Monday, 29 March 2010

The Farnes II

The Farnes are famous for their bird life.  Over 270 different species of birds have been recorded over the years.  The most common bird is the ubiquitous Puffin.  Over 30,000 pairs reside at the Farnes at the height of the breeding season.  Although small in size, they have a certain attractiveness that some of the larger birds lack. 

Terns are also common and nest on the island.  With the islands being a nature reserve, kayakers have to be careful.  The only places to land are on the North side of the pier at Inner Farne ( and then staying below the High Water line ), and at Longstone.  Currents are fast between the islands ( up to about 6 knots at Springs ), with overfalls to the south side of the islands.  

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Farnes

The Inshore Forecast :-

Wind                      S or SW 5 or 6, decreasing 3  or 4
Sea State                Slight ir moderate, becoming smooth or slight
Surf                        1ft, 6 seconds, SE

That was the forecast on the Friday night, 22:00.  Friday had been breezy, and the inshore forecast seemed on the 'light' side.  Still who were we to argue ...

However, on arriving at Bamburgh, whitecaps were very much in evidence, and a 'good' F4 was blowing.  The SE going tide would have been flowing about 1.5 - 2 Knots.  Having driven down, the inevitable decision was to head out to Megstone 'for a look'.  We decided to head north to the lighthouse first, just to get a feel for the conditions, then if happy, head across.  The short paddle to the lighthouse at Blackrocks has as hard as expected.  But being out, agreed to head out to Megstone.  With the wind on our backs, a good 3.5/4 knots was paddled.  Sea state was a definite 'moderate', comensurate with a F4 beam sea.  Enjoyable, but concentration required.  After a wee confab, agreed to cruise down to Inner Farne.  Again, concentration required the whole way, with the boats bouncing about a bit, and the wind threatening to snatch the paddle.

A short break on Inner Farne, and another we discussion.  Whilst heading out to Longstone was a possibility, it would have been a long, very long, slog back.  So agreed to paddle round the islands about Inner Farne.  One set of overfalls made this part quite interesting. 

Coming round the south side of Inner Farne, we caught the full force of the wind and tide again, with whitecaps visible all the way up the Sound.  Took a line towards the lighthouse at Blackrocks again, and started paddling.  The waves were a boucnct three/four feet, but were regular and quite enjoyable.  Once up to about Bamburgh, we should have been in slack water, but progress was painfully slow.  I think we were all quite glad to hit the beach.

So not quite the weather we were hoping for... but an enjoyable day all the same.  Made all the more memorable by watching a bride having her photograph taken against the backdrop on Inner Farne.  Not every day you see a   bride's white dress on the beach !

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Not being doing much lately, but plans are afoot to change that this weekend.  The plan is to go to the place below :-

We just need the weather to play ball now ...

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Volcanoes and Fairies

Sunday saw a bright day, so a short stroll up the Eildon Hills was in order.  The hills, just outside Melrose, are not that high, but are pretty much visible from all parts of the Borders.  Composed of volcanic lava, over the years they have formed into three distinct hills. 

Being the highest point for miles around, they are a natural defence mechanism, with evidence of both iron age and roman forts being found.  But in the best of Border Traditions, there is also a healthy amount of local folklore.

Thomas the Rhymer lived in Earlston ( or Ercildoune as it was called ), and was reputed to be a prophet of some stature.  He was also known as 'True Thomas', as apparently he couldn't tell a lie.  Legend has it that he kissed the Queen of Elfland ( Queen of the Fairies ), and was then transported to her Kingdom, which lay within the Eildon Hills.  Although apparently only there for one night, when he returned to the human world, seven years had passed.

'I'm not the Queen of Heaven, Thomas,

That name does not belong to me;
I am but the Queen of fair Elphame
Come out to hunt in my follie.'

Like all legends, there is more than one version.  A slightly more humerous account can be found here.

These days the hills have a quieter existence. 

The picture above is looking north.  The small hill in the top left of the picture is the Black Hill.  At the foot of that hill lies Earlston ( Ercildoune ).

