BEACH RUNWAY, ISLE OF BARRA AIRPORT.
The British Airways Twin Otter shown above arrived at the Traigh Mhor beach on Barra whilst I was working on the island last week. I just love hearing it in the distance, getting closer and closer, then landing and sending up spray everywhere. It seats about 18 people and flies scheduled flights to and from Glasgow and Benbecula daily.
More importantly, the plumber is working well, albeit only on Saturdays and I can now begin to see the end of the road as far as the renovation is concerned. When finished, the house will still be an empty shell, which will take months to decorate and fit out. Still, I'm really looking forward to that bit, which will at least be under my control, rather than that of the builder and plumber.
The weather has been vile this last week, with continual torrential rain and gale force winds.At the back of the flat, there is a hill with a stream coming down, which falls over a ledge to form a waterfall. This morning, the wind was so ferocious that it picked up the stream from the ledge and blew it into the air, stopping the waterfall completely. This was an amazing sight and looked just like a large plume of smoke rising above a chimney. Winter storms are regular occurrences just now, but the days are getting much longer and I can now go to work and return home in daylight.
The windfarm issue is still not resolved, with the Scottish Executive announcing this week that it will take more time before reaching a final decision about whether it should go ahead. There have been many more written objections than supporters, but the pro lobby, consisting of International Companies and the local council, are fighting hard to persuade the Executive in Edinburgh that the island and Scotland will be better places if the turbines are allowed.
Another topic currently exercising the good folks of the Outer Hebrides is the high cost of ferries to the mainland.The expense prevents many island residents from travelling regularly, limits the number of tourists who visit and is generally considered to be a barrier to economic growth on the islands. The return cost for me to travel alone with my car to Ullapool during these Winter months is £142:90, which rises to £181 after March 20, when higher Summer fares are introduced. A family of four will have to pay £274 return this coming Summer. This is for a journey of about 42 nautical miles taking two and three quarter hours. As a result of long term complaints about ferry costs, the government is about to start a pilot scheme involving something called 'Road Equivalent Tariff'. This is an initiative pioneered by the Norwegian government which involves setting ferry fares for remote communities on the basis of the cost of travelling an equivalent distance by road. The Scottish Government announced today that it is going to operate a pilot scheme on all ferries operating to and from the Outer Hebrides. The scheme will start on 19 October of this year and will last until the Spring of 2011. The formula that will be used is that cars will cost 60 p per sea mile plus a fixed flat fee of £5 for each journey. Passengers will each pay 10p per mile plus flat fee of £2. A quick calculation suggests that I will be able to make the return trip from Stornoway to Ullapool with my car for £72:80 instead of the current £142:90 winter fare. This is tremendous news , which will almost certainly hugely increase business, domestic and tourist traffic to and from these islands. Logic dictates that the cost of goods brought here by road should also become cheaper, but we'll see. Unlike the present Air Discount Scheme, which is only available to island residents, the RET initiative will be available to everybody who visits here by ferry.
JOB OF THE WEEK --HEDGEHOG HUNTERS WANTED.
Sometime in the 1970's, a misguided man in North Uist decided to import hedgehogs to put in his garden to eat the nasty snails and slugs that were chomping their way through his Hostas and Delphiniums. The Outer Hebrides had previously been a hedgehog free zone. The effect was catastrophic and has lasted to this day. These islands have large numbers of ground nesting birds which have been decimated in recent years by hedgehogs eating their eggs and chicks.These lovely spiky animals are prolific breeders and during the last thirty or so years since introduction, have spread to all of the populated islands here and caused chaos. The birds most affected are dunlin, ringed plover, redshank, snipe, oystercatcher and lapwing. In the last few years, almost, if not all, of the Hedgehogs in North Uist have been trapped and removed so that the Island is now essentially hedgehog free. Initially, they were humanely killed, but there was such an outcry by the animal welfare lobby, that volunteers from St Tiggywinkles and elsewhere now remove the hedgehogs after they have been captured in live traps by Scottish Natural Heritage. They are then translocated to the mainland of Scotland and England to be released and who knows, the hedgehog in your garden might have been born in Uist. Well, following the success of the North Uist trapping scheme, funding has been obtained to extend the project to Benbecula and SNH are now seeking field workers and senior fieldworkers to catch the critters . Should you wish to apply for the jobs, the fieldworkers will conduct daytime live trapping and occasional night time spot lamp searches under the supervision of the senior fieldworkers. Experience of wildlife management and outdoor work is a prerequisite for those posts. The senior fieldworkers have the responsibility of supervising the fieldworkers and ensuring that all of the trapping is carried out in accordance with agreed animal welfare and legal protocols. Fascinating stuff.
Sadly, I can't tell you at this stage what the salaries will be but if any of you are desperate to know before putting in your applications, contact me and I'll find out for you.