Natural regeneration was abundant nearly everywhere we visited, something which is comparatively unusual in Scotland unless it is enclosed within a deer fence. Regeneration was so prevalent in some locations that it was encroaching into previously open habitats, such as small fields of abandoned farms. A strong hunting culture and associated herbivore management within Finland appears to the main cause for natural regeneration within Finnish forests.
Geographical Connectivity is the Natural Key
Norway has had a natural recolonization of all carnivores, due to be part of the continent Europe and neighbour countries fluxes. First wolves recolonized in 1980 to the south, through dispersion of the first wolves by likely Finish-Russian populations. The geographical position of the UK being an island doesn’t allow natural recolonization, and therefore it leaves the question to wether we could or we should intervene
The purpose of this report is to share the knowledge I gained while working with the Lišov Múzeum in October 2019. As a member of the Technical Outreach and Education team at The Engine Shed, I wanted to focus on the traditional building materials and skills, as well as the importance of community engagement in Lišov.
This report is primarily visual, with key points written out. The idea behind this is to be able to share this information with colleagues, or others who may be interested, in an accessible format. The ability to share information visual and through activities or tactile learning is important to our team and for our work with the public.
The level of protection afforded to different types of protected area in Poland is not dissimilar to that in Scotland. For example, in terms of the Natura 2000 network all EU countries have an obligation to transpose the Habitats and Birds Directives into domestic legislation. Similarly, in Scotland and Poland, regulatory authorities and have their own responsibilities.
I think the main difference in the protect areas protection measures between Poland and Scotland is the level of public promotion and access provision.
In Scotland we actively advertise our protected areas at whatever level but in Poland this is much more subtle even where public access provision is encouraged.
The trip to Poland was truly fascinating in many respects and one would hope that western influences do not put pressures on the natural heritage we experience in Scotland and the UK as a whole.
I was especially interested in the ethnographic display in the museum which included some flax heckling boards. I have been working on an 18th century flax mill near Glasgow and so it was great to see how the hand heckling technique worked. One handle was for the foot and the other for one hand. The flax was then thrashed against the heckling spikes to straighten the flax fibres ready for spinning. This technique would have been used in Scotland prior to the construction of water mills. Apparently there were a couple of water mills in Lišov in the 19th century, but they have been demolished. Corn mills were often used for other purposes such as flax mills and saw mills. Flax was grown in this area in the past and according to Jacob there are old flax soaking ponds in the area.
This is one of the faces of Walltopia – a Bulgaria company and a global leader in climbing wall manufacture. It belongs to the Mountain Guides training school in Troyan on the Devistashko Plateau, established in 2013. Marco, one of the teachers here, tells us that students arrive aged 14, and leave six years later with a range of skills including cultural tourism, mountain biking skills, navigation and first aid.
I went to Finland with an idea to compare the forests there with those in Scotland and, more specifically, with that found at Abernethy. It became apparent, however, that such a comparison was unrealistic. The context of the forests, geographically, culturally and historically, are totally different. Finland is roughly 5 times the size of Scotland and is 75% forested. The population is approximately the same in both countries. This has meant that huge areas of Finnish forest are never, or incredibly rarely, disturbed by human activity. Historically, effectively all of Scotland’s forests have been managed as commercial plantations, especially following the Second World War. This meant a huge reduction in the size of the forest and large areas of forest consisting of uniform trees the same age and size. Finland has greater areas of old growth, natural forest which has never been managed by humans. Culturally, the natural world appears to garner much more respect in Finland than in Scotland with visitors much less likely to actively damage the forest or wilfully disturb wildlife. Regular fire sites and camping huts mean that visitors have designated places to eat, sleep and light fires. Much of the way the Finnish people treat and manage their forests provide a glimpse of how Abernethy could be however it felt to me that we are simply a couple of generations behind.
Looking to the communities of the past can directly inspire the answers to these questions. Maybe people could connect to their heritage to feel a sense of place, a sense of identity and ‘rootedness’, in a way that is relevant to their lives. Maybe wider communities can be created in museums by ensuring that people from disenfranchised backgrounds find a ‘home’ and share learning possibilities in the museum environment. Maybe it is extending beyond the academic/intellectual framework that informs traditional museum culture, to also engage with, in a sustainable way, skilled craftspeople, artists, storytellers and musicians to form creative spaces, who intersect with, and are informed by, the collections held in the museum. Maybe by having such an inclusive environment, we can directly mirror the coherent, collectively organised communities of the past.
Visiting Alba and neighbouring counties in Transylvania, Romania was the highlight of my working year. I applied to go on this ERASMUS funded Arch destination as I thought it would be an interesting in-sight into how other European countries manage the funding opportunities provided by the European Common Agricultural Policy, particularly to benefit the small scale farmer and small rural communities. My main area of work during the year is assessing Agri-Environment and Climate Change grant applications. In Scottish Natural Heritage we assess any applications which involve land management on designated sites or deer management. As Romania is one the new member states to enter the European fold, lies in Eastern Europe where in the past agriculture has had many challenges, I was interested to see and hear their story and find out if and how the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy was benefitting agriculture and the environment in Romania. I live and work in the North West Highlands of Scotland, one of the Crofting Counties where small scale agriculture dominates. Romania is a country where small, semi subsistence/subsistence farming is of great importance. Is there a future for this type of farming in the European Union?
In Scotland, we have lost many of the attitudes to livestock husbandry that allow coexistence with predators. The exception to this is with smaller livestock such as chickens, were the concept of protection is well understood. If we ever bring back any of the larger predators, we can learn from the practices employed in countries like Romania.
Finally, if we are going to be able to support a viable wildcat population in perpetuity in Scotland (i.e. without risk of hybridisation), we may need to look at the environment in Romania and see what we can take from it that helps both wildcats and biodiversity more generally.