service during the peak travel period of 24th June to 27th August.
01687 462154 email@example.com
This has been a very quiet month for the RNLI Volunteers with only one call for assistance. However this period of quietness is not expected to last long as the spring and summer months will soon be here and more people will be taking to the water. Hopefully the call-outs will be few and far between.
Tuesday 16th February 2016
Launched to the assistance of the fishing vessel Guide Us by Stornoway Coastguard at 20:20hrs. Whilst on passage North to Mallaig Guide Us engine failed off Ardnamurchan Point. The local trawler Contest rendered assistance and took the Guide Us under tow but due to having no method of pumping other than her engine Guide Us began to fill with water from a leak discovered in her hold. It was decided to heave to and request assistance from the Coastguard who launched the Lifeboat. Once alongside the casualty the Lifeboat transferred onboard two salvage pumps which quickly had the bilges in the hold and engine room dry. With Guide Us alongside the Contest and Lifeboat, a tow was commenced for Mallaig. With a calm clear night good time was made and Guide Us was berthed alongside at the steps to await high tide and beaching at 01:20 on Wednesday morning.
Lifeboat ready for service at 01:20 hr.
From A Personal Angle
Am indebted to Mallaig man Archie Gillies, now residing in Gisborne, New Zealand, for sending in this cracking photograph of a truly memorable day in Mallaig's history - the 10th July 1958. The occasion was the naming ceremony of the Mallaig Lifeboat, the Barnett Class EMM Gordon Cubbin by Princess Marina, the Duchess of Kent, and it is believed to have attracted the biggest crowd ever seen in Mallaig.
As Archie states in his email, the local Boy Scouts and Girl Guides from Mallaig and Morar formed the Guard of Honour, and he has listed the names of the Scouts as follows:
R to l: Donnie Simpson, Andy Gillies, Archie Gillies, John Henderson, Alan Johnston, Ewen Robertson, the MacEachen brothers from Morar, 'Beefy' Boyd, George Downie (Assistant Scout Master).
The lady patrolling the wooden walkway is Lizzie Orr, Girl Guide leader.
The Lord Lieutenant Lord Macdonald travelled from Inverness by car for the occasion and after the naming ceremony by Princess Marina The Glasgow Police Band marched from the Fish Pier up Davies Brae to the West Highland Hotel, followed and observed by locals, visitors and guests.
The Small Isles Marine Protected Area
I was interested to read the piece that Ms Camille Dressler put into the last edition of West Word when she voiced her concerns over the fan mussel community in Canna Sound and her view that the Small Isles Community Council was supporting the swift implementation of the Small Isles Marine Protected Area. Ms Dressler has made many points and hopefully I can assuage her fears and the fears of the Small Isles Community Council in my response on behalf of the Mallaig & North West Fishermen's Association. First of all I would like to point out that the MNWFA is, in general, supportive of MPAs and it is only the recent process as opposed to the principle that we feel that has let down the fishing industry and in particular, the mobile sector.
The fan mussel population in Canna Sound was discovered by Marine Scotland Science in 2009 when it was surveying the area using deep water cameras. The ground had been used as a dredge spoil area by the Small Isles ferry dredging operations in the early 2000s but has not been used for this purpose since these video operations. Further survey work was carried out by Scottish National Heritage in 2010 looking for more information on this fan mussel population and in particular, their distribution in the area. Fan mussels are a protected species under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.
Ms Dressler said that it is the scallop fishery that is the greatest threat to the fan mussels but the scallop fishery is, in reality, not a threat at all. The area of interest that the MNWFA has in regard to scallops in the Canna Sound fishery is the shallower water of the Kilmory Point tow that is off the north west shoreline of Rum which is not even close to the fan mussel population. This area that the MNWFA has queried has no record that the MNWFA has seen of any of the marine features required for protection, let alone fan mussels, and as the MPA process was about the preservation of features, we would query why this ground was only latterly proposed for closure. It was not put forward for closure in the initial consultation exercise and the original proposals were supported by SNH as fulfilling the conservation objectives required for the area.
