“We have around 500,000 capercaillie in Finland ” said Tapio Vähä-Jaakkola, our host at a local hunting club, as our jaws dropped. My colleagues Chris and Molly from RSPB work on capercaillie and the population in Scotland is in a pretty sorry state, having dropped to around 2000, from an estimated 20,000 in the 1970s. Capercaillie populations are healthy enough for Finns to hunt tens of thousands of them a year. “Most of the capercaillie hunting takes place in Northern Finland”, Tapio said later. In the 10,000 hectares of forest controlled by the Metsästysseura Haukka Ry hunting club, they hadn’t shot capercaillie for many years “Last year we calculated that there were enough capercaillie for us to hunt two.”
This was a trip with many highlights and at first I found it difficult to choose just one but in spite of the incredible landscapes and nature we experienced first-hand, it was in fact the group itself that was the stand out highlight for me. To have a group of people from a range of backgrounds and roles that were all completely on the same page was both exciting and in many ways a relief. Large scale restoration of our landscapes here in Scotland is often a difficult message to promote and it’s easy to feel like a lone voice but it provided great comfort (and indeed many excellent conversations) to know there are others out there with similar passions to help restore what once was.
I have a little bit of a different blog for you this time as I have been away on an Erasmus+ Mobility exchange program in Finland to look at and compare their forestry. The project was funded through the Erasmus+ programme and developed by ARCH and its consortium partners. This course gave me a greater experience of what the Caledonian pine forest could look like and how we are better able to engage people in nature and conservation. I wanted to use this experience to explore my understanding and share what I learned with all of you.
From 30th August to 6th September 2022, I was fortunate to take part in a Nature Exchange in Finland. The visit was funded through the Erasmus+ programme and hosted by staff and students from Tampere University of Applied Sciences. My role as Head Ranger at Balmoral Estate involves taking practical action on the ground to manage habitats and species as well as visitors and access. I am also involved in providing access and interpretation to visiting members of the public.
Delayed from from 2020 due to COVID restrictions, our group finally made it in early July 2022. Follow our story as we explore a small area of Western Slovenia, welcomed by many interesting people who told us their stories. This report is hosted on the “StoryMap” website.
The course had a particular focus on interpretation – how we tell our stories and present matters to others – a topic I am truly passionate about and a skill necessary and important to both of my roles. Taking the course in Estonia was a very meaningful experience, rich in content and inspiring on many levels.
An inspirational and diverse programme of topics and visits was put together for us which included Kemeri and Gauja National Parks, the Lubana wetland complex and Latvia’s only gorge near Sigulda. The themes explored were Forestry, large carnivore management, research and legislation, peat bog and wetland management, nature protection system and practices, cultural and green infrastructure and digital tools in conservation. Cultural visits included a visit to the Nordic Herbal Museum in Cecis, a guided walk and history talk in the old town of Cecis, a visit to the Ligatne Nature Park in Gaujas National Park, the Kalsnavas Arboretum and the Latvian Ethnographic Open-Air Museum in Riga.
In May 2022, Turizem Bohinj hosted a structured course in Triglav National Park, Slovenia, for those working in Scotland in the natural and cultural heritage sectors. We travelled to various parts of Triglav National Park and Ljubljana to explore the wildflower festival, national park management, sustainable tourism destination management, developing brands in a high biodiversity area and heritage interpretation.
Râmeț was not collectivised during the Communist era, due to its limited resource of ploughable land, thus there has been a continuity of farming practice. Those areas which were ploughable were traditionally planted with spring wheat, which matures in the summer. This wheat has a long straw, which was used for the traditional thatched buildings. Wheat growing ceased about 20-30 years ago, when bread became available from the shop, and the land has reverted to pasture.
BROZ an award winning conservation NGO in Slovakia are trying to save a key wetland site by raising the money to buy it and manage it for nature. If you can support them and share with your network you can help to protect this vital site. Visit their website and fundraising site to see more about this important campaign. We have a unique opportunity to restore a territory which has been for many years intensively used for agriculture. Now we have a chance to change it and protect a 42-hectare wetland in an agricultural country. This territory is very unique due to the occurrence of a rare glacial relict Central European root vole (Microtus oeconomus mehelyi) and also many other species of plants and animals. Our goal is to protect and return not only water to the vast fields, but also the abundant life that is dependent on it. Therefore we’re calling on you – professionals, nature activists, conservationists, wildlife protectors, and climate champions – to help kick start this campaign and leave a positive impact for nature and generations to come. Our power comes from each other. We just started a campaign and the public collection to buy 42 ha piece of land. It is the sole […]
… that Norway, with its greater biodiversity intactness, has been far more effective than Scotland in managing and protecting its natural capital resources. This raises the question of whether Scotland can reverse biodiversity decline and build climate resilience by emulating the wildlife management practices employed in Norway?
