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Whittle by whittle: learning new skills on the Woodland Artisan evening course

Guest Blog by Chris Goodman Whittling. Something I associate with boy scouts and times gone by. I worry it’s not fashionable in our age of ‘smart’ or ‘i’ everything and wonder what people make of it. But whittling (or call it carving, wood working or whatever) is something that absorbs me in the moment, an activity that calms me, motivates me and fills my home with creations I’ve made for myself. And what better time of year than now to sit by the fire, work away on some fun projects and make some Christmas pressies for others (or yourself!) And so over the last 4 weeks we’ve steadily progressed our knowledge of carving techniques and how to keep our knives sharp to make a wand, spreading knife, decorative mushrooms and finally, to finish off before Christmas, some snow people. It’s been a really enjoyable way to spend my Monday evenings through December – getting to know some interesting people and seeing them go home with their own creations and increasing capability to take their new knowledge and apply it to

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What to Spot: January Edition

2020 has arrived! January is a time when a lot of our species are just trying to make it through winter. Food is a little scarcer and the pressure simply to survive, to keep breeding grounds or to migrate back home is increasing. David mentioned garden birds last month and January is still a good time to attract creatures close to home as they search for food. This month is also great for looking out for ducks, raptors and owls which can be easier to spot because of the early darkness! Here are some suggested species to look out for. A common sight in southern areas but shyer and more concealed in Coigach and Assynt is the Little Grebe (aka dabchick). Although here all year round, less vegetation means they are a little easier to find on inland lochs such as Loch na Claise, Loch an Aigeil, Little Assynt or Loch Culag. Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis) are rarely seen on land as their feet are placed towards the back of their body to help with swimming underwater. Listen out for

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The Big Climate Fightback: Tree Planting at Little Assynt

Guest Blog by Alison Roe   Saturday 30th November Quinag looms high on the horizon, glowing gently in the afternoon sun as I pull into the car park by the tree nursery at Little Assynt. I’m here for the tree planting event, organised by CALLP in partnership with The Woodland Trust, and we’re definitely lucky with the weather. Rain and high winds are forecast for the coming week but today it’s beautiful – cold and clear – a great day to be outside and good conditions for planting trees. The area to be planted is just a few minutes walk along the path from the car park: a little hollow open to the east with views over to Quinag. Even though I’ve arrived quite early, there are already quite a few folk busy with spades, with Elaine on hand to explain what to do. I comment on the beauty of the location. Elaine explains that they chose this particular spot for its easy access and for its suitability for planting: it’s not too steep and is mostly grass and bracken

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Creagan Grabhalta Clach Tuill – Engraved Stones of Clachtoll

One of our Community Grants Scheme recipients this year was Griogair MacAllein who led story walks across the area throughout last year. Through these walks, Griogair shared his wealth of knowledge of local folklore and history. Here he shares some thoughts on the Creagan Grabhalta Clach Tuill –  the Engraved Stones of Clachtoll:   Although an ‘Aiberdeenshire’ loon born an’ brocht up I now live in Assynt, North West Sutherland.   Diverse landscapes, from the mountainous to the low agricultural fields, yet both have the smell of salt air in the wind. The preference for seeking a new life in North America and the Antipodes witnessed individuals and families from both geographical areas escaping the potato famines and the post political changes of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.   The clearances from the Highlands were often callus and brutal but although possibly under duress some were voluntary. In the North East the evidence seems to be the lucrative offers of affordable land which tempted the mostly rural population to emigrate. Near the coastal communities of Clachtoll and Stoer,  in NW Assynt there is

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An Autumn Portrait

One of our Community Grants Scheme recipients this year was Griogair MacAllein who led story walks across the area throughout last year. Here Griogair shares a seasonally suitable poem:   AN AUTUMN PORTRAIT Griogair MacAllein The forest floor, a canvas wet with dripping raindrops. A child brings 4 twigs – the top, the bottom & 2 sides A frame. Another child forages for leaves, 2 Pine cones, pieces of Birch bark. Granda brings reeds and a feather and the hair of a Rabbit. The children build a face on the forest floor Fenced by the 4 twigs the 2 Pine cones, the pieces of Birch bark, the leaves, the reeds, the feather and the hair of a Rabbit. Those moments in time Meant to be made. Granda watched and smiled. ‘’It’s you Granda. Smiley face!’’ Granda smiled back into the mirror on the forest floor The wind’s bite called them home. Even a dog sniffed and left the portrait untouched. The wind stayed. The 4 twigs scattered, the 2 Pine cones, the pieces of Birch bark, the leaves, the reeds,

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What to spot: December Edition

