The weekend saw the great success of celebrating the Wild Festival on Saturday 29 September, despite the undeterred rain.
In the final year of the Heritage Lottery Funded programme, we wanted to celebrate everything that has been accomplished over the last four years with the great support of our partners, volunteers, and other members of the community.
A range of activities provided hours of entertainment for the children, from clay moulding with John Muir Trust, bat crafts with the Highlife Highland countryside rangers, to a treasure trail and stone jewellery making with Friends of Nevis. Local musician Cormac Dolan joined the festivities in the afternoon to strum a few tunes then joined conservation officer Rowan Doff and a couple of our previous trainee volunteer rangers for some tree planting in an exclosure near Polldubh. The face painting tent, a staple part of any festival, was also a great hit.
Of great excitement to many of all ages was the Tyrolean traverse which was run by Mike Pescod of Abacus Mountain Guides and Hannah from Inside Out Climbing Club over the Lower Falls. Kids, teenagers and adults all enjoyed being roped over the rushing falls in a harness and luckily no one lost their welly boots. Further up the river, the Fisheries Trust were running a water sampling activity, getting kids to identify aquatic beasties from tadpoles to a small trout fish. There was also a foraged and wild foods workshop led by Outdoor Environmental educator Roisin Lyle – Collins which was run in partnership with Lochaber Environment Group. Lochaber Rotary Club also lent a hand by providing two gazebos for the day and a little gas stove to heat up water for coffee and tea for all those helping.
Overall the festival was a great success and was enjoyed by everyone. We would like to thank all those who helped put the event together and everyone who showed up to enjoy the all the wild things that the Nevis landscape has to offer. There are many opportunities to be part of the work that the Partnership do so if you would like to be involved, please visit www.nevislandscape.co.uk/events.
Nevis at Night raises funds for the Ben Nevis Fund, managed by the Nevis Partnership who work with a range of partners to manage, conserve and maintain Ben and Glen Nevis, the most iconic natural assets we have here in the Outdoor Capital of the UK.
On Saturday 22 September, 24 keen walkers set off to take on the UK’s highest mountain at night. The evening began around 4PM with three groups departing at different intervals to all arrive at the summit around 9PM. Nearing the summit, flood lights lit up the cairns, reflectors bounced light from head torches, and a tin whistle player filled the crisp air with music and poetry. Some of the first snowfall for the year on the summit and a dry evening with no rain made for a very successful event, enjoyed by all those involved, both participants and helpers from event organisers, Abacus Mountain Guides.
Not only did we raise funds that will go directly into the management of the Nevis area, we shone a light on Ben Nevis being a cause in its own right. It makes a fantastic venue for fundraising events and we want to people to enjoy this natural resource, but we would also like to encourage organisers and participants of charity and fundraising events to act responsibly. These events should both promote and practice leave no trace messaging and contribute to the cost of maintenance of the mountain and surrounding area so that the Ben can be enjoyed for many years into the future.
The Light Up Ben Nevis walk is the first stage in the Nevis at Night programme which we will grow into a large annual festival, accessible to everyone, and all in support of the essential work carried out by Nevis Partnership. The expanding programme will include a Dun Deardail walk in 2019 and an Elements Experience along the All Abilities Riverside Path between the Visitors Centre and the Youth Hostel in 2020 in an interactive exhibition with dance, sound, visual art and theatre.
Fund raising for those who participated in Nevis at Night is still open so if you would like to donate please visit www.justgiving.com/nevispartnership
Have you ever wondered what a LEGO model of an ancient fort looks like?
Well even if you haven't, you can see one now at the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. The Iron Age hillfort of Dun Deardail has been replicated in LEGO format by Brick to the Past. The model was designed to show a true likeness to the real fort, details of which came to light during our Dun Deardail Excavation, Vitrification & Outreach project. This was completed last year in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland.
You can go see it in the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre and pick up a copy of The Archeology of Dun Deardail book.
The model was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and The Highland CouncilDiscretionary Fund
By Freja MacDougall
“The oddest thing is these vitrified forts in Scotland. I just thought, how? After all, lasers were not common in the Stone Age.”