It is only the mobile nephrops fishery in Canna Sound that works even close, in terms of distance, to the fan mussels but once again we would query why there is concern about any possible damage to the fan mussels. We were told by SNH that the site on which the fan mussels inhabit was originally selected as a dredge spoil site because 'it was not a fishing area' and this would be supported from the verbal interviews that we have had with fishermen. This assertion would also be supported by the Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) data for the area that is the satellite monitoring system legally required for all vessels over 12 metres in length to carry on board. The nephrops that they are towing for in that area only inhabit the grounds that go down to a depth of 50 fathoms. Fishing below that depth for nephrops would be pointless as there is not the mud to support them. Or to put it more simply, the fan mussels are protected by the terrains on which they live on as these grounds do not provide any commercially exploitable species. If Ms Dressler was to look at the Admiralty charts of the area she would see that there is a deep trench going from the east of Canna to Soay Sound in which the fan mussels live. The nephrops grounds that the MNWFA has asked to be considered are on the shallower bank near Rum and not in the deep water where the fan mussels live.
It was mentioned in the piece that the fan mussel population is an asset to the Small Isles and indeed to Scotland and we would not dispute this. We have tried to impress on Marine Scotland and indeed Richard Lochhead our willingness to engage in this matter and we have, amongst other things, offered up nephrops grounds elsewhere to assist in the decision making process. If it were likely that we could get some sort of understanding with the Small Isle Community Council so that everybody could walk away feeling that their interests had been addressed then we would be happy to meet up and discuss the issues that Ms Dressler has raised..
Tom Bryan-Brown, CEO, MNWFA
ON AN OFF THE RAILS
I think a look back at what did and what did not take place in March deserves an explanation. I write this column at the end of the previous month and, at the time of writing can only be as accurate as I can be at that moment in time. Events change rapidly and, after it has been committed to print, I can only explain changes that occur during the following month. Take the case of cancelled excursion trains (three) and some ScotRail services being changed to 'bustitution'. It is hard for local restaurants, cafes, bars, hotels, B & Bs and guest houses who are all affected when these alterations/cancellations occur. I try to let you all know as best I can to prepare for these events and, to that end, will do so to the best of my ability and I thank you for your kind feedback. Just let's keep calm and carry on and the good times will come!
By the time West Word goes to print we will have welcomed in the first returning Vintage Diesel hauled train of the year into Mallaig. Sunday April 3rd is the due date for the arrival of The Winter West Highland Statesman, operated by Statesman Rail in partnership with West Coast Railways, as part of a three day visit to the West Highlands from London Euston.
We visited Model Rail Scotland, where one of the star attractions was a fully working 00 gauge layout of Glenfinnan Station in the 1970s/1980s. Families were standing four deep to watch the action. Children were lifted shoulder high to observe, and then cried when the parents moved away! A truly accurate representation of the area, and one that would make people want to visit our area. The 50th anniversary Show did not disappoint. There was so much to look at, and on the opening day the queue for early entry stretched right down the SECC. A true meeting place for like-minded people, a lot of whom had flasks, sandwich boxes and roll film caneras! But wre young at heart and were showing the grandchildren all things mechanical!!
Next came a gloriously sunny, mirror image, snow on the ground day trip by ScotRail to the re-opening of Rannoch Station Tea Room. It was very well supported by customers and Jenny was very nearly overwhelmed with the reception she got from one and all. More photographs of Rannoch Station in years gone by have been added to the tea-room display, including a wonderful photograph of a gentleman having a barber trim his hair on the platform whilst waiting for the train to arrive - priceless archive material! I came away with purchased boxes of Victoria sponge to give to friends - and one for myself.
Last week we went through Rannoch again on our way to the Annual ScotRail Adopt-a-Station day at the Grand Central Hotel on Glasgow Central Station. We had pre-ordered bacon rolls from Rannoch which were delivered to our train, with the correct money handed over! This was Abellio's first hosting of the event which allows all Station Adopters from Scotland to network, swap seeds and photos, socialise and celebrate the diverse groups that come together and garden at Railway Stations. This year the format of the event was put together by 'Keep Scotland Beautiful' with the emphasis on Biodiversity and Seeds for Scotland. Health and Safety guidelines are now to the fore as is paperwork! but it has to have its role in voluntary gardening. There were many interesting speakers, questions and answer sessions, lots of emphasis on how to encourage bees, butterflies and wildlife, but nothing on how to deal with rollicking rogue seagulls. The problem (and it really is a problem at Mallaig Railway Station) is the number of returning, nesting pairs that we get each year. Already there are fourteen pairs of gulls at the Station just waiting to mate!! Then the trouble really starts. The nests are built each year on roof tops, alongside the rails, on ballast heaps etc etc. They are messy, unhygienic and a danger to visitors who sit and practically lie down on the platform to photograph them! Each nest is home to at least two chicks, and the parents, naturally, get aggressive to protect and feed them. They defecate on the platform, plants, seats and barrel trains, even on people's heads!! Last year we pressure washed the areas constantly, but this year, due to Health and Safety regulations, we are not allowed to do this. The resulting mess is not going to be pleasant!
