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Ullapool High School pupils tracking deer out on the hill

Second year pupils from Ullapool High School spent two days on the hill with professional deer stalkers to learn about wild venison as part of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership scheme’s (CALLP) Outdoor and Woodland Learning Project.

Rangers and stalkers from the Assynt Foundation, John Muir Trust and Highland Council Ranger Service taught the pupils tracking techniques to allow them to get up close to red deer – the UK’s largest land mammal. They learned how to navigate across rough and uneven terrain, identify tracks, and how to avoid being sensed.

They were also shown recently culled deer and given a lesson on butchering methods out on the hill. The deer were then transported to Glencanisp Lodge where the pupils learned more about butchery and got a taste of barbequed venison, ahead of a focused cooking session at Ullapool High School where the pupils made a selection of dishes including meatballs, chilli and cottage pie.

CALLP Education Manager Fiona Saywell said: “Many people’s only experience of meat is plastic wrapped products that are indistinguishable from the animal they came from. Thanks to players of the National Lottery we were able to show local school pupils how wild venison gets from the open hill onto our plates through our Hill to Grill programme.

“The children really impressed the stalkers with their attitude. They were happy to stay quiet while patiently crawling on the ground towards the deer and keen to get hands on.”

Anne Hunter, Deputy Head Teacher of Ullapool High School said: “This was an excellent opportunity and a true cross curricular project which put learning into a realistic context. We could never have done anything like this without the fantastic support of CALLP. I am sure other schools would love to have this opportunity.”

Hands on learning in the larder

Lesley Strachan, Art Teacher at Ullapool High School added: “I accompanied the pupils on day two, and they were already very excited and engaged after their first day on the hill. The CALLP staff and stalkers John and Don developed good relationships with the pupils and were great at drawing the pupil’s interest and sharing their skills and knowledge.”

Pupil Macy Paton said “It was really good fun stalking the deer, and very interesting seeing the deer butchered, getting to hold the organs and helping skin one.”

Her classmate Darcy Graham added: “It was worth the cold and frozen toes! It gives you an appreciation for nature.”

CALLP and the Outdoor and Woodland Learning Project are hugely grateful to Assynt Foundation, John Muir Trust and Highland Council Rangers for sharing their knowledge, expertise and skills to help facilitate successful delivery of the Hill to Grill programme.

The Outdoor and Woodland Learning project is being delivered by the Culag Community Woodland Trust and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Gannochy Trust.

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Laura Traynor

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