Arthur C. Clarke, Writer & Inventor
For over two-hundred and fifty years, archaeologists studying ancient Scottish ruins have reported a type of construction said to defy explanation. Vitrified forts, like Dun Deardail in Glen Nevis, continue to bewilder even the sharpest mind but this month Nevis Landscape Partnership & Forestry Commission Scotland will attempt to understand this fascinating process and the people who inhabited this impressive Iron Age settlement when we begin our third and final year of excavations.
“Some people think vitrification was a status symbol, some people think a settlement would be set alight and inadvertently vitrified in the process by attackers and some people think it’s a structural thing to do with strengthening the walls of the fort. Bottom line is, we’ll never know! That’s what’s nice about archaeology, different people come away with different interpretations about the history of Dun Deardail.”
Andy Heald, AOC Archaeology
The first and second seasons focused on two main aspects of the fort; the enclosing rampart wall and the internal terraces. Excavation has revealed the rampart wall was far thicker than originally thought and was probably topped with a strong timber palisade or timber superstructure. Slots for horizontal timbers within the wall were also discovered and traces of the charred timbers themselves which, thanks to radiocarbon dating, helped confirm that Dun Deardail has been around since 500BC.
The wonderful thing about archaeology is that for all the forensic investigation and laboratory analysis, we still need to use our imagination to recreate the past. Matthew Ritchie, Forestry Commission Scotland Archaeologist, has linked the burning of Dun Deardail with the Irish tale of the tragic heroine Deirdru. The creative narrative has been included in a new Outdoor Archaeological Learning resource, encouraging teachers to explore the use of archaeological methodology in the classroom and outdoors.
Almost 150 local residents, outdoor enthusiasts, community volunteers turned out on Sunday morning to celebrate the opening up of part of Glen Nevis for the enjoyment of all for the first time.
Difficult terrain had previously made the riverside path a no-go area for wheelchair users, elderly and frail visitors and families with young children.
But thanks to a £600,000 upgrade of the path and the provision of a new river crossing, all of these groups can now explore the countryside around the renowned Highland beauty spot.
Before inviting traditional musician Robert Robertson to declare the new 1.5 km route open, Alex Farquhar, chairman of The Nevis Partnership, which lead the two- year project in partnership with The Highland Council, told the attendance that partnership was the key to the success of the scheme.
He said: “This new All-ability Path & Bridge is testament to what can be achieved when organisations work in partnership. Of all our 19 projects this one is a facility for all to enjoy. However, it is impossible to bring together a project such as this without the help, funding and goodwill of a great many people and organisations.”
He thanked the Highland Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Sport Scotland, Active Places, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association and Alcan Highland Estates for their contribution to the initiative.
The day’s celebrations which included a march over the new bridge by the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band and hours of family activities and entertainment, were sponsored by GFG Estates, part of the GFG Alliance, which recently became the owner of a large part of Glen Nevis when the business bought the Lochaber aluminium smelter, hydro power stations and surrounding estate lands.
Jay Hambro, chief investment officer of the GFG Alliance, said: “We are very proud to have invested in the future of this part of the Highlands and are particularly pleased to work with groups like The Nevis Partnership to promote projects that add real value to the community. We are committed to working with regional agencies and local partners to maximise the economic and recreational use of the estate lands.”
Mr Farquhar told the gathering: “GFG Alliance have been nothing but supportive in this endeavour. We welcome them to the area and look forward to working with them on other projects in the future.”
Robert Robertson (centre) declares the new All Abilities Pathway at Glen Nevis open. With him are from left: David Ewart, SportScotland, Mike Conway, the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, Councillor Andrew Baxter of The Highands Council and Alex Farquhar, Chairman of The Nevis Partnership.
Following on from their hugely successful “Cut Your Own Christmas Tree” event Nevis Landscape Partnership were delighted to hear that a little extra help was heading their way.
The idea of chopping down non-native trees to encourage the growth and regeneration of Scots Pine in Glen Nevis naturally appealed to nature enthusiast Bear Grylls who visited the area yesterday. The aim of the visit was for Bear to learn all about the project and find out how he could do his bit for the once vast Caledonian Forest.
