Posts Tagged ‘north harris’

Maraig Hydro update

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Early last year, we started exploring the possibility of building a small-scale hydro-electric scheme on the Maraig river. Since Maraig and Rhenigedale were connected to the Carragraich Treatment Works, the small water treatment works at Maraig stopped extracting from the river. This gave the Trust the opportunity to take water for hydro-electricity.
In April, the Trust was awarded Community and Renewable Energy Scheme funding to progress the project through the permissions stage. Highland Ecodesign was the company that carried out the feasibility work. They were engaged once more to come up with a scheme that fits the constraints imposed by the grid company and meets planning and SEPA water extraction requirements.

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The scheme comprises a small weir and intake next to the Rhenigedale turn below the old water treatment works. A turbine house will be constructed down near the shore on the Eilean Anabaich side of the footbridge. The two sites will be linked by a buried 350m length of 560mm plastic pipe.
intake
During the summer, the prescribed environmental surveys were carried out. Firstly a fish habitat survey with electro-fishing; then a protected mammal survey, looking for otters and fresh-water mussels. Then a full topological survey and a peat management plan. Finally a sediment plan allowed us to submit our application for planning permission in September. In December we secured planning permission and a SEPA licence. With a £12,000 deposit already paid to SSE for the grid connection, all the permissions are now in place.

The next stage is to decide how the project will be funded.

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5th January: Red Deer

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We’ve been seeing plenty of Red Deer stags hanging around at various points along the Hushinish road over the last few weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!20141230_095719

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A long trip from New Zealand ends in the Harris hills.

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towerliftOn Tuesday 25th November, North Harris got its first full-scale wind turbine.

The North Harris Trust has been working for over 9 years to develop the site at Monan, above Ardhasaig. Whilst communities at Horshader, Galson and Tolsta managed to commission their community turbines, North Harris lagged behind due to the challenging wind conditions. With grid-connection and financing problems behind us, and a suitable turbine, our joint venture with the turbine manufacturer has finally started to bear fruit.

For four years we have been working with Windflow Technology Ltd, who manufacture a unique two-bladed machine that can deal with the turbulent wind conditions found amongst the North Harris hills. Last week the first of three machines arrived from New Zealand and was lifted into place. Carrying out this work in the winter months is always risky, but the weather was sufficiently calm to allow the nacelle with blades to be lifted to the top of the tower. Duncan MacKay & Sons moved onto site way back in August. Since then they have built a 1200m access track and foundations. Now the job is on to get the cables installed in the ground and connected down the hill to the substation cabinet. Fingers are crossed that SSE can bring together the appropriate people to get the turbine connected to the grid before Christmas.
Once the Christmas break is over, preparations will get underway for the arrival of Turbine 2 and 3. Foundations and crane hard-standings are already in place. It is hoped that the turbines will be operational at the start of March and delivering a new income to the community for many years to come.

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22nd November: Orcas!!

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On Saturday afternoon, a group of Orcas (Killer Whales) were seen in Loch Leosavay at Amhuinnsuidhe! One adult male (massive dorsal fin), and we believe an adult female and 3 calves. Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family. There is only a small population present in the Hebrides, ranging over large distances and constantly on the move. As a result, sightings are pretty rare. 

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Tasmania – looking at community regeneration

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We hosted a visit today from a visitor from Tasmania. I had to look on the map to see exactly where it was!

Imogen Ebsworth is an advisor for a Senator in the Australian parliament. She is on a month long fact-finding mission to the UK. She has seen disadvantaged steel works communities and coal mining communities and has been to Harris to see how remote, rural communities can be re-energised through community land ownership.

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Tasmania is a bit closer to the equator than Harris, but as an island, has a similar cool temperate climate. They know about wind too, having in the “roaring forties”. 45% of their land is designated as national park. Forestry and Mining are big industries which often conflict with the National Park designations. They have a similar ageing population with few young people and children. Holiday homes are common as are people retiring to the area.

It’s surprising that someone can come from the opposite site of the globe -perhaps our furthest-travelled visitor, and have so much in common.

 

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7th November: Sea Eagles and Snow Buntings

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Three juvenile Sea Eagles seen from the road, flying about around Aird an Tolmachan this-morning. We’ve also had a few reports over the last couple of weeks of Snow Buntings being spotted – These distinctive little birds come down from the arctic circle to overwinter in the UK. 

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New and growing businesses wanted

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Since July, work has been underway on the East Tarbert/Urgha border to construct the first new business units in Harris for over a decade. Last year, The North Harris Trust secured funding from the Big Lottery, HIE and CnES to build facilities that will attract new jobs and training opportunities to the area. The high cost of construction here in Harris and the perceived lack of demand has meant that no commercial developer has ever considered this sort of development. As a community development trust, The North Harris Trust has managed to convince the funders that if the units are built, then the businesses will come, along with employment opportunities.

Over the last few months Lewis Builders and Duncan MacKay & Sons Ltd have been preparing the ground for the three timber-frame buildings. Everyone on site now understands how hard the Harris rock is. We have worn out 5 tips to the rock breaker and burst countless hydraulic hoses. At last though, we have something above ground to show for 3 months work. The larch-clad units have been designed to be energy efficient with their own solar panels for electricity generation. Each has a workshop area, office and toilet. The units are due for completion at the end of January 2015. Planning permission has been granted for Business and Light Industrial use.

