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25 Jul 2022

Meet the seasonal ranger looking after Sandwood Bay

In 2019 Lynn Munro walked from Knoydart to Sandwood Bay in a challenge that would define her recovery from Lyme's disease. Three years later, she's spending the summer working to protect and connect others to the place that helped heal her.

Lynn Munro

Where do you consider home right now?

Northwest Sutherland – Highlands.

Where did you grow up?

In a wee village in northeast Sutherland called Spinningdale.

What was appealing to you about the seasonal ranger position?

Job opportunities that align with my values are few and far between in the far northwest. This was a job that would enable me to give back in some way to this Highland community and that felt special.

The John Muir Trust has always been close to my heart through connections with the John Muir Award and young people. 

What does your day-to-day look like in terms of responsibilities?

I meet with and chat to visitors to Sandwood Bay, helping them with information and directions, local advice and stories about the landscape. I'm creating a programme of nature walks and beach clean events that anyone can get involved in, as an opportunity for more people to get involved in engaging with and protecting the area. I'm also conducting visitor surveys to help shape future management at Sandwood. 

I work closely with Highland Council Rangers in this area - with Sandwood being just off the NC500, there are impacts from large visitor numbers that we work together to try and mitigate. 

I make sure the footpaths are maintained and regularly clear the cross drains to make sure heavy rainfall doesn't erode the paths. 

What's your connection to the place you're now looking after as a seasonal ranger?

In 2017 I contracted Lyme Disease after moving back to the Highlands from North Wales. This changed my career, confidence, identify and my life.

In 2019, I accidently clicked on a link on a webpage I was looking at, which opened the Cape Wrath Day Marathon event page. There was one place left – and I signed up. I couldn't even run a mile at that point, but I wanted to turn my life around and the metaphor of living more in a marathon mindset than a sprint mindset seemed very fitting! 

I decided I wanted to walk from Knoydart to Cape Wrath, and then run the marathon when I got there. I had my great granpa's 1912 map of Cape Wrath and northwest Sutherland to guide me, and felt a keen sense of needing to be in nature to restore myself.

I spent an incredible 26 days creating my own Cape Wrath trail that spring, and then ran the 26-mile marathon to end it at Cape Wrath a few miles from Sandwood Bay, where my girlfriend had joined me to finish my journey. Three years later, we're still here! And I am now helping to protect the very place that helped to protect and restore me.

What challenges, if any, are you seeing in the landscape?

One of the biggest challenges here is visitor impact on the fragile machair habitat. Unfortunatley there are some folks who ignore signage and light fires on the machair, don't dispose of human waste properly, or leave litter. 

We're also sadly seeing an increase of dead birds this year, particularly gannets, puffins, and guillemots. There are fears this may be linked to the bird flu outbreak. 

What are you seeing in this role that gives you hope?

The curiosity in people to ask what they can do to help. The sharing of stories with visitors of what wild landscapes are to them and what they could look like. People come to Sandwood to restore, recharge, to feel free and away, I can relate to that. 

What are you enjoying most about the job?

No two days are the same and there is room for creativity as well as direct action to get things done. I love seeing a problem and being able to fix it quickly. I love working in the landscape that I call home. The positive kindness of strangers always strikes me too, they thank me or come to say hello and ask what it is we are doing.

I feel like I have come full circle in this job. The John Muir Award was introduced to me at 15. Now, 15 years later I couldn’t feel more proud to be contributing to the work of the Trust.

  • Find out more about our work at Sandwood.

Lynn's post is supported by NatureScot, through the Better Places Green Recovery Fund

Shells at Sandwood

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