Arran

Otter Spraint Microplastics Survey

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Lucy: Today I met with a student from Glasgow University who is collecting otter spraint on Arran as part of his dissertation research, to see whether it contains microplastics. This is a new science, and will help give conservationists a better understanding of how microplastics may be traveling in the food chain around the Firth of Clyde, and the potential impact on otters and their prey. Pablo Garcia is going to be on Arran quite a bit over the winter, gathering samples from locations around the island, and is keen to garner support from locals and wildlife enthusiasts who can help him out by collecting spraint that they find on Arran.

Pablo has been on Arran for a few days now and has visited a number of locations in the South Arran Marine Protected Area. Today he and I travelled North to Lochranza, to walk the coast around the Cock of Arran, a place where previously I have seen lots of otter sign, spraint and of course, otters themselves.

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We were not disappointed. Almost immediately we spied a dog otter fishing off shore just outside the village. We also found numerous spraint locations, well used trails (some made by badgers and red deer as well as otters) and disused otter holts. We were careful not to disturb any sites that looked like they were in current use. Later in the day we were also treated to a fleeting glimpse of a female otter.

If you would like to help Pablo, please get in touch with Pablo on 2197669G@student.gla.ac.uk for further information. He will send you a sheet with information about how to collect and record your samples. To keep the spraint fresh, pop it in a ziplock bag. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust are acting as a hub for collection of samples, storing them in their freezer on Pablo’s behalf, so drop them in to the COAST Octopus Centre by the tennis courts in Lamlash.

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Wintery spring

Lucy

Lucy: I've been back in the UK for a month and I have to say, it's been a bit colder than I expected!  When I left France I was longing for a bit of green and some proper Scottish spring flower after a winter of monochrome but what I got was the Minibeast from the East, and then the Easter Beast. I'm a bit disappointed to say the least!  This is me camping in the peak district last weekend, working for Adventure Expeditions.  It was cold. Very cold.  Amazing work by the young people completing their Gold Practice in these conditions! 

Anyway, today there was a lull in proceedings. Client Carole came over with her camera to enjoy some of the best of Arran's wildlife. As always, it was dramatic, but made us work hard for our sightings.  We got a soaring golden eagle having a bust up with kestrels and buzzards,  and then later a couple of otters braving the rough seas. The icing on the cake for me was a male and female hen harrier quartering the moors above the Ross Road. As usual, I failed to take any photos of the wildlife, but I did get a few of Arran looking spectacular in her wintery spring garb. Just in time to make me feel bad about heading back to France at the weekend! Adieu Arran, see you when spring is a bit more sprung. 

 

Goatfell
Glen Rosa

Snowy Goatfell

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Winter is off to a flying start!  On Sunday we were out on the hill with our friend Kirstie and her wee search dog Cailleag, looking for some snowy fun, and we were certainly not disappointed!

We took the steep path from Corrie, in to Coire Lan, and then up the headwall towards the bealach between North Goatfell and Mullach Buidhe. The snow lay deep, but not particularly crisp, more deep and a bit sticky... Once on the ridge the wind began to blow. We wrapped up warm, actually quite excited to feel the nip of winter after so much rain, and headed along the ridge towards Goatfell.

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We took the traverse path that avoids the rocky scramble of Stacach ridge.  This is not always the easy option as is also potentially quite tricky in snowy conditions as it lies in the lee of the ridge and can sometimes be buried in snow.  However, prevailing winds have been northerly recently and the ridge was mostly quite well scoured.  It's worth mentioning that although the deeper pillows in the sheltered bits were well bonded this time, retracing our steps is an option we always have in our minds on this route in winter.

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We reached Goatfell summit and were delighted to find another friend up there- Zabdi of Flying Fever Paragliding School (on foot for a change). Arran is a beautiful place, especially under a blanket of snow, but it's the people that really make it special.  I absolutely love this place and am going to miss home like mad this winter.  For more pics of our adventures, check out Kirstie's twitter feed.  She's a talented photographer, and her pics really do the day justice!

