Just back from the Lochgilpehead where I spent a long weekend, along with 14 other colleagues from around the Trust, learning about the art of wildlife filming. This is all part of a Trust-wide "Wildlife Watch" project, which involves training staff in the use of professional standard cameras so that we can capture broadcast quality footage of the amazing array of wildlife that can be found on our properties around Scotland. Not only is the equipment top notch, but the training was second to none too. Our teachers for the weekend were John Aitchison (picture top), his wife, Mary-Lou and their colleague Martin, all of whom work in the wildlife film-making industry. All three have been involved in many of the documentaries that we have all marvelled over for many years. An absolute privilege to work alongside them, and if we can come away with even a fraction of their ability, then we should get some great footage.
Georgia was also making movies last week, but she was on the other side of the camera gathering footage for her Educational DVD project.
November is conference month in the Trust. Last week I was up in the Highlands at our Countryside Conference, and next week I will be going to Pitlochry for our Managers' Conference. The Countryside Conference focuses on a different locality each year, and this year we were at Corrieshalloch Gorge and Inverewe. A long way for us folks from the deep south to go, but as the Trust is a National organisation, there is no getting away from travelling. And, wowee, was it worth the trip!
Corrieshalloch Gorge is the UK's best example of a box canyon, and has the third highest waterfall in the UK which was in spate on our visit, and is breathtakingly beautiful, especially in November, with the autumn colours (picture right). It is no wonder that it is so popular with visitors. Inverewe is a property with hidden depths. Most folk tend to think of it as a garden, a garden of note, but just a garden, when actually the property takes in an extensive area of woodland, hill and moorland (picture below left) supporting a huge amount of wildlife - otters and common seals being the highlight of our visit.
But we weren't just there for a jolly. The theme of the conference was landscape level conservation (looking at the big picture rather than focusing in on the minutiae) and visitor safety in the countryside - issues common to all of the Trust's countryside properties. There must have been 80 or so staff there. Most were countryside staff, but also staff from a wide range of other departments within the Trust, from Digital Media Managers to Health & Safety Advisers. And as always, the topics discussed were many and wide ranging. Every year, I come away from the Countryside Conference feeling proud and privileged to be part of an organisation that looks after such amazing properties and employs such experience and knowledgeable staff.