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Tapping into Nature: Woodland Artisan Courses

Guest Blog from our course leader Chris on the recent Birch Sap course. As I slowly get to know other wood carvers around the country I’m becoming aware that everyone has their speciality – some people make spoons, others cups, some people make incredibly intricate wooden jewellery while others build houses out of logs. This has got me wondering what my speciality is within the world of wood working. At present I make spoons, cooking utensils, cups, bowls, furniture, pendants, tool handles and charcoal while I heat my wooden home by burning wood and also spend time in woodlands foraging for nuts, fruits and edible fungi. I feel that I’m a real generalist incorporating lots of tree related products into my daily life. And maybe that’s my speciality – making a living from trees and the wider woodland that they form, using them to provide a financial income as well as for heat and shelter and for some of the food that helps me survive. Collecting birch sap is another piece of this jigsaw as it serves as a healthy

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What to Spot: March Edition

March sees our joint ‘Wildlife to Spot’ blog with Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape (CALL) move on to a busy time of the year for lots of our wildlife. But, just before we get too excited, being this far north we can still expect to see this sort of thing for a while yet! This month sees a big increase in the types and numbers of birds returning to their breeding sites throughout, and outwith, the CALL area. Just a few of these to look out for include- Skylark; having wintered much further south these aerial singers are a welcome sound and sight at this time. The males claim their territories by singing for minutes on end from heights up to 150m and all the while holding station on fluttering wings. Lapwing; another one of our migrant breeders that winters further south will be returning this month. Like Skylark, Lapwing is a declining species mainly due to habitat loss and changes in land use. Locally though our breeding numbers, while very small, seem stable at the moment but way down

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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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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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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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Meet our Suilven Artist in Residence!

Hello CALL blog readers, I’m Alex Mackay and I’m this year’s Suilven Artist In Residence. I’m spending time throughout the year in the surrounding areas of Suilven creating a new sound work, but before I talk about that allow me to introduce what I do and what drew me to undertake this work. Broadly speaking, I’m a musician. My work takes varying forms; I play in bands, I collaborate with other artists working in different artforms, and I make music as a solo artist. My work for this residency falls into the solo category of my output; my solo work often consists of music made on conventional instruments (both acoustic and electronic), but also involves working with sound gathered from sources outside of traditional music making. Field recording – i.e. recording the sounds of a particular place/space – is a central part of this, and through this I aim to incorporate the sonic qualities of a place into the fabric of the music to create new perspectives on both the musical material and the place the sounds came from. The

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What to Spot – August Edition

Wow, August already and our fourth joint wildlife blog with Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP). Lots of human visitors are just arriving on their summer holidays this month but, for many birds, plants and animals this is autumn and the start of preparations for winter! Many of the birds that passed through, and over, Coigach and Assynt in the spring on migration to their northern breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland are now doing the reverse journey after, hopefully, a successful breeding season. One bird species that maybe we don’t always think of as a migrant is the Oystercatcher, Haematopus ostralegus. These unmistakable black and white waders with their long, stout orange bill do breed locally but many migrate to Iceland to do so. One great example of this was a colour-ringed Oystercatcher first spotted at Bay of Culkein on 18 September 2018. The details of this bird were sent to the British Trust for Ornithology and a few days later it’s history was received from the Iceland based International Wader Study Group. This male bird was previously

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