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Volunteering Programme 2019!

As the new year is approaching, I am excited to tell you about the new monthly volunteer programme that will launch in January 2019! The fourth Thursday of each month we will have a volunteer event running, rotating about the projects. Other volunteer events may be arranged as extras to this program. Examples of activities we may carry out include tree planting, beach cleaning, natural heritage data collection, path building and helping at the Little Assynt Tree Nursery. Levels of fitness vary between types of activities; I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have, please contact me at the email below. If you have an interest in being outside, improving your fitness, learning a new skill, looking after your local environment or would just like to meet likeminded people; why not join us? The first volunteer day will be on the 24th January 2019 with details of where released nearer to the time. Anyone is more than welcome to join for half an hour or the day! We encourage everyone to try something new and be

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Baskets, Baskets, Baskets!

The latest Woodland Artisan Course was a 2 day willow weaving course with the wonderful Willow Weaving Expert Tim Palmer. Tim had previously taught a course for us and we just had to have him back for another! We had a nice mix in the group of beginners and those that had been on Tim’s courses before. The newcomers to weaving were aiming for a simple woven basket, where as the others were tasked with a challenge of a larger with more difficult techniques. Stages for basket weaving: Weave a round base with thin ‘weavers’ around thicker supporting willow (known as slath). Then add in the stakes around to form the structure for the sides when turned upwards. A weave called Waling is then used to strengthen the base and make the whole basket more rigid. The sides can be woven in several different ways such as Randing, Slewing, Pairing, Reverse Pairing, Fitching, Herringbone and Zig-zag. Once the basket is near the desired height another band of waling is completed before the slath are used to create the border for

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Creating a Highland Cup

The latest course from our Woodland Artisan project was cup carving. Wooden Tom was back to hold another great course, this time using axes, chisels Gouges and knives to carve a Highland cup based on one found in Ardgour on the West Coast created nearly 2000 years ago. We started with a Silver Birch log that requires cutting and splitting to ‘cup size’ and then carving into a finished product. One cup on the day was made from Pine, creating a beautifully stripy cup. Each course attendee got a quarter or half of the original log and, using a guide, the cup shape was marked onto the wood and excess was removed with an axe. Once a rough outline was created the bowl could start being carved – outside first and then the inside using gauges. The lip and handle of the cups were carved last with gauges and knives. Participants each took their cup home which then can be carved with a knife once the green wood has dried. Unfortunately, the winter evenings drew in too quick for us

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A walk on the wild side at Clachtoll

Another rough week of weather but the sun tried to shine for us and people came out to join myself, Andy, David and Avril on a walk around Clachtoll, learning about wildlife recording and its importance. So fully waterproofed up (just in case!), we headed out! Assynt Field Club, of which Andy, David and Avril are members, are corelating wildlife sightings across Assynt. The importance of this is to see how species distributions and populations change over time as well as if there are new species entering Assynt due to changes in climate or habitat. Such a species is the Vulgar or Spanish Slug (Arion vulgaris) which we spotted on a rocky outcrop near the beach. It was one of the first sightings of the day and although some may think it not be the most exciting species we could have seen, it is only the second ever record for Assynt (first recording earlier this year). A last-minute fly over by a White-tailed eagle soaring above Clachtoll led to another first sighting for one of our couples. After our walk

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A Liking for Lichen

Last week I spent my time wandering around woodlands learning about the Lichens that are associated with out Atlantic Hazel Woodlands. Along side the Assynt Field Club, we were joined by Andy Acton of the British Lichen Society for a pretty intense 5 days of Lichens. Atlantic Hazel Woodlands are classed as Hazel (Corylus avellana) that grows on the oceanic areas of the West Coast, dubbed the ‘Celtic rainforest’ as they are so green and great for biodiversity. Nearly every centimetre of bark is covered with some type of lichen or moss, creating a wonderful mosaic on the multi-stemmed hazels. Because this is such a special habitat, some of the lichens can be found nowhere else in the world. Although they are some of our most Ancient habitats they are under recorded as a woodland type and hence the biodiversity (including the lichens) is also under recorded. Hazel Woodlands are important for a whole range of associated species but in recent years their condition has suffered, for a variety of reasons. For example, we know that in some areas old

