District News, February 4 2022

Conservation volunteers clearing woodland to make way for new planting on Gigha.
Conservation volunteers clearing woodland to make way for new planting on Gigha.

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Calling all Gigha conservationists!

Nature lovers have been asked to get involved in looking after the unique landscape of Gigha through volunteering with the island’s ranger service.

One morning each month volunteers carry out conservation tasks to promote and protect the island’s natural heritage.

Activities include ditch maintenance, tree planting, bird-box making, rhododendron removal, plantation maintenance and beach cleans.

The sessions take place on the third Friday of each month, include tea and coffee and can be signed up for on the gigha.org.uk website.

The Isle of Gigha Ranger Service is currently working on habitat management in the woodland that is home to the new path on Achamore Farm.

This management aims to increase the variation of the woodland’s structure by encouraging a mosaic habitat that will support everything from insects and butterfly species to bird life.

Spaces in the woodland are being cleared of invasive and abundant vegetation – as well as mountains of plastic – to make way for more light-supporting, more diverse ground flora and to expose areas where new planting can take place to establish native species that will also support wildlife.

Woodland edges are also being maintained and encouraged for birds to access resources in neighbouring fields, as well as feed and shelter in the scrub, supporting both woodland and farmland birds.


Islay’s beauty inspires Argyll composer

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra has recorded a new symphony written by a Lochgilphead composer who was inspired by the beauty of Islay.

The Rinns of Islay, composed by Helen MacKinnon, is a 20-minute symphony that portrays ‘a musical journey around the Inner Hebridean island’, which was home to the composer’s grandparents and generations before.

Inspired by stories of Islay in her youth, Helen began sketching the work during her composition studies at The University of Glasgow and returned to complete the work nearly 15 years later.

The 20-minute piece for symphony orchestra was recorded in Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, with American-based PARMA Recordings and GRAMMY-winning producer Brad Michel.

Helen, who grew up in Lochgilphead, explained: ‘It was a privilege to record with Scotland’s national orchestra.

Composer Helen MacKinnon has been inspired by Islay’s beautiful landscape. Photograph: Fraser Band.

‘The musicians and conductor, David Watkin, breathed glorious life into the work, which takes us on a musical journey around the island.

‘Due to Covid, we had a cross-Atlantic recording team, with technology connecting a producer in Boston with a team on the ground in Glasgow. It was a fascinating experience.’

The new orchestral work was inspired by Islay’s stunning natural environment, known for its rich terrain and peaty whisky.

Five short thematic movements celebrate Islay’s sunrises and coastal shores, while giving a playful nod to the island’s abundant whisky industry.

Helen added: ‘The work centres around The Rinns – a beautiful peninsula overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

‘My father used to talk about The Rinns of Islay, and as a child, I started to create stories and soundscapes linked to the island.

‘The work offers a visual, almost cinematic listening experience, with atmospheres and landmarks inspiring the visual imagination.’

The work features on a new album Legends and Light Vol. 2, featuring works by seven composers.

While many of the pieces are arranged for orchestral ensembles, listeners will also find the Highland bagpipes and Irish Uilleann pipes featured on the album, offering a deeply rewarding listening experience.

Helen is delighted with feedback so far: ‘I’m thrilled with audiences’ responses to the music.

‘Listeners have tuned in from across the UK, the USA and as far afield as New Zealand, keeping Scotland on the international map for new music.’

Algae warning for parents and pet owners

An unseasonal warning of algae danger has been issued by Argyll and Bute Council regarding Ardnahoe Loch, northeast of Port Askaig.

On Tuesday January 25 an announcement from the council warned residents and visitors not to visit the loch with animals or children.

A spokesperson for the council said: ‘We have been advised of a blue-green algae bloom around the jetty area on Ardnahoe Loch, Islay.

‘Whilst blooms are more usual in the summer months they can still occur at other times of the year. Please keep children and pets away from the area.’