This trip gave me an insight into an incredible culture and history that I had not experienced before. It is clear that the people of Galicia value, nurture and benefit significantly from their local forests. Local timber is embedded in their culture and much of what they produce, from musical instruments, footwear and tableware, to architecture and furniture. Throughout this trip, we met communities who are connected to their woodlands; there is an embedded culture of community ownership and diverse use of their local natural resources.
“Combined works of nature and humankind, they express a long and intimate relationship between peoples and their natural environment.” This opening statement from UNESCO’s description of Cultural Landscapes included on the World Heritage List perhaps provides an indication of one reason why Scotland’s uplands, peatlands, woodlands and forests seem very much the poorer neighbour to Norway. Throughout the course the visit of ‘it’s just what we do here in Norway’ was repeated.
Our guide Lucija Gartner manages a farm with her family and balances traditional farming with some diversification techniques. They have converted one of their old farm buildings into tourist accommodation and offer guided tours and cheesemaking workshops for visiting tourists. The cheesemaking workshop was one of the highlights
It was quite surprising for me to discover that all predators can be hunted, some without the need for a license (fox, badger, mink, pine marten), and some hunted under a quota system (lynx, wolverine, bear and wolves). Decision making is decentralised through the empowerment of local stakeholders with hunters playing a key role by submitting bag data and helping with the collection of scats for DNA analysis and trail cams to monitor populations of predators.
A visit to a working farm in southern Spain, approximately 70 km north of Seville. The farm, Dehesa San Francisco, is in the Huelva province of Andalucía, close to the village of Santa Olalla del Cala. The farm is owned by the Fundación Monte Mediterráneo (Mediterranean Mountain Foundation) and has been managed by Ernestine Lüdeke and her husband for approximately 30 years.
Brian Wilson: Traditional Craft Maestro ANOTHER TURF in THE WALL (by Pink FJORD) We don’t need no new construction, We don’t need cement at all. No concrete mortars in our buildings, We don’t need no bricks at all. Hey! Helgi! Leave them spades alone! All in all it’s just, another Turf in the wall. All in all you’re just, another turf in the wall. We don’t need no stainless fixings, We don’t need no steel at all, No pressure-treated graded timber, We ain’t got no trees at all! Hey! Helgi! Leave them saws alone! All in all it’s just, another Turf in the wall. All in all you’re just, another turf in the wall. We don’t need no Health & Safety, We don’t need hard hats at all, No spirit levels, no tape measures, These buildings ain’t got far to fall! Hey! Helgi! Leave them plans alone! All in all its just, another Turf in the wall. All in all you’re just, another turf in the wall. We don’t need no Regulations, We don’t need no plans at all, Just split the Reisifjol, lay the Klambra, Strengur turfs to bind it all. Hey! Helgi! Leave […]
Faced with a crowded national park and local communities and crafts struggling to survive from traditional activities, their strategy is to encourage and promote tourism as a way to help the communities thrive. Educating the local communities (from school children to farmers) is key to the success of the programme. Tourism is seen as the generator of sustainable change. It was interesting to hear that their Slovenia Green Platinum Scheme was inspired by the Green Tourism Scheme in Scotland. The Triglav National Park and more particularly Bohinj have now taken it a step further by creating a Triglav Quality Mark and a specific Bohinj brand .
The Wildflower Festival provided a way to encourage locals to keep the meadows uncut for longer periods of time, reduce pressures on the local communities by offering a tourism package that moves away from ‘lake, sun, beer’ model, outside of the peak season. It futher, spotlighted the cultural/social dimensions of nature, which is something I’ve been wanting to build more experience in as it is an important aspect of my current role, helping to develop an ecosystem health approach to protected area monitoring, which involves incorporating society and people into measuring the health of a given ecosystem.
Nevertheless, it is apparent that from the smallest to the largest of organisations and groups we visited – all of them were working hard to appeal to and engage with the public at large to allow them to continue connecting with their heritage, history, and archaeology.
Maarika Naagel of Heritage Tours for outstanding hospitality, infectious enthusiasm, expert knowledge and endless patience; for generously sharing their home; and for safe driving, music and random introductions to Estonian subculture. Estonians have built a successful marine tourism product. It has been made possible by the willing cooperation between the EU, the state, the municipalities, community groups and entrepreneurs, and supported by national and regional policy.
The aim of this course is to provide people working in Scottish upland land management the opportunity to see and hear how native woodland has been responding to changes in grazing pressure in the part of Scandinavia most environmentally similar to Scotland. Participants will visit a variety of biodiverse, reforested landscapes from exposed coast to mountain top, where climate and geology are very similar to our own, and where multiple land uses such as forestry, hunting and farming, are often practised together.