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Forth Paddle

Fourth paddle of the year happened to be in the Firth of Forth.  Plan was to meet at North Berwick and do 'something'.  Wind was on the cool side, and, as forecast, blowing a good F4.  Decided to head out via Lamb and Fidra.  Water temp was a balmy 5.5C
We opted to paddle into the wind, hoping to get  a little assistance from the incoming tide, and see how far we got.  The outward journey was decidely hard work.  Although the sea was surprisingly flat to begin with, once round Eyebroughy.  Once we started to head SW, the waves became a bit bigger.  Just really what you would expect from a F4.  The day was bright, but the wind made talking difficult. 

Short break was had at West Links ...

After which we pressed on the Gullane Point for lunch, passing a couple of kite surfers on the way.  The waves were reasonably regular, with the odd larger one hoping to catch us out.  We missed the Bleaching Rocks at Gullane, something that we'll need to look at on a return visit.

After lunch, heading back via the islands ....

Each of the islands had a bit of clapotis, with Craigleith in particular being quite lumpy.

All in all, a good day out.  Oystercatchers and Eider ducks in abundance, and buzzards on the way home.

And in the best of traditions, lattes and cake in the Seabird Centre finished off the day.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Fire and "Rescue" Service

Work and dark evenings are preventing getting out, but there is an accident enquiry currently underway about a fatal accident in Southern Scotland.  It's a bit 'off topic', but defies belief.  It's a story of bureacracy and 'procedure' over-ruling common sense, resulting in a what may have been a needless death.

The following is an account from "The Scotsman".  When reading, bear in mind that a senior Fire Service officer described the operation as a "success" !   

"Fire chief ruled out sending help to victim in mineshaft, inquiry is
A FIRE chief has revealed how he was desperate to send medical aid to a seriously injured woman trapped 60ft down a mineshaft but was forbidden to do so by a senior officer. Group Commander Freddie Howe wanted to use rope equipment to lower a paramedic down to tend to mother of two Alison Hume, who was pleading for help from the bottom of the pit.  But yesterday, he told an inquiry that his superior officer, Group Commander Paul Stewart, ordered him not to lower the paramedic down because of health and safety concerns.

A fatal accident inquiry into Mrs Hume's death earlier heard how health and safety regulations, issued four months before the July 2008 tragedy, meant firefighters could not use ropes to lift her out of the shaft.  Mrs Hume, 44, a lawyer, died shortly after being brought to the surface by Strathclyde Police's Mountain Rescue team, six hours after 18 firefighters arrived at the scene in Galston, Ayrshire.

Mr Howe said he received an instruction from Group Commander Stewart that a paramedic should not be lowered to help Mrs Hume.  He said: "We discussed with the paramedic and he was – at that point – more than happy to go down and help Mrs Hume."  Procurator-fiscal depute Nancy Beresford said: "He was stopped from going down. Why?"  Mr Howe replied: "My best recollection is that Mr Stewart did not want the paramedic to go down the hole.  "I have thought about this for a great deal of time. "My best recollection is that I received a message through the radio not to send him down the hole."  He added: "In the fire brigade, you never argue with a senior officer."

Mr Howe also told the inquiry yesterday of his frustration that "procedures" had stopped him from bringing Mrs Hume to the surface.  Mr Howe, 57, said: "We were striving to bring Mrs Hume up alive. But it is the first casualty I have ever brought out that has died. It was a shock for me. 

"We felt we were hampered by our procedures. We had the equipment, we had the training. We did not have the procedures."  He added: "To be honest, I wanted Mrs Hume out of there by any means we safely could.  "That is what I joined the fire service for."

The veteran firefighter also revealed that, almost two years on from Mrs Hume's death, there was still no system in place for dealing with a similar situation should it arise.

Mrs Hume, who worked for the Renfrewshire legal firm McCusker McElroy & Co, fell down the shaft after visiting relatives.  She was discovered by her daughter, Jane, then aged 17, who went to look for her and heard her cries from the pit in the early hours of the morning. Firefighters arrived within 30 minutes.

There was growing anger last night as new details emerged of health and safety rules being used to prevent firefighters rescuing members of the public. Independent MSP Margo MacDonald called for an independent inquiry to be launched into the wider issue of health and safety rules and how they affected the rescue services.  She said: "This is an incredible case. I can scarcely believe it. It is very hard to imagine firefighters, trained to save lives, who are prevented by regulations from carrying out that function."