Freja MacDougall said : “Bear was really enthusiastic & engaged with what we are trying to do with this project. He spent a lot of time learning about how Scots Pine became endangered before assisting Henry Dobson, Forestry Commission with pine cone collection from a one-hundred year old tree. We want to instil Bear’s enthusiasm in all of our volunteers along with anybody who is interested in getting involved with our projects over the next five years.”
Climbing trees, collecting cones & helping save a forest proved to be all in a day’s work for the action man who was presented with a Scots Pine sapling as a thank you from all at Nevis Landscape Partnership. The sapling will be planted strategically to avoid interference from deer and non-native species ensuring Scots Pine will be present in Glen Nevis for the next generation of adventurers.
A team of scientists and mountaineers have made new discoveries on the highest mountain in the British Isles. Over the past two weeks, Ben Nevis has been the site of one of the most extensive and logistically challenging surveys to have taken place on a Scottish mountain.
Botanists, geologists, meteorologists and mountaineers have been drawn to this unique location for more than two centuries. However, much of this European designated Special Area of Conservation has remained inaccessible till now. Around 125 hectares of the mountain, known as the North Face, present a formidable barrier of 600m cliffs, gullies and buttresses.
Lead survey geologist, Roddy Muir of Midland Valley Exploration, commented "the team of professional mountaineers have been gathering new data with our recently developed FieldMove Clino App, as well as getting us onto the previously unrecorded cliff faces. The emerging data will be used in structural modelling software and will bring greater understanding of the processes which formed and changed the mountain. It is likely that we may have to revise the traditional model of a classic caldera collapse."
Abseiling the sheer rock faces which descend from the whaleback summit plateau has resulted in some important and unexpected geological discoveries. Breccias, formed by explosive eruptions have been located at significantly higher altitudes than existing geological maps show. The team have also been able to measure the original orientation of the ancient lavas where these rocks flowed out of the volcanic fissure.
The team of professional mountaineers used nearly 3,000 meters of rope, donated by Mammut, to access the steep terrain. British Mountain Guide, Mike Pescod, said "the main logistical challenge has been keeping the scientists safe whilst ensuring minimal impact on the fragile habitats within the Site of Special Scientific Interest. During the training week we developed an ecologically light-touch approach which incorporates mountain rescue systems alongside alpine and big-wall climbing techniques".
The team have had to contend with daily hikes up to the summit carrying huge reels of rope and other safety equipment. Mr Semple said "The combination of altitude, northerly latitude and proximity to the Atlantic imbue Ben Nevis with the fearsome status as one of the most changeable mountaineering environments in the world. The tail-end of hurricane Bertha ensured the mountain lived up to its reputation. “
After a winter of record snowfall the mountain has a distinctly alpine appearance. Snowfields remain in many gullies and are scattered around the upper scree slopes. These have compacted into dense, ice hard névé which is the first stage in the formation of glaciers. Sheets weighing hundreds of tons, with tunnels and fissures known as bergschrunds, present another set of challenges. Such hazards are common in arctic and alpine environments but are extremely unusual during a British summer.
Ben Nevis, standing 1344m above sea level, supports the greatest altitudinal range of habitats within the British Isles and has been attracting Botanists since 1767. Lead survey botanist, Ian Strachan, said "many of the rare Arctic-Alpine species we are searching for are relics from soon after the last ice age. Ben Nevis and a few other peaks in the Scottish Highlands provide the most southerly refuge for some of these species which can only survive due to the altitude and presence of semi-permanent snow fields."
After a week of intensive training by botanists, and with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) the mountaineers have been able to identify new locations for nationally rare and scarce plant species. Many new populations of high priority species such as Highland Saxifrage, Tufted Saxifrage and Wavy Meadow Grass have been recorded. Cathy Mayne, of SNH, said "the survey has exceeded all our expectations. Not only have we gathered potentially ground-breaking geological data and significantly added to the known populations of arctic-alpine species, the team have also discovered Alpine Saxifrage, which has never been found on the mountain before. Who knows what we might uncover over the next two years".
The survey is also the subject of a film which will be premiered at the Fort William Mountain Festival in 2015. The project, which is led by the Nevis Landscape Partnership working in collaboration with Midland Valley Exploration, is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, The Highland Council and is sponsored by equipment manufacturer Mammut.
By Tristan Semple