If Network Rail or Abellio/ScotRail, Squire or even Highland Council are reading this - is there a solution? Maybe dummy eggs could be introduced - but by whom? It is the food source that encourages them, but as feeding one becomes a mob of twenty it is not a good idea. Anyone who can offer a solution please contact me on 01687 462189 - thanks.
The Royal Scotsman Luxury Touring train will visit the area no fewer than fourteen times this season. This year the contract to haul it has been awarded to GBRF (Great Britain Rail Freight) with a possibility of Top and Tail Class 73's being used into Mallaig. On the two occasions when GBRF was contracted by The Royal Scotsman, a Class 55 Deltic and a Class 66mGM were used on the Fort William - Mallaig section, so come and have a lookat the Class 73's, the locomotives that I have written about in my previous columns.
The first visit by this train into Mallaig will be on Saturday April 23rd. The on board guests will have the option of a coastal coach trip by leaving the train at Arisaig and re-joining it there after a visit to Morar sands where they can paddle in the sea. This does mean, of course, that very often when the train comes into Mallaig it only contains the crew! However, it is well worth a peek through the carriage windows at the beautifully appointed interior o the train if you are around Mallaig Station when it comes in at around 10.40 and departs at 11.40. Very often, visiting moored up yacht personnel come along to see it.
The Jacobite returns for its 22nd season
As a community we look forward to the return of the service, hosted by West Coast Railways, on Monday May 9th. I included all the dates in last month's West Word column, but if in any doubt go to www.jacobitetrain.com or 0844 850 4685.
James Shuttleworth, WCRC's Commercial Director, and his wife Sarah visited Mallaig at the end of March to thank all the local businesses and supporters for 'keeping calm and carrying on' until the news became public at midday on March 23rd that the temporary prohibition notice placed on the Company's Safety Certification in December 2015 had been lifted by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). The Director of Railway Safety and HM Chief Inspector of Railways, Ian Prosser, has said "A decision to stop ANY train from running rail services is never taken lightly. I am satisfied that West Coast Railway Company have now taken all the necessary steps to address the issues of concern on safety, such that I am now able to lift the prohibition. We shall continue to closely monitor WCRC over the coming period to ensure that their approach is embedded into the culture of the Company, and that they fully comply with all the commitments they have made. Fit and proper safety management is one of the reasons we now enjoy the safest railway in Europe. ORR will never compromise on safety."
In reply, WCRC has committed to - and ORR have now received - "evidence of assurances that steps have been taken to remedy the issues. These included the introduction of clear governance structures with proper accountability for safety. More robust risk assessments and enhanced processes for managing staff, with a focus on safety culture."
There is much more written by both parties on their websites, but the main priority now, from the community point of view is that we can all stop holding our breath, heave a sigh of relief and turn up to welcome in the first Jacobite of the new season on Monday May 9th!
An awful lot has been written about the subject, and I've had locals raise it with me in the street, the dentist's waiting room, every shop in Mallaig, the trains, even drivers halting in the road whilst I'm out walking (or pushing my trolley!) - namely "Why haven't CalMac and ScotRail got together on the subject of passengers coming into Mallaig for the new daily Lochboisdale to Mallaig sailing and not being able to connect up on arriving and departing?"
The answer, and I'm sure by the time this is printed you will know the answer - is this:
Abellio and Calmac could not alter their timings as in both cases it would affect services they join up to outwith our area. So, their solution is - thanks to the intervention of Hi Trans, CalMac, Sheil Buses and the Scottish Government, who all had to agree to this - to put on a bus service to join things up - brilliant!
From 11th April there is an amended timetable. Tickets can be purchased from Citylink in advance or at the Travel Centre in Fort William or on the bus. You can use your concessionary ticket and you don't have to be travelling on the CalMac ferry. Eventually it is hoped that through ticketing or coach/bus/ferry will be available and smart Card ticketing - but not just yet.
I have been assured that from Tuesday March 29th timetables will be delivered to Mallaig Visitor Centre, the Harbour Shop, and presumably the CalMac office.
What this does mean for locals in Mallaig with bus passes, not travelling to or from Lochboisdale, is that this direct bus from the Pier at Mallaig will travel into and out of Fort William on a daily basis. For further information telephone The Travel Centre, Fort William, on 01397 700700.
Competition and Book Review
The Book: The Waverley Route: its Heritage and Revival. Author: Ann Glen. ISBN: 978-911177-04-3. A4 softback, £20 incl. postage, available directly from the author via Sonia Cameron, 01687 462189.