Project: Village Voices Sustainability & Identity in Rural Cyprus. The theme of our project was Sustainable development through cultural heritage and rural community activities. The cultural and natural heritage of Cyprus, community heritage and engagement, craft and rural development. The aim of this project for me was to look at how small local and traditional businesses had succeeded, not only providing goods for local consumption, but for tourists too. How they fitted within the four pillars model and how I could use this model in my own future business. The Participants, Pano Lefkara and the Programme The wonderful group of participants, leaders, hosts at the village restaurant in Kato Drys. The Participants As a group we all came from very different backgrounds. I am a Glass Artist the other participants came from planning, strategic policy, storytelling, sustainable/community development and visitor experience. This made for interesting conversation on a variety of topics. Pano Lefkara A mountain village a short distance from the coastal road between Paphos and Limassol, that makes it a pleasant day trip for tourists and Islanders alike. We arrived in the spring and Lefkara was bursting with almond blossom from the groves that surround the village alongside their […]
It was interesting to hear that despite training opportunities there is not much uptake by young people to follow a career path in crafts. Many leave rural areas and head to the larger towns and cities for employment. The model of an apprenticeship whereby the individual receives training through a dual system is an approach which works well. This involves a combination of theoretic training in an educational establishment combined with practical training in a crafts enterprise.
The Association was set up after our host Velis and her co-worker Iva were touring the villages of the Plateau more than a decade ago and looking into ways they could help the region develop for the benefit of the residents. They discovered people in neighbouring villages with similar interests but no communication between them, a lack of accommodation for visitors, and rich cultural and natural heritage – worth sharing – that had been ignored, mistreated or neglected. Relying on the memories and experiences of local people, they found and cleared up some of these sites, installing interpretation and path networks, and advertised them in tourist guides. Visitor numbers went from 15,000 per year to more than 250,000 in only a few years
Infrastructure improvements are generally costly, but DTA has made significant inroads into connecting the villages to twenty-first century Bulgaria and the rest of the world by the installation of publicly available internet facilities in each of the community centres. Residents, with suitable training, are thus able to read news, contact relatives, order goods and otherwise develop and maintain contacts with other parts of Bulgaria and the wider world. DTA has also initiated language classes, a project which has many potential benefits in the wider tourism strategy for the area.
2019 has been another great year for the NET Programme. Our hosts have delivered a wide range of innovative and well-crafted courses in nature conservation and cultural heritage management, and the NET participants have created an excellent and diverse range of reports from films encouraging agroforesty in Scotland, outreach activities based on Slovak cave houses, recommendations for forest and wetland management, audio and visual diaries, presentations, and thoughtful reports on many topical issues. NET continues to celebrate the connections between Scotland and Europe and the many ways in which we can share skills and work together. Please click here to download the NET 5 2019 summary report.
There are very few contemporary examples of agroforestry in Scotland today, so to help land managers visualise what this system could look like and how it might work on your farm, we have made a short film about a living, working agroforestry farm in the south of Spain. The system is called Dehesa, and although the climate is different, the Dehesa has many parallels with marginal land in the Scottish uplands.
At the cultural centre, we chat with the ladies, who welcome us with evident pride, about the people and stories of Gorsko Slivovo. The gallery space provides powerful juxtaposition: on one wall, dark eyes stare, four mothers dressed in black, four sons sacrificed, partisan scenes of resistance and death. A shrine remembers oppressions past, Soviet, Ottoman, Roman; on the other wall, paintings of traditional dress, costumes of colour and hope, the shepherds practical garb, lively animals and fertile fields. The promise of bounty and celebration of a community, who knew it is only the land, which has always been there, and through commitment sustains them. Like some ongoing conversation across the gallery, these faces of Bulgaria continue to speak.
It was a great opportunity to be able to spend a week looking at the various types of parks and reserves in the Odra Delta and seeing the benefits and challenges of each. I think we were all blown away by how rich and diverse the wildlife and landscapes are, not just within the protected areas, but in the general landscape of the region as a whole. The main issues facing protected areas and wildlife in general in Poland seems to be a familiar one, lack of funding, staffing and awareness, which is all too familiar a problem in the UK as well. Due to Poland’s history, many people do not feel a connection to the land and so one of the results is that volunteering is nearly non-existant, which is a shame as this could be a rich source of help that is currently unavailable. It will also be interesting to see how the reserves will cope with climate change; increased pressure from predation and invasive species is tied in to this (as seen at Ujscie Warty NP) and subsequently pressure on staff time and funding for projects to deal with this. Hopefully the diversity of the landscapes means […]
ARCH coordinates adult education courses to Europe through the Erasmus+ Programme. We run a range of week-long courses for 6 to 8 participants with our host trainers in Europe. Next year we will run 10 courses based around managing cultural and community heritage
It was amazing to explore the regenerating forests in SW Norway and to understand better how native forests can develop with a lower browsing pressure. Deer management practices differ between Norway and Scotland, with carcass weights used to determine deer quotas in Norway, indicating the overall health of the population and helping to balance its impacts on woodland regeneration. Cultural and social factors have influenced the woodland regeneration we saw, from the abandonment of farms over the 20th Century to the different attitudes to hunting, foraging and land-use in Norway. The diversity of species and structure in the Norwegian forest sets an example for us to aspire to in Scotland, and we need to consider how to integrate a rebounding forest within Scotland’s cultural and social setting.
