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3 Jul 2023

On the verge at Quinag

MSP Maree Todd joined our departing Quinag Junior Rangers for a close up look at some rare orchids, before presenting them with their certificates.

Maree Todd MSP and JRs hunt orchids at Quinag 2

The S3 Junior Rangers of Ullapool High School celebrated their final day of the year-long programme on a roadside verge near Quinag at the end of June, accompanied by local MSP Maree Todd (pictured above with our Engagement Manager Romany Garnett).

The MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross is currently Nature Champion for the rare lesser butterfly orchid, in a bid to encourage changes to mowing practices that avoid harming verge wildflowers. Local botanist, Ian Evans, was on hand to share his knowledge and guide everyone through monitoring techniques on a verge fringing Quinag.

The group worked seamlessly to collect the required data, from those seeking the orchids, to someone logging the GPS coordinates, to others with clipboard and pencil in hand noting the results, and those photographing the flowers discovered. A whole other world was revealled once their eyes were trained to spot the many delicate white star-shaped flowers, quietly exploding from individual upright stems that were hidden protectively among the surrounding vegetation.

Maree Todd MSP and JRs hunt orchids at Quinag 3

After their hard work, the Junior Rangers settled by Loch Assynt to enjoy some hot chocolate and reflect on what they had achieved through the Junior Ranger programme over the past year. Their list included: developing knowledge and awareness about the area; practical tasks ranging from tree planting to rhododendron removal, with problem solving required throughout; visitor management including learning about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and engaging with visitors at Ardvrek Castle about what our rights to responsible access means; learning and implementing navigation skills; and achieving their First Aid at Work certificate.

Developing leadership skills and building positive relationships among themselves and wider community have been key within all of this. One Junior Ranger said: “It’s been really good, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities; the balance of things like the first aid; and we got different experiences each time.” Another Junior Ranger, who is interested in a career in forestry added; “We wouldn’t get to do this otherwise”.

Maree Todd MSP and JRs hunt orchids at Quinag 4

Quinag Conservation Officer, Kat Martin said: “It’s an emotional time reaching the end of the programme which has spanned the whole of the academic year. We’ve learnt and grown together as a group, and it’s incredibly rewarding to have supported everyone on their respective journeys, learning valuable and transferable skills, and gaining an insight into our connection to the environment and opportunities out there to help protect it.”

Engagement Manager for the North region Romany Garnett said: “This programme is now in the second year and has grown in scope and breadth. The young people have been fantastic, and we are proud of what they’ve achieved over the year and the positive action they’ve taken to protect the wild places locally.

"The John Muir Trust is committed to investing in this programme and also through contracting outdoor sector professionals to develop the young workforce in the outdoor sector.”

Maree Todd MSP and JRs hunt orchids at Quinag 4

As the session came to a close, the S3s were presented with their Junior Ranger and John Muir Award Explorer level certificates by Maree Todd MSP; a celebration enhanced by the dramatic backdrop of Spidean Coinich, one of Quinag’s summits.


Additional notes

  • The Junior Ranger programme is a Scottish Countryside Rangers Association initiative, adapted and delivered by John Muir Trust with Ullapool High School. It aims to equip local young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to progress to employment in a range of Countryside roles, from estate workers and land managers to biological recording, visitor information services and environmental education.
  • The Nature Champions initiative encourages Members of the Scottish Parliament to champion threatened and iconic species and habitats, raising awareness and promoting action to protect and restore Scotland’s environment. More can be found here.

Photography by Chris Puddephatt

Purple Flower - David Lintern

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