Friday, 5 March 2010

Proposed Lobster Hatchery At North Berwick In Doubt

Last year, there were plans to create a lobster hatchery at North Berwick, and link the hatchery to the Seabird Centre, to allow it to expand it's charitable work.   It now appears that the plan is now in doubt and has been voted against by the Trustees of the Seabird Centre, citing finanacial concerns on the impact of running the Seabird Centre.  Details, taken from the Seabird Centre website, below :-

Plans for a proposed new lobster hatchery for North Berwick are now in doubt after the trustees of the Scottish Seabird Centre voted against proposals to extend the Centre to accommodate the hatchery.

A feasibility study undertaken by Jura Consultants indicated that such a facility would bring major positive, economic and environmental benefits for the area. Following extensive consultation with local businesses, fishermen, the local community and environmental organisations, Jura identified that the proposed hatchery would boost tourism, create jobs and help make lobster fishing in the Firth of Forth more sustainable.

Recommendations for the new attraction, the first of its type in Scotland were that it be sited at North Berwick Harbour, directly adjacent to the award-winning Seabird Centre, on the basis that the hatchery would benefit from proximity to the Centre, an established and highly successful five star visitor attraction which attracts almost 300,000 visitors a year, employs 50 staff and contributes £2million per annum to the economy.

A very successful lobster hatchery already operates in Cornwall which boosts tourism, supports local fishermen and undertakes scientific research. The proposed North Berwick hatchery would have operated in a similar way.

Unlike salmon farming, where stock is reared until it has matured, a lobster hatchery provides a “nursery” for the young lobsters. Female lobsters, with their eggs attached, are brought to the hatchery by local fishermen. After the eggs hatch, the larvae are reared until being released at just a few months old to mature, naturally, in the wild.

The study also recommended that the hatchery should also be used to help sustain local populations of crabs, langoustines and oysters. In the project, thousands of juvenile lobsters would have been released throughout the Firth of Forth every year, helping to sustain fishing communities along the coasts of East Lothian and Fife. In the wild, fewer than one per cent of lobsters survive beyond two weeks, but around 40 per cent of the young can be expected to survive in the hatchery.

The Seabird Centre is a self financing and non-profit making independent charity. It was felt by the charity's board that the additional financial risk of operating a lobster hatchery was too great and could have threatened the very survival of the Seabird Centre. In addition, a major fundraising campaign would have been required to raise the £2million plus needed to build the extension to house the hatchery.

Tom Brock, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre commented “the hatchery proposal is an excellent idea that would bring about a wide range of benefits. I am very disappointed that the hatchery plans are now in doubt although I do appreciate the Centre’s Trustees' responsibilities in ensuring that the charity is not put at unnecessary risk.”

Jane McMinn, Chair of the Hatchery Implementation Group commented, “We are extremely surprised and disappointed with this decision by the Seabird Centre's board, which was taken, despite the strong support of both the Centre's Chairman and Chief Executive for the project .

There is strong local support to create, here in North Berwick, the first hatchery of its type in Scotland with major long term benefits for everyone. This is a huge missed opportunity for the town.”

She continued, “This was an important conservation, environmental and sustainable project that had the support of many different interested parties; academic support, celebrity interest, local and Forth fishermen, seafood industry, commercial boat owners, North Berwick Community Council, East Lothian Yacht Club, North Berwick Harbour Trust Association, East Lothian Council all working openly together and I hope that something positive can come out of all the hard work and co-operation invested in the project to date.”

Commenting on the development, Managing Director of Jura Consultants, Paul Jardine said, “‘The Scottish Seabird Centre Board faced a difficult decision. The project’s feasibility has been examined with the capital costs, visitor market and income and expenditure all being considered. However, while such an examination can provide information to identify and consider the risks and uncertainties, it cannot remove the associated risks and uncertainties”.

Uri Geller Returns ...

In a previous post, I mentioned that Uri Geller had purchased Lamb island for the sum of £30,000, and detailed the connection with Egyptian pyramids and Orion's Belt.  Tomorrow, Uri is giving a talk at theScottish Seabird Centre on this very subject.  He also intends to camp overnight on his own island.  Forecast is for a still night.  I only found out about the talk today, and would have went if it wasn't for the fact that I already had plans. 

I also believe Uri donated £1,000 to the  Seabird Centre at the time of purchasing Lamb.