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 […]
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.
In the Cairngorms National Park tourism has greatly influenced a range of factors including the development of towns and villages, road infrastructure, signage, land management, demographics and employment. The park has a resident population of 18,000 people and every year between April and October 1.8 million visitors enter the park boundary. This volume of tourism requires significant resource to manage. Rimet is on the cusp of change and in ten years may be a very different village to the one it is now; a small, picturesque village in a beautiful location. The decision makers have the opportunity now to plan for change, to look at other examples across the world, learn from their mistakes and demonstrate sustainable tourism in practice.
What can be learnt from all this? Preserving traditional land management, culture and ways of life in Transylvania is crucial, not as a quaint museum piece, but within a wider narrative that draws out their interconnectedness with the natural world. Supporting younger people to remain in rural areas, and to develop low impact, ecologically conscious tourism at a rate and scale that supports rather than destroys the existing balance and pattern of life could be part of the answer, and providing agri-environment grants and packages that are easily accessed, and truly supportive of small scale subsistence farmers could be another. From a UK perspective, we need to learn as much as we can.
Years ago a friend visited Romania and when he returned he commented that the countryside he found there felt to him how he imagined much of Scotland must have once been. We are a nation working to restore natural habitats that have been lost and to repair the mistakes we have made in the past, while they are a country who still hold the potential to learn from the mistakes made in other lands and work to protect and celebrate their wild landscapes, before they need to be saved and restored. I look around the vast scenes of canopy covered mountains and wonder if Transylvania isn’t just a glimpse of what Scotland has lost but of what it could also recover.
Following my structured training course in Romania and subsequent discussion with my colleagues, we now have plans to bring some of the traditional village farming methods from Romania onto Balmacara Estate. We have a demonstration species-rich meadow on a high profile gateway site. Next year before the harvest we will get the students from the crofting course at Plockton High School to establish a number of fixed quadrats on the meadow. They will record and quantify the plant species and invertebrate life within these quadrats giving us a base sample. When the meadow is ready to cut, half will be done by the students using scythes, creating Romanian style haystacks in the process. The other half of the meadow will be cut using modern machinery creating round baling hay. On an annual basis the crofting students will carry out the same procedures, and we will monitor the quadrats to check what is happening to the biodiversity within each half of the meadow.
An openness of this kind to new ideas could be key to the sustainable development of Transylvannia and many other places like it. Outsiders could come to live in these remote regions, enticed by the free land and materials, and make a commitment to work the land – undertaking to do the hard graft, and to learn from the community, before these skills are lost. There is huge interest from people in the UK and beyond, who recognise this need to get back to the land, who would undertake this – within a system they can trust, and that works for everyone. If the new road leads to developments in infrastructure which eventually allow faster internet, then a whole new raft of possibilities open up to people working part time on the internet for some income, but remaining committed to small scale farming practice – knowing its value from having seen the results of over development in their various countries of origin.
By Claire Glaister, Institute of Chartered Foresters 61 degrees latitude: A house of 100 trees An intrepid group of seven left Scotland to head to the land of lakes and trees; a country with a scale of forestry which, to a forester, comes close to Utopia. The week-long Erasmus+ study tour, hosted by Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) and promoted by ARCH, was to cover forests, birds and environmental education. On arrival at our accommodation for the week however, it became clear that we would also be treated to spectacular skies and sunrises, landscapes and culture and great hospitality too. The final turn of our journey that night took us down an avenue of Silver birch which, even accounting for the car’s headlights, seemed to shine brightly in front of us. The bark looked much brighter than we see on birch at home and certainly lived up to the tree’s silver title. Sitting around the kitchen table that first evening, our neighbour, Tapio Rautaneva, the owner of the house, explained to us how he had built it using 100 trees from his own woodland – just along the road – individually selected for their physical and quality characteristics. […]
Despite the presence of bears and wolves we learned that hunting is essential to managing a sustainable deer population, which was contrary to my perception at the start of the trip. Tapio said there are around 300 wolves in Finland, but 10,000 would be needed to meet equilibrium. It would not be possible for the number of wolves to coexist with the current human population of Finland – so hunting of deer by humans will always be required. We also learned that in the Lapland area accounting for 36% of the country no bears, wolves or lynx were tolerated and were shot on sight to protect the reindeer. Unlike Scotland there are no ‘professional’ hunters, as hunting is too popular of an activity. However, Tapio foresees such jobs might exist in the future as the country continues to urbanise and less people live in rural areas.