Hard to believe but here we are on the last What to Spot blog of 2019 in partnership with Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape. It may be the bleak mid-winter but, there is still plenty of wildlife to look out for throughout the area. To make the most of the short daylight hours wrap up warm, take a hot drink of your choice and simply go for a wander. Of course, you can appreciate some of our most endearing wildlife from the comfort of your own home – garden visitors. The visitors most of us are likely to see are the numerous birds that make a bee line for garden feeders at this time of year. Peanuts, seeds, fat balls and apples are just a few of the different foods that will attract a good variety of birds to your garden. The more frequent garden birds include: House Sparrow; Great Tit; Blue Tit; Coal Tit; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Siskin, Blackbird and, of course the Robin. An added bonus could well be the sight of a Sparrowhawk sweeping through your garden; they

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Thanks to You for 25 Years

The 19th November 2019 saw the 25th Birthday of the National Lottery and its funding of community projects such as us. The quiz this year was slightly different to the last. Instead of a December Christmas theme we had a Birthday party! Plenty of snacks and, of course, birthday cake, where shared amongst the 31 attendees as well as laughs and frustrations! Questions were based on the wildlife, landscape and people of CALL with added knowledge needed of 1994 to win this quiz. The scores were tight all night and the winners won by a quarter of a point! Congratulations to the winning team, The Indecicives and to the randomly picked team, The Developmentalists, we hope you enjoy your prizes. The baskets had a mix of local produce including the limited-edition Isle Martin Gin from the Highland Liquor Company in partnership with the Isle Martin Trust. CALLP has received £1.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund to the end of September 2019, with a further £1.5 million due over the next 2 years. This funding has, so far, helped us

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A Journey through Elphin for Quite an Adventure

Having supported The Journey Through Elphin community wall-hanging. project through our Community Grants Scheme it was a pleasure to attend the unveiling of the finished wall hanging at Elphin village Hall. Earlier in the year my six-year-old daughter had won the Elphin Chicken Day Painting Competition in school. She was now looking forward to counting the chickens on the community textile. We arrived just in time for the unveiling of the sewn artwork by the youngest member of the Elphin community to the delight of the Elphin craft group members who had created the hanging, other community members and visitors. This stunning wall hanging is huge! It measures 2.5 metres by 1.2 metres. It incorporates stories and icons of Elphin on a stylized map. Such landmarks as the Elphin Tearoom and red telephone box orient the map for the observer and are interspaced with historic and personalised memories and locations. Community members explained the meaning of the image of the Elphin women arguing with the bailiffs that recalls the women’s successful actions to confound the township’s evictions during the clearances,,

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Here we go a-gathering…

Lovely Guest Blog from volunteer Griogair MacAllein.   The beautiful Autumnal seascape looking over the Minch from Eisg Brachaidh on the Auchiltibue road was the ideal location for a morning of ‘fruitful’ gathering of ‘DOG ROSE’ hips {Rosa canina}.   The seed will be ‘treated’ at the ‘Little Assynt Tree Nursery’ for planting next year. Watched on by basking Common Seals on the islands, a group of volunteers from the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Project and the Tree Nursery, armed with bags and buckets set about collecting the familiar red fruit perhaps best known for the bottles of ‘Rose Hip Syrup’ once familiar in family bathroom cabinets. For those of a certain age {myself included} lining up in primary school to be given a daily spoonful of ‘Rose Hip Syrup’ which contains Vitamin ‘C’ as a replacement for the lack of citrus fruit after the second world war. ‘Scurvy Grass’ was an unpleasant alternative. Children in the 50s and 60s were also sent out from classes to collect the ‘Dog Rose’ hips, and in the former decade, earned 3d per

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What to Spot: November Edition

Continuing our partnership blog with Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape here are a few ideas to help you spot our wildlife during the coming month. During November, it can often look as if there is no wildlife to see. While the more obvious activity from cetaceans, birds and insects has definitely decreased dramatically there is still an amazing range of things to see. The Minch, for example, is home to three species of cetacean all year round: Harbour Porpoise, Phocoena phocoena; Risso’s Dolphin, Grampus griseus; and Orca, Orcinus orca. Good places to watch from? Really anywhere with an elevated view of the open sea, when it’s pretty calm; but, remember you do need to have patience and wrap up warm! This month should see the arrival of more and more winter thrushes as Redwing, Turdus iliacus fly in from Iceland; and, Fieldfare, T. pilaris along with Mistle Thrush, T. viscivorus arrive from the east. Many of the Blackbirds, T. merula that we see now will also be winter visitors. All these species are escaping much colder weather and reducing food


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