The Scottish Wildlife Trust has more than 115 natural reserves throughout Scotland. In November I was lucky enough to spend a week volunteering at one of the most gorgeous natural reserves, Rahoy Hills. Managed by the Trust in partnership with Ardtornish Estate, this reserve which covers 1,760 hectares, is five miles north of Lochaline, close to the Isle of Mull and is situated next to Loch Arienas.
Rahoy Hills is composed of widespread habitats, from grasslands, marshes and heaths to cliffs through lochans and woodlands. The week that I was there I was joined by three other volunteers from the European Voluntary Service (EVS), Elisabeth, Marta and Camille; Michelle Henley the Reserves Project Officer for the north of Scotland and Steve, the ranger for the reserve.
The tasks for our week of volunteering were varied, first of all we had to fix the footpath, repair stairs and posts that people are easily able to pass over a fence and follow the path. This tracks leads to an abandoned settlement from the 18th Century.
Passing next to Loch Arienas you can see Highland cattle grazing, graze management has an effect on the survival of many of the more vulnerable and protected plant species. Grazing cattle can allow plant and insect species to thrive and native woodland to regenerate.
We also did some fence repairs, the woodland is protected by a deer fence in order to promote regeneration, growth and expansion. The deer population threatens the new generation of trees and therefore the fence is needed to keep the deer out.
One day, led by Steve we went to the top of Beinn na h-Uamha in order to count the deer population. Steve does this every month to see if the population increases or decreases and to monitor changer. After an hour and a half of hiking we reached the peak, where we were lucky enough to see a couple of golden eagles. Binoculars, telescope and a reserve map were our primordial tools. The map was subdivided in areas and we were counting by the highest and farthest ones. The walk down through the moorland and woodland was spectacular.
I strongly recommend a visit to this unique reserve, it is full of diversity either by natural habitats, fauna and flora and has an interesting archaeological story.
By Aurélien Dumas-Roussel, European Voluntary Service Volunteer with Duncan Budge, Reserves Project Officer in Dundee
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The Scottish Wildlife Trust has more than 115 natural reserves throughout Scotland. In November I was lucky enough to spend a week volunteering at one of the most gorgeous natural …