This film shows the other side of the Erasmus course – the friendships formed and the cultural barriers toppled.
This presentation illustrates turf building in Iceland and Scotland and details plans for a new turf building in Glen Coe
A group report covering a range of perspectives and topics from the NET Latvia course 2019. Although a trip focused on understanding the management of nature conservation in Latvia our hosts made sure we received a healthy dose of cultural history to compliment and broaden our understanding of Latvia and its people.
Hunting is cultural; licensing includes Wolf, Beaver, Lynx & Bear, Moose, Red and Roe deer that the others might scare! Sprays & deterrents are used but fences are few, Hunters are plenty but numbers including Golden Jackal still grew.
From the wetlands of Kemeri National Park through to the wooded sand stone valley of Gauja National Park the visiting tourist cannot fail to be impressed by the abundance of information signs, play areas, picnic spots, fire pits, boarded walks and walking trails which manage to make you feel welcome without compromising on the natural beauty of the landscape. I think all in the group would agree that we were excited about the accessibility of Latvia to a tourist with return trips already being mapped out.
An account of the history and restoration works undertaken of one of Latvia’s major peat bogs – and the restoration of an adjoining river and associate flood plains.
In terms of organisational structure there are strong similarities to Scotland. The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) develops policy. The State Forest Service sits within the MOA and enforces legislation across the industry whilst providing support and issuing licences/permits for all forests regardless of ownership. Finally, the Latvia State Forests Joint Stock Company operates as a commercial entity and manages all state owned forests. However as Normunds went into more detail and as we visited more forests throughout the week it became clear that organisational structure was where any similarities to forestry in Scotland ended. In terms of forest cover, ownership and management Scotland and Latvia could hardly be more different. It was fascinating to spend time in a country with such a different approach, where forestry seems to be winning out over intensive tree farming. Since being back at work I’ve been looking at my sites differently, wondering how much of what I saw could work here and daydreaming of Wolf , Moose, Lynx and Bear…. Paldies Latvia!
In Latvia deer management is administered centrally by the State Forest Service and there is a national register of hunters who require a license to hunt. However management is devolved to the 2074 hunting districts with cull targets and objective agreed locally. This and the requirement of a minimum land area over which to hunt different species means that there is a more collaborative approach to hunting in Latvia. Cull reporting is more rigorous than in Scotland and hunters are required to record where, when and how many deer they harvest.
Given the extent and value of both Norway and Sitka spruce stands in both Scotland and the wider UK, it is vitally important economically and environmentally as described above to minimize and control any outbreaks of dangerous forest pests in coming years. Lessons learned in Latvia as well as other European countries indicate the importance of early detection through annual monitoring and indeed the important relevant intervention to control outbreaks and minimize losses as well as preventing further spread of infestations.
It is an impressive set up, with a (for Latvia) diverse staff of 35, who are highly skilled and experienced in their fields of biology, chemistry, electronics, and others. The umbrella vision for IES and the other 11 companies is an ethos of environmental thinking through medicine, art, beauty, and gastronomy. There is a conscious effort to break the barriers between science based knowledge and the experience of people who have gained a deep understanding of the land through years of working and living with it, blending the two to gain a higher level of understanding. This is done through job swaps, careful recruitment, local projects, and shadowing.
What beguiled me on this trip was that it was evident from every Finnish person I spoke too that they had a deep respect for nature. This included the hunters. Even the predators were an important part of their mythology. For instance, people used to collect the first droppings that a bear produced after hibernation and kept them in a pouch to wear so that they would have the strength of a bear all year. Another indication of this respect was the almost total lack of litter found in natural places which can be a real problem in Scotland. Our student guides just didn’t understand why you would leave rubbish behind. Solo walks in the forest were common and important to people of all ages. My impression was that the Finnish culture still maintained a real connection with nature whilst some urbanisation in Scotland may have severed this connection.
Estonian runic singing began to decline as European influences took prevalence. When I heard this I was reminded of a passage in a book called ‘Soil and Soul’ by Alastair McIntosh, when he described a ‘loss of cultural self-confidence’ that occurred in Gaelic culture with the advent of television and radio. The singing that used to accompany activities such as weaving, rowing and ploughing gradually fell silent. This trip has inspired me to finally bite the bullet and sign up to Gaelic classes (a part of my own heritage that was not passed down by my great-grandparents). On the Sandwood estate where I work we are also developing a plan to gather unrecorded Gaelic place names from older members of the community, to see what more they can tell us about the area’s people, history and ecology before they are lost forever. This trip has inspired me to believe this is a project well worth undertaking.
