The weather wasn’t kind to us on Saturday morning and we sailed to Arran through rain and gale force wind, but things soon improved and we were pleased to see the sun break through just before our training event commenced at 12.30pm. Emma Downie, Gordon McDermid and myself represented the Trust, with Dr Catherine McGavigan from Queens University Belfast lending support for the CIRB project which she manages.
Arran has a terrible invasive weeds problem with Japanese Knotweed and Himalayan Balsam spread widely around the island. Giant Hogweed has been reported to us but as yet we have no details on the scale of this problem. I was first contacted by Brenda Stewart from Lamlash in 2011 asking for assistance with Knotweed control. Arran had been on my mind for some time so I agreed to meet with Brodick Community Council on a November evening. Since then we have been working away behind the scenes attempting to secure funding for a project to assist with invasive weeds control. Our most likely route for securing funding now appears to be through CIRB (our current invasive weeds project) and CIRB 2, our proposed future project that we hope to secure by 2015 that should follow on.
We arranged this event to engage with the community and provide basic training to volunteers willing to survey and record invasive species around the island. This will help us to establish the scale of the problem and distribution of the species. In all, about 30 volunteers attended this weekend and some have already started recording and uploading their data on plant distribution on our custom built web site at http://www.invasivespecies.no-ip.org/isweb/MyPublic.aspx?OrgID=RAFTS . Here, members of the public can upload information on any invasive species and we can then verify it and use the data. It doesn’t just need to be Islanders, but anyone with detailed knowledge can help. We would encourage anyone interested in helping to give us a quick call before getting started so we can send them literature to help with plant ID and recording skills, but recording data and uploading to the web site is very easy.
After running through a few details of how and when we hope to deliver the project, volunteers went out into the surrounding area, to look and record what they could find. There was plenty of Japanese Knotweed and some Himalayan Balsam within just a few hundred metres of Brodick Church, where we met. We ran through basic principles of recording and measuring before returning to the hall to enter the data into the web site. Unfortunately our laptop and web connections let us down but we managed, one way or another, to talk everyone through the process.
After the event on Saturday evening, we headed off around the island recording and entering a few details into the database. It wasn’t long before we noticed that a volunteer had been active too as pink dots and information had appeared on the maps online. This was great to see and very encouraging for the team. We stopped for dinner at Kildonnan Hotel which was excellent, and gave us a chance to review the day’s events. What was obvious to us all was that the problem appears to be greatest on the East and South coasts of the island and roadside verges were particularly badly affected too. We will work closely with North Ayrshire Council to address some management issues that will help prevent further spread.
Sunday morning’s weather was varied and we once again met with volunteers and ran through the process. I’m delighted to say that we were very well received at the weekend and the enthusiasm expressed by all those attending will spread across the island as word gets out. I’m sure this will develop into a very popular and successful strategy and project. I’m looking forward to further visits to the Island as necessary. Anyone interested in helping, please give us a call. We will be very pleased to hear from all.
Finally, I’d like to than Brenda Stewart for her assistance with both arrangements and delivery of the event. Without Brenda, I doubt whether we could have rallied the support and pulled this together. I’d also like to thank Catherine as she works tirelessly to help us deliver the project, guiding us through EU rules and regulations. Our thanks also to Brodick Church for the use of their War Memorial Hall (our donation is on it’s way!)