Over the years since the project was first conceived, the Trust has gathered the names of interested parties. An Expression of Interest form is now available for these people and others to confirm their interest. The form will allow funders to determine which potential tenants are best placed to create a positive impact to the economy of North Harris.

The form can be downloaded HERE  along with plans of the buildings. Hard copy versions can be sent by contacting David Wake on 01859 502222.

See the official Press Release HERE

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15th October: Bramblings

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There has been a large Brambling influx over the last few days with flocks of 30-45 seen at Tarbert, Leverburgh, Manish, and Leac a Li. Nice Scandinavian migrant rarely seen in treeless terrain – very unusual to see such large numbers here.

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..while the sun shines

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The Iomairt an Obain development in East Tarbert took another step forward last week. On Wednesday morning the timber-frame kits arrived on site. Three truckloads arrived in the pouring rain.

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As the scaffold was erected, the rain blew away. This week the panels are going up in sunshine. Nearly all the walls are up for all three units. The glulam beams are lined up ready for the roof. The windows are due at the end of the week. Now we have finally sent the pecker away, and the groundwork is finished we can see some rapid progress.

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An Expression of Interest form will be posted out next week to all those that have shown interest in the units. If you wish to request a copy, then please contact the Trust Office on 01859 502222

HIECnES Planning

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2014 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival: Success!

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Last week was a massive success for the 2014 Isle of Harris Mountain Festival. The programme this year was bursting full with a huge variety of events, including guided walks, outdoor sports, evening talks, film nights, and much more. All the events were well attended, and everyone who came together in celebration of the mountains of Harris was treated to perfect weather right through the week.

Cleit Ard Guided Walk

The programme was packed full of guided walks taking place every day through the week – a good mix of long and short walks to provide something for everyone. The big walk of the week was the Clisham Horseshoe walk, which took place on the same day of the Referendum. The walkers were treated to some very special weather conditions – a cloud inversion for most of the day meant they were walking on the hill tops above a sea of cloud that was billowing through the glens. Accompanying the walkers on this journey was long-distance walker, author and photographer Chris Townsend; his second year of involvement with the festival.

Above the clouds on the Clisham Horseshoe 2

The evening events were opened by Alastair McIntosh – author, broadcaster & activist who spoke about his involvement in the story of the Roineabhal quarry. Renowned natural history photographer Laurie Campbell gave an evening presentation of some of his latest work, as well as running two photography masterclasses during the week. Every year these workshops have been massively oversubscribed, and this year was no exception! Biologist and author John Love gave a presentation about Hebridean naturalists.

 

The opening Saturday saw the return of the Raft Race in East Loch Tarbert. Six teams took part, along with a good turnout of spectators, enjoying a barbeque put on by the Harris Hotel. Congratulations to the winning team “The Bolts.”

 

The weather conditions during the week meant it was perfect for the activities taking place on the water – particularly the Sea Kayaking in West Loch Tarbert and the powerboat tours of Loch Seaforth, provided by the Scaladale Centre.

Sea Kayaking in West Loch Tarbert

The festival week also heralded Segway Hebrides’ first venture down to Harris – they operated for two days running Segway Trekking trips up and down Glen Miavaig, to the North Harris Eagle Observatory.

 

Terry Abraham’s films were showcased at the festival. “Life of A Mountain: Scafell Pike” and “The Caringorms in Winter” were both screened at the Tarbert Community Centre, the latter being introduced by Chris Townsend.

 

Another new set of events this year were a set of Mountain Training Association accredited Hill & Mountain Skills Awards courses , being run by the Outdoor Learning team from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

 

Participants were treated to some pretty special wildlife sightings through the week – right at the end of the Eagle Walk, a Sea Eagle came and did an incredibly low fly-over right above the group, obviously very curious. A Minke Whale and porpoises were sighted off Scalpay during the walk out to the lighthouse, and on the Community Walk on Saturday, an otter ran right past the whole group by the path through Glen Cravadale.

 

There was also a very good turnout for the festival dance held on the Friday night at the Tarbert Community Centre. Music was provided by Stornoway’s celtic rock band “Rock Island Line” keeping the party going until the small hours of the morning!

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Overall attendance was pretty much equal to last year (around 560 people), but there was an increase in the number of people who had specifically come to Harris for the week during the festival – approximately 40 people, up from 25 the previous year. This is a pretty significant figure, seeing as one of the main aims of the festival is to provide a boost to tourism at the end of the season.

 

The North Harris Trust would like to thanks everyone who attended, and all the organisations who supported the festival. Also, thanks goes to John Muir Trust, Marine Harvest and Bòrd na Gàidhlig for funding the event.

 On the Giolabhal Horseshoe

If you have any ideas for next year’s festival, please get in touch by emailing info@harrismountainfestival.com. Keep an eye on Facebook, and www.harrismountainfestival.com for updates. Hope to see you all next year!

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