Overall, though, I was most struck by the interplay and interdependency of the different land uses and incredible attention to detail in the management of the trees, pasture and livestock. Just one example of this was learning of the special calculation done each year into the anticipated acorn crop and limit set accordingly on the number of pigs that can be reared in order to retain organic status for pork production. Such an ethos is surely something that John Muir would have approved of, regardless of whether in sunny, southern Spain or on the side of a somewhat soggier Scottish mountain:- “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
The holistic approach to land management that is the defining feature of the dehesa system of land management provides an opportunity to consider how the historic, largely sectoral approaches to Scottish agriculture and woodland/forestry could be better integrated for the benefit of people, nature and the wider environment. Such a shift in thinking could be of particular value to agriculture on marginal land. Tree and animal species would necessarily differ from those in Spain but, for example, fruit trees could be expected to have a particular role given their nutritional value for livestock as well as opportunities for a crop and fruit-related products.
Rapid development is the watchword for Estonia. New infrastructure, new roads, integration of technology and heavy investment – both nationally and from the European Union – speak of a country facing forward. It is heartening to see that this is not to the detriment or exclusion of natural, built and cultural heritage. Tradition runs deep and, for the most part, it is incorporated into Estonian identity along with this rapid progress. Development has been carefully balanced, in the main, with nature. Estonians value nature and their relationship with it in a different way to Scotland, it being more integrated and present in their lives, all around them rather than being something one takes a trip to visit.
Exhibits included 3D site models – making the castle more accessible for visually impaired visitors, and old maps and archaeological site drawings printed on Perspex which could be slid over one another showing how the site changed through time (an idea I’d like to steal for Archaeology Scotland!). My favourite exhibit was the wall of artefacts found during recent excavations. Pot fragments displayed over the outline of the type of pot they came from and bridle parts displayed over a sketch of a horse’s head made it obvious what the artefacts were, and were used for in the past – sketches like this would be a great addition to our Artefact Investigation kits.
The ‘singing revolution’ is the time between 1986 and 1991 when Estonians gathered in large numbers to sing revolutionary songs in a non-violent protest against the soviet occupation. Culturally this was a powerful way of Estonia retaining its identity. 100,000 Estonians gathered for 7 days and nights in the Tallinn song festival grounds. ‘Until now, revolutions have been filled with destruction, burning, killing and hate, but we started our revolution with a smile and a song’ Estonian Activist Heinz Valk who coined the term ‘ singing revolution’
Hunting in Norway is deeply engrained in the country’s history and its culture. This makes replicating its use as a conservation tool difficult for countries, such as Scotland, where hunting is regarded as merely a rich man’s sport. Nevertheless, there is much that Scotland can learn from Norway’s attitude to hunting.
Aa is for Everything is a personal record of a week-long exploration of Estonia’s cultural heritage that took place from 4-11 August 2019. It contains personal reflections and observations, bits and pieces of history gleaned from our guide and from my own research, inspiration from conversations with my tour companions, and from the information imparted by our many hosts who generously gave of their time and shared their knowledge. The ABC structure of this report is inspired by the book Sõrulase Aabits, a primer on the cultural heritage of Sõrve on the island of Saaremaa. The word aabits comes from the pronunciation of the first three letters of the Estonian alphabet: ah-bey-tsay The full report is reprinted below, or you can go to the Aa is for Everything website – there’s also a map of the places we visited and a gallery of images. The programme was developed by ARCH Scotland and funded through Erasmus+ and hosted by Maarika Naagel of Vitong Heritage Tours. You can read the stories and articles here as a kind of idiosyncratic introduction to Estonian culture as I found it in 2019. It’s far from exhaustive, but hopefully instructive. A bit of everything. Thanks for […]
What inspired and impressed me most was the chosen narrative, the acceptance that different idea(l)s of Estonia exist, from the Estonian diaspora, islanders, people from the countryside, from towns or from Tallinn. It wasn’t supporting one national idea of what Estonia is, which too often seems to be propagated by countries even today but showing that there are many and that there is room for all of them. Visitors were also frequently asked to consider “what would you have done?” instead of condemning everything in good or bad. It was the perfect ending, summing up what we all had come to notice – that Estonians are a very resourceful and colourful people, proud of who they are and where they are from.
I’ll treasure many memories from our time in Estonia – swimming in the Baltic sea at sunset, climbing a lighthouse, seeing a moose, meeting Mari, but I also want to hold onto the lessons learned, and bring those home with me. I can draw many parallels with Scotland – both have dramatic landscapes, vast wilderness and habitats, rich heritage and stunning beaches. And both have the same strongest asset- it’s people. I’ll be doing everything I can to embed what I’ve learned into helping connect, and reconnect, Scotland’s people with what they have on their doorstep, and the stories, skills and ancestry in their blood.
