Staff blog: The many views of Sandwood Bay
The Trust’s head of communications and membership, Kevin Lelland, takes a photographic journey to Sandwood Bay
A ‘coastal jewel’, the Sandwood Estate and Sandwood Bay has been in the Trust’s care since 1993. The next 18 months are set to be a productive time here with plans to further develop our work in the area and to support the experience of visitors by improving some of the facilities and maintaining paths.
A break in foreboding clouds sends sunlight across the peatland that makes up the majority of the landscape as you walk into Sandwood Bay. Peatland is a natural carbon store and also an important breeding ground for several species of bird including Greenshank and Golden Plover.
Sandwood Bay is not immune to the boom in tourism in Coigach, Assynt and the North West of Scotland in the past few years. Visitor numbers are increasing, making it more important than ever to share with people the reasons why we should protect this special place and to encourage them to support the Trust’s work.
Despite legitimate concerns about the potential impact of increased visitors, Sandwood Bay continues to be somewhere that people can experience a heightened sense of wildness. If people can witness the natural patterns of life in a wild place, through visiting our land or taking part in a John Muir Award, they are more likely to want to conserve them. Like many things in nature, it’s a delicate balancing act, in this case between promoting and conserving this special place.
Sandwood Bay is one of the few places in the UK visited by Arctic Skua – a bird with the highest conservation priority having seen significant population decline in the past few decades. This one had succumbed to the elements.
Trust staff and members contribute hundreds of hours each year through work parties clearing the beach of debris that has washed up. Initiatives like Take 3 for the Sea and Pick up Three pieces are inspiring and worthwhile. I made sure to stuff three pieces of litter into my rucksack for the walk out.
This weathered gate post and abandoned Sandwood farmhouse highlight this wild land has been visited upon and worked for centuries. Remnants in the landscape like this remind me of the importance of being transparent in our long-term conservation objectives, considering the impact of our work within a historical and cultural context and of the value in taking time to consider alternative perspectives.
My visit here followed the recent loss of my father to cancer. It was a restorative experience – a period of calm and quiet following the storm life had just thrown my way. A reminder that connecting with landscape and nature can alter our moods, shape our views, renew us and bring forth words to help make sense of the world. Everyone should visit a wild place like Sandwood Bay. Just make sure and bring back more than you take in.
Have a look at the other staff blogs our team has penned
All images copyright of Kevin Lelland