It's not too late to book your winter adventure on Arran.  Lucy is a qualified Winter Mountain Leader and has some availability over the next couple of weeks.  The forecast is awesome, so this is a great opportunity to see the mountains at their best!

Two out of Three Aint Bad.

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Lucy: I was out yesterday with Jonathan, who is on Arran prepping for an forthcoming marathon, and who fancied a bit of cross-training in the hills. 

We'd planned to do The Three Beinns, but as is often the case at the moment, the Garbh Allt was a bit high, and we were keen on keeping our feet dry, so came up with an entertaining Plan B.

Plan B involved a short and easy scramble over the top of Beinn a Chliabhainn in a thick pea souper of a mist, followed by a steep trek up on to the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn. The clouds parted briefly for us to admire the sweeping slabs of the Meadow Face of Beinn Tarsuinn, before enclosing us once more.

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We made good time, and so decided to extend our day a little, with a traverse under the forboding cliffs of A'chir, popping out on the bealach between Achir and Cir Mhor just as the clouds lifted away at last,  treating us to incredible views of the Rosa Pinnacle. 

The stroll out of the lovely Glen Rosa, was long but enjoable. We were treated to golden eagles hunting overhead, andthe roaring of the red deer stags in the hills all around us. 

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Where the heart is...

Lochranza Castle, a 13th Century Scottish hall and tower house.

Lochranza Castle, a 13th Century Scottish hall and tower house.

Lucy: A huge contrast to the bright colours and fierce sunlight of last week. It's good to be back amongst the soft greys of home. There's been just a little rain, only a few midges, and a refreshing breeze.  I'd forgotten how tangy the sea air is until it hit my nostrils when I arrived back at the coast.

This week has been mostly wildlife tours, with a couple of days spent in the company of lovely Val, enjoying otters, seals, wildflowers and a bit of Arran history thrown in for good measure. 

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A special whisky tasting

Lucy: All quiet on the blog recently but that doesn't reflect daily life here at Arran Wild Walks, both Wally and I have been flat out with freelance work, Duke of Edinburgh's Award expeditions and otter watching trips. Today was a little outside the ordinary however and worth a quick update. 

A wee dram

As part of the annual Arran Malt and Music Festival, I was commissioned, along with Jackie Newman of Arran in Focus,  to lead a walk to a special tasting at Loch Na Davie, which is the source of the water that the world renowned Arran Malt Whisky is distilled from.  The location of the disillery, in the remote village of Lochranza was selected for the special qualities of this water- purity, pH and minerals, as well as being in plentiful supply year round.

This point was not lost on our intrepid explorers who endured wet peat bog and plenty of standing water to achieve their mission: A dram on the shores of the loch where the magic starts.  And what a special dram it was!

Loch na Davie

Holy Isle: Arran Mountain Festival

Lucy: Today I was volunteering for the Arran Mountain Festival. The festival's strapline is "Small groups, big walks, huge fun" and it certainly delivers. Every year I lead the Holy Isle walk, in partnership with Russell and Elspeth Cheshire from the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST). Whilst our walk isn't the biggest, it has lots of adventure in the form of a trip over to the island in Russell and Elspeth's RIB and the feeling of being marooned, if only for a few hours.

Today the weather was pretty wild, with strong winds, and a bit of mist on the summit of the island (Mullach Mor, 314m). There's a bit of a scramble over the top, spiced up by the crosswind, which the team enjoyed. Once we had descended back to sea level, we took a leisurely stroll back along the coast passsing nesting oystercatchers and curious seals.

Arran 700s

Somewhere in the clag on the Western Hills.

Somewhere in the clag on the Western Hills.

Lucy: What a day, what an amazing, sore, exhausting and ultimately uplifting day.  We were truly blessed with the weather, and with generous helpers who all played their part in getting us through our Arran 700s trek.