Secovlje Salt Pans We learned that the park is on the list of Ramsar wetlands of international importance. In fact, in 2003 the solina was damaged which meant no harvesting took place, however European funding helped restore the site for birdlife, which in turn enabled salt harvesting to resume. It was really interesting to see how much of an asset wildlife has been for the park, as it enabled them to restore the salt-pans, and the park clearly takes great pride in its wildlife.
I work as a ranger at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park where my job can be best described as ‘helping visitors enjoy the National Park in a safe and responsible way’. This can be done through sharing of information, education and also enforcement through patrolling. My main patrol area is Loch Lomond so I was very keen to visit similar wetland environments in Poland and see how land managers do things there.
Grazing management in Poland currently appears to be wader friendly and it was encouraging to hear that many efforts are being made to make sure grazing is appropriate. At Ujscie Warty, large extents of the park’s floodplain meadows are rented out to local farmers for cattle grazing. Although farmers are keen to get stock out onto the meadows as soon as possible, the park authorities make an attempt to prevent cattle introduction until the second half of June to reduce trampling risk to wader nests but also prevent excessive damage to soft wet ground.
By participating in the survey and reporting bag numbers the hunters themselves are key figures in game management. Due to the vastly different cultural heritage of hunting in Norway, where hunting is much more a way of life than an elite hobby, divides between shooting and conservation communities simply do not exist as they do in the UK. However it is inspiring to see what can be achieved when all parties recognise the requirement for robust and contemporary population data and work together to ensure gamebird hunting is carried out at a sustainable level each year.
The important role of the mountain forests for ground’s stability has been observed at Dovre National Park. Betula pendula, B. pubescenis, B. nana, Juniperus communis, and Salex spp cover waist area overhead 1000 m above the sea level between stands of coniferous and alpine zone. Roots system holds poor, stony and wet soil and well protects against landslides. The woodland habitat creates much better biodiversity than post-grazing grassland. That is a good example for land management of similar areas in Scotland.
I was inspired by the focus placed on face to face engagement in Poland to connect people with nature. Given the small size of the teams overseeing the nature areas I felt the decision to concentrate on being out amongst people rather than focusing on producing written communications for press and social media allowed them to build support for nature with the people living next door to it. It highlighted the importance of having local people engaged with nature and supportive of their work which in turn helps with the delivery of conservation.
a common tactic seemed to be limiting public knowledge of the parks as much as possible, reducing pressure on the environment and disturbance to wildlife as there is just not the staff or infrastructure to support them. Has this resulted in Ujscie Warty National Park having one of the highest densities of birds in Poland? or Dabskie Lake in Szczecin having the highest number of White-tailed Eagles in Europe? Of course, this is not to say they don’t want visitors, they just can’t currently handle them without the resources. Hopefully in the future perceptions will change and they will be awarded the funding they deserve, and be able show off the wonderful nature and wildlife of Poland in a sustainable way.
Action includes a ban on keeping on selling the species, a rapid eradication obligation of newly emerging populations and the management of established populations to prevent the species from becoming a wider problem and to keep them out of protected areas.
Links to the best Norwegian websites and databases fpr conservation.
It is obvious that Norway recognises the ecological, economic and cultural importance of its natural environment. However in the absence of Natura sites combined with increasing pressures from development, Norway’s nature may face testing times ahead. With Scotland’s smaller landmass combined with greater pressures from development, I’m not sure our environment would be robust enough to withstand Norway’s approach to environmental protection. It is therefore reassuring to know that the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that EU environmental standards will continue to be met once we leave the EU.
Land management continues to be highly sectorial in Scotland, with different sectors (arable farming, conservation, game management) working in isolation, competing for limited natural resources. This has led to significant land use and human wildlife conflicts, resulting in a culture of distrust among the different stakeholders. In contrast, Norwegian land management is based on a more integrated system, with a greater culture of land stewardship, trust and shared values amongst its stakeholders.
Again there was an overwhelming diversity of flowers – a carpet of colour and endless new species. Highlights included Clematis recta; Anemone sylvestris which looked like a poppy; birds nest orchids and broomrapes; cornflower; a carpet of bugle; salvia; dianthus; martagon lily; lily of the valley; and Solomon’s seal. The diversity and sheer number of flowers was magnificent, and something we simply do not have in Scotland. The management of the meadows has now been mechanised and the meadow is cut in late June/early July. Previously it was cut by hand and used as hay but nowadays it is baled.
During our week in Iceland I made use of every opportunity to record visual material by making photos and sketches, and as a result I now have at my disposal a valuable source of material to continue to work on in my art studio. I will make a series of works on the subject that will be exhibited during Perthshire Open Studios in September 2019.
The round inside of the barn required the Klambra to be cut with enough of an angle so that they can be firmly pushed together with no gaps. These gaps would create weak areas in the wall which could lead to collapse or failure of the structure.
