SPREADING SEAWEED, NEAR POLOCHAR, SOUTH UIST.
Seaweed is still collected on the foreshore and used as fertiliser by crofters throughout the islands. It's easy to obtain, free and effective.
A quick update for those interested in the progress of goings on here:
a) Recently arrived grandson smiles all day, feeds well and sleeps all night. No problems whatsoever so far and his big sister loves him. Following due deliberation, parents have decided not to send him back to the shop.
b) Boiler is working fantastically well since the engineer came and spoke sternly to it a few weeks ago. Have now almost decided to spend the money earmarked for a new boiler on replacing rotten croft fencing.
c) Little lighthouse at bottom of the croft is flashing regularly again since the man came and changed the bulb. I suppose it's churlish of me to observe that the light now has a slightly orangey glow to it rather than the previous bright white offering, which I preferred.
From time to time, I've written about the Uist Wader Project, which has been trapping and relocating hedgehogs, believed to be responsible for decimating the native wading bird population here by eating their eggs. The project, which started eight years ago, was reported only a few months ago as having been successful in increasing the number of ground nesting wading birds. Oops! Scientists from Scottish Natural Heritage are now saying that may not be the case and that 'there is no statistically valid evidence that the Uist Wader Project has resulted in an upturn in wader populations.' The scientists now speculate that the real culprits predating on the waders might be gulls, or chemical fertilisers applied to the machair, which may be upsetting the ecological balance. A SNH spokesperson said 'in retrospect, it would have been useful to have monitored gull numbers in more detail.'
Much of North Uist has been cleared of hedgehogs and the plan was to move the trappers into South Uist where the animals are still plentiful. Now that the SNH scientists have spoken though, that plan has been put on hold for four years while they search for evidence to discover if hedgehogs are innocent or guilty. The scientists now intend to monitor a patch of land by Loch Bee in South Uist, where there are lots of hedgehogs and compare the results with a plot in Benbecula, where there are few hedgehogs, but where flocks of gulls are present. SNH are seeking further funding of £100,000 for this new research and monitoring -- That's on top of the £1.3 million already spent on the Uist Wader Project, which has trapped and removed 1622 hedgehogs so far, at a cost of £800 per hedgehog.
On a positive note, the SNH spokesperson also said that the Uist Wader Project has brought benefit to the islands by creating employment and through wildlife tourism, said to be worth £130,000 a year to the local economy. Well there you are then.
Regular readers will remember that I have previously mentioned that the Stornoway Black Pudding Producers Association are making a bid to the EU for their puddings to receive protected status, to stop unscrupulous butchers on the mainland passing off their rubbish products as being 'Stornoway style' puddings. Others, such as Champagne, Melton Mowbray pork pies and Arbroath Smokies, have already received this coveted Protected Geographical Status and the Stornoway Black Pudding case will be considered by the EU in the near future.
Well, a twist in the tale. It is a little known fact that in addition to the four or five Stornoway butchers who make black puddings, there are at least two other long established black pudding makers here on the islands, away from Stornoway itself. One of those is at Cross Stores in Ness, about twenty five miles North of Stornoway, while the other is the butcher in Tarbert, Harris.
A week or two ago, at a council meeting in Stornoway, Councillors apparently tried to include these other pudding manufacturers under the Stornoway brand, for the purpose of the EU application.
Hell hath no fury! Almost immediately, the two independent butchers responded robustly with comments amounting to ' Not on your life mate, on your bike.'
The butcher in Tarbert, AD Munro, said he would fling out any suggestion that he should relabel his acclaimed Harris pudding as a Stornoway product. -- 'We sell all the Harris puddings we can make, no bother.'
Mr Morrison of Cross Stores in Ness said, ' We would rather retain the Ness black pudding identity than have it lumped in with the Stornoway label '. So there.
There are six or seven independent makers of black puddings here on Lewis and Harris. Wouldn't it be lovely if tourists started making pilgrimages here to sample each one of the puddings on a Western Isles Black Pudding Trail, just like they do with whisky on the mainland.