Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Summer Meeting - Sleat Peninsula, Skye

I would like to thank all those who made the Forum's summer visit to Skye such a success.  Lady Noble of Fearann Eilean Iarmain (The Isle Ornsay Estate) hosted the visit and Malcolm Younger (Islesman Ltd) made the local arrangements on her behalf.  We stayed at Sabhal Mor Ostaig (The Gaelic College), which was established by Sir Ian Noble.  We met there on Thursday afternoon, 26th May, and completed a short meeting to discuss Forum business, before being joined by several local guests.

After an introduction by Lady Noble, we heard presentations from:
  • Professor Frank Rennie from UHI about Common Grazings;
  • Isabel Moore, ‎Biologist at Skye Fisheries Trust, about Salmon and Sea Trout; and
  • Jan Wallwork-Clarke, the CEO of Clan Donald Land Trust (the neighbouring landowner), about the estate and deer management.
Photo: Stewart Dawber
Over drinks before supper, the local photographer, Stewart Dawber, gave us a show of his photographs.  This served to whet our appetite for the field visit the following day; we were not to be disappointed.  This photo is an example of his work.

After dinner, we were treated to a cultural presentation about the history of the Sleat Peninsula by Professor Hugh Cheape from the College.  After this, the weather was so perfect, with wind to keep the local midges at bay, that we were able to put the world to rights while standing outside enjoying the view across the Sound of Sleat, in the last of the light.

On Friday morning, we drove the loop road to the west coast of the peninsula and had many interesting discussions in the sunshine, while soaking in the stunning view of the Cuillins.  Among many other topics, we discussed: deer management; the interaction between moorland and woodland management; the economics of farming in the area; fishery management, which included coming face to face with Fresh Water Pearl Mussels and an Adder; and common grazings.

This visit has served to provide the Forum with some very useful contacts in the north and west of the country.  This is of particular importance as we roll out the review of the Muirburn Code and the developing guidance under the banner of the Principles of Moorland Management.  Also, if the Forum is to play a role with the development of a Moorland Vision, in whatever form this takes, good contacts in this area will be essential. The area to the north and west of the Great Glen does not get enough focus and I hope that the Forum can use this visit as the catalyst to start to correct this.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Wildfire Warning for Scotland

The Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) is raising awareness about the increased risk of wildfire across most parts of Scotland over the next few days as weather forecasters predict very dry conditions.

Vice Chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, Michael Bruce, monitors the European Commission’s European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) which provides information, which can be used to inform the public about the risk of wildfire.

He said: “At the start of spring there is often a lot of dead vegetation leftover from last year. This fuel can dry out quickly when there are bright sunny days with high temperatures and low humidity levels. We have a high pressure weather system dominating Scotland creating these conditions at the moment.”

We are now well into that time of year when the risk of wildfire is at its highest and The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) is already working closely with land managers and appealing to tourists and communities to help reduce the number fires in a bid to protect the countryside and its residents.

On Saturday, SFRS crews tackled a wildfire which involved a large area of heathland a mile long being fanned by strong winds near the village of Carsphairn in rural Dumfries and Galloway.

SFRS Deputy Assistant Chief Officer, Andy Coueslant, the chairman of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, said raising awareness is key to reducing the risk.

He explained: “We have a forecast of settled dry, warm and at times windy conditions over the next week. We therefore ask people to be vigilant and act responsibly, while this period of weather affects the country.

“Many rural and remote communities are hugely impacted by wildfires, which can cause significant environmental and economic damage.

“Livestock, farmland, wildlife, protected woodland and sites of special scientific interest can all be devastated by these fires, as can the lives of people living and working in rural communities.

“Human behaviour can significantly lower the chance of a wildfire starting so it’s crucial people act safely and responsibly in rural environments and follow the countryside code.”

The public can help prevent wildfires by making sure they dispose of litter and smoking materials carefully while in rural areas. Land managers are reminded that the legal period for Muirburn ended on 30 April.

For further advice and information about wildfires and what we can all do to prevent them visit our website www.firescotland.gov.uk