Part Six - Dua
Despite having lived in the Highlands for over 4 years now I had never been to Glen Nevis before starting the Ranger course at West Highland College. Instinctively I had classed the area as a busy tourist destination to be avoided.
It is hard to describe the moment I first laid eyes on Steall Meadow, we had taken the high path which gave us a sudden high view of this hidden landscape. It was completely empty of other people and in my mind's eye I could see its potential, with the native woodland reaching across both hillsides. A hidden pocket of biodiversity managed by small scale crofters. It even isn’t too hard to imagine a pair of brown bear cubs playing in the river, or a pack of wolves chasing deer across the meadow.
Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to get close and personal with Steall, building and maintaining paths, surveying habitat and taking part in herbivore impact assessments. Every single time I found something new, learnt something new and developed an understanding for the site and its needs.
It has been a privilege to contribute just a little bit in the conservation and improvement of this gem I never knew existed.
Part Five - Andrew
Over the last five months, completing the John Muir Award as part of the Countryside Skills with Ranger Training course has been an exciting and interesting experience. During the course we had the opportunities to work with some great organisations, The John Muir Trust, The Woodland Trust and Nevis Landscape Partnership. Through these organisations we visited and explored some interesting locations and learned a lot about them. As part of visiting these different locations we took part in tasks that would benefit the areas including halo thinning in Glen Nevis, stile Building at the Allt a’ Mhuillinn and juniper planting at Loch Arkaig.
We were lucky to be able to come to a new area in March and allowed to do practical work during the lockdown, and it was great to see the areas change through the seasons. As well as the practical tasks we also had some interesting discussions regarding land use, land access and people’s responsibilities in the areas. It was great knowing that what we were doing will have a positive impact on the sites and in the future, we will be able to come back and see this.
Part Four - Katie
Having grown up in Fort William and spent a lot of time in the area after university I was initially sceptical about how much I'd be able to take from the John Muir Award. However, I was wrong. I really appreciated the prompt to go out and discover and explore places which I thought I knew well. It was refreshing to see places like Steall Gorge, somewhere I've walked through hundreds of times before, through fresh eyes. By just veering off the main path 50m and paying attention to plants and trees I wouldn't normally I was able to appreciate how lucky I've been to live and work in such a special place. Whilst working with the staff from Nevis Landscape Partnership, Woodland Trust and John Muir Trust I learned more about Glen Nevis and Loch Arkaig, places I thought I knew well. I improved my winter tree, bird and plant ID skills. It was fantastic to be learning alongside like-minded people who had all come from different backgrounds. The skills and experiences I was able to learn and share with them are invaluable.
A particular highlight was doing an interpretation project on the people and cultural heritage of South Loch Arkaig, mentored by Woodland Trust's Jessica Maxwell. I found it really enjoyable having time to delve into the history of the area and to produce an interpretation product which might be able help other people understand the past land uses of Loch Arkaig. The other stand out was a week learning how to build drystane dykes, a skill which I'm excited to get out and use again (preferably with less midgies next time)!
Part Three - Charlotte
Doing the award as part of the Countryside skills and Ranger training course at WHC has been interesting. I was new to the area so I’ve discovered several new places and explored on foot or sometimes on my bike. Sometimes with the class and sometimes alone. I’ve spent most time in Glen Nevis. I’ve learnt how to identify trees in winter and that you can use bog myrtle as a midge repellent. Tasted wood sorrel, yarrow and beech leaves. Learnt how to make charcoal and practised making fire. Made two stiles. Learning dry stone walling was great, I wanted to do that for a long time and it was really enjoyable. Another week we repaired a path, made steps and water bars, they looked very good and you can see it’s useful making it easier for people to walk and not make more informal paths and braiding or the water washing the path away. Planting Scots Pine in Glen Nevis was one of the highlights and also Juniper planting at Loch Arkaig, it’s great to think of them being big trees in the future. Did surveys of trees, heathland and woodland. Seen deer, eagles, frogs, a newt. Had a good time.
Planting native Scots Pine on the south slopes of Ben Nevis
Part Two - Bryon
Hi folks, my name is Bryon and I would like to take the opportunity to share with you some of our achievements during the NQ Countryside Skills and Ranger Training. During the course we have been mentored by the Nevis Land Partnership, John Muir Trust and the Woodland Trust, and spent out time exploring Glen Nevis and Loch Arkaig. Over the last five months we have discovered and explored areas either side on Ben Nevis, from this awesome style build (pictured above), at Allt a’ Mhuillinn, path building at Steall Ruins to Planting the first trees at Loch Arkaig since the 1960’s.
It was great to come to a new area to study and watch it grow through the spring. We spent a lot of time out in the Glen identifying trees and wild flowers and learning about our new surrounding. We even got the opportunity to contribute to conservation in Glen Nevis through activities including;
Heathland and Tree Monitoring, to monitor the browsing pressure form deer and sheep on the land.
Path building, ensuring that human footfall does not erode and braid the landscape.
Halo Thinning, at the old SNH enclosure, some branch cutting and Birch felling to allow room for the native Scots Pine Regeneration in the Glen.
It’s been a very fulfilling few months contributing to conservation of Glen Nevis. I hope you will enjoy our contributions.
Building a new Allt a’ Mhuillin Stile, path to North Face of Ben Nevis.
This is the 2021 Countryside Skills and Ranger Training Course, being run by West Highland College / UHI and The Nevis Landscape Partnership, in conjunction with the John Muir Trust, Woodland Trust Scotland and Jahama Highland Estates.
As part of our course, we are completing the John Muir Explorer Award: Discovering new places, Exploring them and Conserving them. This is our Share, for the final part of the award, celebrating what we have achieved during our 18 weeks.
Our course started in January so lockdown meant that no practical work could be done at that point and the course was conducted online. We learned about the John Muir Award and also about John Muir as well. Some of us did some mini discovering and exploring in our own neighborhoods and shared that amongst the course but it was a huge relief at the start of March when we were allowed to start outdoor practical training. Here we are (socially distanced!!) on our first week at Achriabhach in Glen Nevis, getting ready to do battle with some invasives (Rhododendron ponticum)
During the course we visited, discovered, explored and conserved in and on Glen Nevis, The Ben Nevis Mountain Path, The Allt a Mhuilinn, Upper Glen Nevis and Steall and the ancient Pinewoods of Glen Mallie, Loch Arkaig. Some of the team explored further afield outside the course including the rugged coastline of the sound of Arisaig, the high tops of the Mamores and also an Eagles nesting site in Argyll.
We hoped to team up with the new John Muir Junior Rangers or the local Scouts to do a share in person at the ends of the course but continuing lockdown restrictions haven’t allowed that. Instead we have written some personal pieces to share our highlights of our time here, enjoy!