From the late 19th and early 20th century turf building ceased to be the main form of construction in Iceland surpassed first by timber construction and soon after by the widespread use of modern concrete. This form of construction is now only used to maintain historic structures and in demonstration projects to keep the knowledge of these construction techniques alive.
However easy Helgi make it seem I realise that there is a tremendous level of experience needed behind turf building especially in the choice of areas/conditions to excavate turf from and the design of the structure being built. I will experiment with interested volunteers but greatly look forward to the opportunity of involvement with the turf building restoration planned for Glencoe and appreciate the links made by this course with other potential turf builders in Scotland.
The frame was entered with some sense, that new architecture on the Arctic rim, will have to evolve to tackle the greatest contemporary human imperative – Climate Change. To this end matters of thermal transfer and isolation offered by the inherent properties of Turf are reflected on. ( with of course – a pinch of Icelandic pragmatism and dark humour, thrown into the hot tub …for good measure.
Much like in Scotland, turf building is in serious decline, this leads to a skills shortage and a danger that the skills might eventually be lost. The beauty of turf building is that it has evolved over generations in response to factors such as the socioeconomic changes, materials shortage and the effects of the everchanging climate climate. Thankfully, the work that Skagafjörður Heritage Museum is doing, helps to keep the skills and knowledge alive.
What is sometimes forgotten though is that for traditional trades to be carried out in a truly traditional way they rely on the correct tools being available. This is felt in the UK – at present a number of tool making crafts feature on the Heritage Crafts Association ‘Red List of Endangered Crafts’. This is not an issue unique to the UK. It became apparent that sourcing replacement parts for the Icelandic turf building tools, the turf scythe in particular, was a challenge
Then strips of Torfa a double Strengur are laid to the thin part or tail of the Strengur on the inside of the wall from front to back. These are built overlapping each other which strengthens the wall and bonds it together. Once the stone base course is built to the required height the clamping blocks or Klambra can be built on top.
The Heart of Scotland Forest Partnership are based in Perthshire, Scotland. Here, public, private, community and charity partners are working together to connect woodlands across Highland Perthshire. Members of the partnership were recently given the opportunity to visit Norway on a training course developed by ARCH, hosted by Duncan Halley and NINA (Norwegian Institute for Nature Research) and funded through the Erasmus+ programme.
I have a newfound appreciation for this sense of balance that maximises environmental and social priorities, something that can be difficult to achieve. This study visit has emphasised the global importance of this system (in terms of preventing desertification), whilst also providing a shining example for sustainable, biodiversity-friendly land management systems elsewhere in Europe.
Transhumance is an ancient practice of moving animals between regions to benefit from the best grazing at the best time of year. The loss of this transhumance has impacts in both Andalusia and the north. In Andalusia the sheep remain on the same ground throughout the year which increases the pressure on the available grazing and is detrimental to the soil. In the north the lack of annual grazing has led to abandonment of pastures, which are infilled with continuous forest or scrub cover, which lowers biodiversity and increases the risk of fire.
When the worlds soils are predicted to have only 60 harvests left in them, we need to find a more sustainable approach to our use of agricultural land. The Dehesa San Francisco is a beautiful example of what can be achieved.
Near Lišov is a c200km long linear monument, part of a massive network of similar sites stretching from the Czech Republic to the Black Sea. This section near Lišov runs approximately North-South and was once thought to be defensive, however a number of theories have been proposed to explain its massive construction. They are thought to be Neolithic and their relationship to tributaries of the Danube, and the Danube itself appear to be important. The monument is reminiscent of the Cleaven Dyke, Perth and Kinross, a complex earthwork comprising a pair of parallel ditches (c.45-5om apart), with a central bank, running for 1.8km through woodland and for a further 350m as a cropmark.
The rural museum opened in 2015, so it has only been operating (and flourishing) over the last 3 years, under the care and love of locals Adriana Patková and Jakub Dvorský, our young guides who accompanied us throughout our stay in Slovakia. I fell in love with the museum from the beginning and the ideas it stands for. It may display historic objects and furniture in a traditional way at times, but many of these are actually donated by the locals or passionately collected by Adriana. This way, the museum acts a depository for the local heritage and for holding people’s memories and identity. Moreover, it acts as a space for keeping alive ancient traditions, like for example burning the Goddess Morena, symbolising death and the winter, and sailing it down the river to welcome spring.
Impressions of Lisov and its culture heritage
Vernacular architecture, construction methods, techniques and associated crafts and skills, is a lesson of the past for the future. Architecture established and resulting, including from construction approaches, is a unique component of a locations’ culture just as much as its language, music, art, literature or food. Architecture is also the most visual of those cultural components; conveying a unique image. This is called “genius loci,” the “spirit of a place”.
I sincerely hope that the work of Jacob and Andriana at the Lišov Museum revive the traditional crafts of using clay mortars and plasters and limewashes for the repair of old buildings and encourage their use in modern construction.