Field Notes: Spring on Skye

Skye and Knoydart manager Ally Macaskill reports on a trial with pony power plus, some local students pick up new skills on the farm

Campbell trains on skye detail

A good pony is fun to work with, but they are not all angels! I have used them fairly extensively over the years. Early in 2019 we tried out using a pony to carry some hinds off Strathbeag on Torrin - we can’t access the top of the strath with a vehicle, however there is a hard footpath which is ideal for pony extraction.

Campbell the pony belongs to my partner who was keen to see if he would carry deer.  We did some training with him in the field and, once he was used to carrying deer, we tried him out on the hill. He was completely unfazed for most of the day, though it’s difficult to say whether he enjoyed it!

I have carried deer out of Strathbeag myself, but it’s easier for Campbell and I certainly couldn’t carry two. I would be happy to use ponies more frequently here, but they are more labour intensive than an ATV [all-terrain vehicle] - though ATVs don’t have any charisma.

WHC students help out at Strathaird

This spring, we also worked with students from the West Highland College UHI Crofting & Countryside Skills course from Broadford (shown in the photo above). They came over to help at Strathaird for six very successful days. They learned stock fencing skills, installing gates and putting up post and rail fence with their tutor Jamie Roker.

Course leader Heather McNeill was delighted with the students' progress. She passed on her thanks for the excellent and entertaining instruction, adding: “We are very fortunate to have such a good relationship with the John Muir Trust here on Skye.”

The West Highland College is launching a new Countryside Skills & Deer Management for Conservation course this autumn, following work with the Trust. As well as the usual practical skills, the course will include a section on deer management from the perspective of conservation and integrated land management. Students will be offered a work placement with the John Muir Trust or other organisation with similar objectives.

Find out more about the existing Crofting & Countryside Skills course or the new Countryside Skills & Deer Management for Conservation course via email, phone 01397 87400, or visit the West Highland College.