This magnificent book, with a forward by David Steel (the Rt. Hon. Lord Steel of Aikwood) cannot be done justice in the space available.
Suffice to say that it covers the story of the Waverley Route from its inception to completion of the reconstructed line to Tweedbank in 2015.
The author, Ann Glen, comes from a family of civil and mechanical engineers with links to railways. She is a graduate of Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities and a father of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and is by profession a geographer and economic historian. Steve and I are proud to be called her friends. She is also a Station Adopter at Airdrie! Phew, ann, I take my hat off to you for what you have achieved in this book, it is remarkable, as are you.
Question: What is the ISBN No. of the book The Waverley Route?
Answers on a postcard please to Sonia Cameron, Fasgadh, Marine Place, Mallaig PH41 4RD to arrive no later than Thursday April 28th to try to win a copy of this book. Good luck.
News on the West Highland Diversions
As from Monday 20th March all West Highland train services run into Glasgow Queen Street Low Level Station. This is to allow essential engineering work to be carried out in order to lower the track bed in the exit-entrance tunnel to enable engineers to construct the overhead cable gantries when the Glasgow/Edinburgh route is eventfully electrified. This work in the tunnel will last for 20 weeks, so all trains which would normally depart and arrive at High Level are being diverted to either Low Level or Glasgow Central. They wi take different routes to normal so if you fancy seeing parts of Glasgow you don't normally see on a West Hoghland line train, now is your chance and you might even get to do it on a £5 ticket!
See you on the train!
BIRDWATCH March 2016 by Stephen MacDonald
A good number of birds on the move this month, with some of our first Summer migrants showing up and some of our Winter visitors moving out.
The first Sand Martins were back at the west end of Loch Morar on the 30th, and a very early House Martin was seen over Loch nan Eala on the 31st.
Whooper Swans were seen and heard flying north from mid-month and the Whooper on Loch nan Eala had also left by the end of the second week. Geese were also migrating north, with groups of Greenland White-front seen over Morar on the 29th. A single
Barnacle Goose was seen resting on a small lochan near Arisaig on the morning of the 31st.
Small flocks of Redwings were also on the move, with birds seen around Arisaig, Traigh and Morar.
The Leucistic Great Northern Diver was still to be seen at the mouth of Loch nan Ceall mid-month. A breeding plumaged
Black-throated Diver was back on Loch Eilt on the 8th and Red-throated Divers were seen and heard flying inland to their breeding lochs from the 20th.
The wintering Greenshank was seen several times on the Morar Estuary and a Gannet was seen close inshore of Camusdarach on the 28th.
More Siskins and Lesser Redpolls appearing at garden feeders as the month progressed. A pair of Twite were seen at feeders in a Morar garden on the 19th and numbers increased until at least 11 birds were seen on the 27th. A pair of Bullfinches were stripping the buds of a plum tree in a garden near Woodside, Morar, during the last few days of the month.
A Tawny Owl was seen peering from its usual nest site in Arisaig on the 31st and Long Eared Owls were seen and heard near Traigh golf course on the 28th.
Sea Eagles were reported from Morar and Arisaig on several occasions during the month.
A most interesting sighting was that of a Kingfisher seen on the topside of the hydro dam on the Morar River. It was first seen on the 6th and then twice on the 8th. A rare visitor this far west in Lochaber, although it is now established at several locations along the Great Glen, including Gairlochy and the Inverness area.
Wide World West Word
We've been right round the world again this month!
Chris from Cafe Canna on the Isle of Canna took this picture of West Word in front of the Newborn monument whilst visiting Pristina, Kosovo.
Margaret Flockhart, a subscriber from Perth, says 'of course' she took West Word with her on her trip to Machu Picchu, Peru.
Christine and Charles Murray, who are familiar faces in Arisaig, made sure they took their West Word on their 'fab wee trip' to Brazil where they climbed up to the Christ the Redeemer statue above Rio de Janeiro.
Shelley and Malcolm Ross, ex Arisaig, packed their copy and read it at their hotel on the Island of Koh Lanta in the south of Thailand
Iain, Jo, Calum, and Anna Wilson from Knoydart found a beautiful spot to read their West Word by Mount Cook in New Zealand.
Mallaig's Jim Morton took his copy on a recent trip to Dublin to watch the rugby international between Ireland and Scotland. Jim says Pity about the score!! The snap was taken at the Ha'penny Bridge across the River Liffey.
Watch this space for extracts from next month's issue!
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