Kirstie's partner Mark was up all night on a lifeboat shout, but still managed to drive us to Pirnmill for our dawn start. Kirstie's wee search dog Caileag joined us and we headed for the Western Hills, still swathed in clag from the previous day's weather. The first few summits came thick and fast, ticking off the Beinn Bharrain ridge, serenaded by Golden Plover.  These "peeper squeakers" as we called them accompanied us all the way around the top of Glen Iorsa and up on the the Leac an Tobair of Caisteal Abhail. The mist cleared and it was super exciting to get our first glimpse of the eastern part of the island.

Getting up on to Caisteal Abhail was a monster, and was the point at which I began to doubt myself, but Kirstie kept the banter going and after some food we both felt better.  Cir Mhor was a doddle and we were given an extra bounce by four gentlemen who kindly emptied their wallets in support of the cause.  Things got mentally tougher as we traversed under A'chir, for an out and back to Beinn Nuis via Beinn Tarsuin (so good we climbed it twice). It was a bit grim to pass A'Chir twice and not climb it.  Even wee Caileag started to lose her enthusiasm and it began to rain.

A'Chir Summit

A'Chir Summit

Morale was saved by dropping in to Glen Rosa to meet Mark and Wally. The rain stopped and Caileag had the chance for a nap with Mark while Wally made himself in to a human boulder problem, physically getting us on to the summit block of A'chir. This was the bit that had been daunting both of us thoughout our preparation and with that over, it was as if a weight was lifted from our shoulders.  The four of us and Caileag skipped under Cir Mhor and up to the Saddle to meet Arran MRT Team Leader Alan McNichol, waiting with a huge flask of tea, biscuits, Jelly babies etc. We cooked a bit of scran, and were ready for the last three not insignificant summits. Caileag, bless her, was done in and returned down the Glen with Mark and Alan.

Up, up, up, with help from Wally...

Up, up, up, with help from Wally...

I'd always known that the climb out of the saddle would be hard, but Wally stayed with us and helped to pace us up the ridge. It was great to have his company as we ticked off North Goatfell and Mullach Buidhe (the second summit of this name of the day).  Finally, before we knew it, we were on Goatfell. Absolutely punch drunk but over the moon.

So its a huge thanks to everyone involved, especially our Arran MRT colleagues who were out on a shout late on Saturday night but didn't call us, thereby not jeopardising our attempt.  Of couse we'd have turned out if asked, and postponed the challenge, but they saved us from this fate as well as successfully finding a missing person on a dark, damp night in a remote part of the island.  This is what MRTs do, made up of volunteers who unquestioningly put themselves forward to help those in need. I've met some of the finest people on the planet through MR and if you ever need them, they will do their best to help you. 

We enjoyed the challenge despite the hard graft,  and the biggest thrill is seeing the amount of money we have raised so far for our own Arran and Mulanje MRT in Malawi, a team with very few resources, who not only save lives in the mountains but support vulnerable people in their community,  a place with little or no safety net. 

We both love being part of an MR team, the teamwork and camararderie are a big part of the reason why we do it,  as well as wanting to help those in need in the hills that we love. MR work is expensive, and rightly free in the UK at the point of access. MR teams depend on public donations to do their work.  Thank you for your support (and to Kirstie and Wally for these great pics)! Please keep the cash rolling in. https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/Arran700s

The Saddle and the Goats

Wally writes: Today I was on the ridge above Glen Rosa with two clients from the Alpine regions of Europe, Beatrice and Elizabeth. Although our mountains are a little smaller than theirs, they punch above their weight and we had a very enjoyable day traversing the highest ridge on Arran.

We approached via the lovely Glen Rosa, and from the Saddle took the steep scrambly ridge up to North Goatfell.  From there it was a steep rocky romp over and around the blocky tors of Stacach and on to the summit of Goatfell.  The sun shone all day! Good luck to Beatrice and Elizabeth who begin their circumnavigation of Arran via the Coastal Way tomorrow. Hopefully the weather will continue to be fine.