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Demonstration crofts in Coigach & Assynt

We will be looking for enthusiastic and forward-looking crofters to take up the demonstration croft opportunity. The croft selection will be done in a competitive and transparent way. Croft development will be guided by an agreed plan and implemented by a combination of training event, the crofter him/herself, a development budget, and funding through rural payments schemes. Do you want to develop your croft?  Would you be willing to share your experiences and knowledge to help Coigach/Assynt crofters?  Many crofters have said that they’d like to see some crofting development happen in our area, so CALLP have put aside funding to have one croft in each area used as a base for demonstrations, training and advice.  Suggestions so far have included: Benefits of lime and fertiliser advice on bracken and rush control access to AECS and CAGS and other schemes and all other ideas are welcome. A few meetings (by arrangement) a year would be held on the croft, and other than some labour and willingness to try things out, there would be no cost to the host.  It is

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Crofting Project – maximising the opportunities available to crofters

Crofting exists in areas where agricultural production and investment costs are traditionally high. It is widely regarded as a socially, culturally and environmentally important activity, for the sense of identity it provides, the landscape it produces and the systems of communal working it supports. The aims of this project will be to provide practical training events and sharing of knowledge facilitate the sourcing of appropriate advice and support for crofters establish two demonstration crofts across the Coigach & Assynt area provide a community mapping assistance and use GIS technology help/advice on bracken/rush control access to AECS/CAGS and any other schemes If you would like further information on the project and how it could help you please contact Anne Campbell, Crofting & Rural Projects Coordinator, by email at aacampbell@coigach-assynt.org or call 01571 844 638 or 07799494271

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Woodland Artisan – Birch Bark Pots

Last weekend we ran a course on making birch bark pots with the fantastic Wooden Tom. It was a fantastic day, and everyone was pleased with their creations! Thank you all that came and Tom for his expert wood skills to guide us. How were they made? The lid and base are made from a block of pine cut into two and carved. Birch bark is the curled around the base and nailed together. Pine roots are used to stitch the bark together and the handle is carved and attached to the top. Everyone could design theirs how they wanted, and the natural material added to everyone’s being individual. The Woodland Artisan project has lots of opportunities to join courses such as this across the year. Keep an eye on our website or Facebook for the latest course updates.  

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Volunteers, We Need You!

Volunteer week is coming! From the 1st to the 7th June we are joining organisations across Scotland in recognising and celebrating the time and dedication of volunteers. Whether it is an hour here and there or long-term volunteers we appreciate all the help and support that people give us. Volunteers are incredibly important to organisations such as ourselves. Skills and experiences that you can share with us are just as important as what we can show you. There are 28 projects running at the moment in CALL with many opportunities are coming up throughout the year across from path building to surveying wildlife; tree planting to removal of invasive species. We are looking for more volunteers to help us carry out these plans. More information about our projects can be found here. People volunteer for several reasons: whether it is to meet new people, learn new skills, be outside or be part of the community and its natural surroundings. It can also help with future employment or give you a change to find a new career path. We encourage everyone

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The Soil Beneath Our Feet

Guest blog by Joseph Peach, local musician and Project Manager for the Music & Tales project A living landscape is more than just scenery; it is the interaction between people and place. Stories, music and song reflect these interactions, helping us better understand where we have come from and where we might go. Coigach and Assynt have a wonderfully rich cultural heritage: A gàidhlig speaking area until recently, there were strong traditions of music and song, and a rich oral history. Indeed it produces more than it’s fair share of musicians who are reaching national and international acclaim. The ever-changing modern world poses a threat to oral traditions on a global scale. Simply, the practice of sharing information in this way no longer happens in a way that it once did. The project aims to capture, some of the area’s music, song and tales, while they still live amongst an ageing generation. To celebrate and promote them, and preserve them for future generations. It will create employment opportunities for musicians from the area, professional development and mentorship opportunities for our

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