'From hill to grill' venison lesson for north west school pupils
John Muir Trust staff in the north west of Scotland support a pioneering new food education initiative
Trust staff Don O’Driscoll and Romany Garnett have been involved in a ground breaking project – ‘From Hill to Grill’ – to provide young people with a deeper understanding of the entire process of getting venison onto the dinner plate, from stalking to cooking.
Along with Highland Council Rangers Andy Summers and Jenny Grant, and John Venters from the Assynt Foundation, they took a group from Ullapool High School out onto the hills. The aim was to teach the second year students how to navigate; track and follow red deer over rough terrain; and get up close without alerting the animals.
They then showed the pupils some of the techniques involved in butchering carcasses, both out on the hill and in the deer larder at Glencanisp Lodge, where they enjoyed some barbecued venison. This was followed by a cooking session in the school, where pupils made venison meatballs, chilli and cottage pie.
The ‘From Hill to Grill’ programme is part of the Outdoor and Woodland Learning Project*, one of the 28 projects that form part of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP).
“The children really impressed the stalkers with their attitude,” said CALLP Education Manager Fiona Saywell. “They were happy to stay quiet while patiently crawling on the ground towards the deer and keen to get hands on.”
“Many people’s only experience of meat is plastic wrapped products that are indistinguishable from the animal they came from.”
Pupil Macy Paton said: “It was really good fun stalking the deer, and very interesting seeing the deer butchered, getting to hold the organs and helping skin one.”
Her classmate Darcy Graham added: “It was worth the cold and frozen toes! It gives you an appreciation for nature.”
Lesley Strachan, who teaches art at the school, said: “I accompanied the pupils on day two, and they were already very excited and engaged after their first day on the hill.
“The CALLP staff and stalkers John and Don developed good relationships with the pupils and were great at drawing the pupils' interest and sharing their skills and knowledge.”
*The Outdoor and Woodland Learning Project is being delivered by the Culag Woodland Trust and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Gannochy Trust.
Photograph: Katrina Martin.