Environmental Projects Acknowledged

by Deborah Leggate -

Shetland Amenity Trust hosted the Shetland Environmental Awards at a ceremony held in the Museum and Archives today.  The awards acknowledged eleven local environmental projects demonstrating sustainability, innovation and best practice. 

Brian Gregson, Chairman of Shetland Amenity Trust and the Shetland Environment Group which judge the awards, said: “The awards have always been truly inclusive, attracting nominations for a wide variety of projects from all sectors of the community and this year is no exception.  The 11 winning projects range from small initiatives achieved on a shoestring to a project which has raised millions of pounds. 

On behalf of the Shetland Amenity Trust, I would like to thank the Shetland Environment Group for judging the award nominations.  Finally, on behalf of the Shetland Environment Group, I would like to pass congratulations on to all of this year's winners - we hope you are proud of your award and what you have achieved.”

Mr David Sigsworth, Chairman of The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and Mr James Curran, Chief Executive of SEPA, presented the winning projects with their awards. The 2013 awards plaques were made by Cunningsburgh based Enviroglass, from 80% recycled glass. 

This year's awards were again sponsored by the major players within the environment sector in Shetland, including Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, Shetland Islands Council, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Shetland Civic Society, VisitShetland and Shetland Amenity Trust.  The awards presentation event was also sponsored – by the Total Laggan-Tormore Project.

The winners of the 2013 Shetland Environmental Awards are:

Fair Isle Bird Observatory

Run by an independent charity, The Fair Isle Bird Observatory is world famous for its research into seabird populations and habitats. 

Recognised for rare bird sightings in the early 1900s, the island's first Observatory opened in 1948. Since then it has undergone a number of redevelopments, culminating in a £4 million new build opened in 2011, which incorporates a hi-tech energy system and photovoltaic panels, making it very energy efficient.

The Observatory employs three wardens, responsible for recording spring and autumn migrants and monitoring the various seabird colonies. Data is also collected on other species of interest and sightings of cetaceans and insects, particularly moths, butterflies and bees, are noted daily. The Observatory has close links to other organisations, such as the National Trust for Scotland, and acts as a base for researchers from other institutions.

In addition to providing facilities and office space for the wardens, volunteers and independent researchers, the Observatory contains a 16-bedroom guest house and visitor centre. This allows visitors to gain a unique insight into the Observatory, and the income generated funds scientific research on the island.

The project is entirely integrated into the local community, encouraging islanders to take an interest in their surroundings and teaching visitors to respect it. The Observatory brings much needed tourist revenue to Fair Isle and provides a valuable venue for island events. As a business it survives and thrives on its integrity and has done for many decades.

Garden and Ecology Trail Sandwick (GAETS)

The GAETS community group was nominated for the Hoswick Brig Fish ladder project. During this project they designed and constructed a fish pass to reverse the negative impact of the 2003 floods. Completed in July this year, the fish ladder has enabled young trout to jump upstream, something they had struggled to do since the floods due to low water flow.

The ladder is thought to be a first for Shetland and has been welcomed by the local community and the Shetland Anglers Association, which was consulted throughout. This partnership has continued, with the Anglers Association ensuring the burn is monitored and restocked as required. The Association has been so impressed with the project they hope it may be repeated in other areas of Shetland which experience low water flow. 

The ladder complements other environmental projects carried out in the area, including a lot of planting along the burn to encourage biodiversity. There are also further plans, including the creation of a few pools, which were also washed away during the floods, to sustain young fish while they grow up in the burn. 

The benefit to the community is represented in the improved biodiversity of the burn and in the learning opportunities and enjoyment to be found in the natural heritage in and around the burn.

Nature Hide at Skeld Marina

The Nature Hide at Skeld was built by the family of the late Leonard Anderson, who passed away in 2004, in his memory. 

Being sited at the marina it builds on existing community resources, such as a campsite, caravan park, pier, marina and camping böd, which all attract people to the area. The hide is well built and, as it is always open, provides an activity whatever the weather or time of year. The visitor's book is full of positive comments, from people local to the area and visitors. 

This nature hide shows that hides are not just for watching birds and this is backed up by many comments in the visitor's book stating the wide variety of wildlife which has been spotted. The fact it is sited in an area which is well used, and can provide an activity for visitors during inclement weather, means it can attract those who may not know much about the local wildlife but after a visit to the hide may find a new interest in the subject. One particular comment from a father and son summed this up: "Staying at the campsite and visited during a grey day. While looking out we spotted an otter and cub on the shoreline, not far from us. We couldn't believe it, so unexpected!"

Nesting Primary School

Nesting Primary has transformed an overgrown area of the school grounds into a memorial peace garden to commemorate the death of a P5 pupil. The garden contains a memorial rainbow bench and world peace pole made from recycled material. Planters have also been made and paths created in to a wooded area, opening the whole area up for further development. Cuttings from clearing the paths have been used in other areas of the ground and Buddhist peace flags fly across the garden and gate. 

As many items were recycled or donated, the garden was created with little expense and the on-going maintenance and development will be carried out as part of the school's outdoor learning. The management of the area, and the opened wooded area, will allow the trees to grow stronger and attract more wildlife to the area.

The garden is open to the public and has been used during the holiday period. To further attract people to the area a geocache was hidden in the garden and through the log the school can track how many people have visited the cache. To date it has proved to be very popular, and so has the garden.

Olnafirth Primary School

Four Olnafirth Primary School pupils undertook a project to design, construct and test a model for utilising wave power as an energy source. They then tested their model in a wave tank at Strathclyde University, and demonstrated the ability to light an LED, before presenting their work to Skills Development Scotland (SDS) at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) during the Big Bang Celebration of Science and Engineering in Glasgow. Their work, and presentation at this event, won them second place in the Junior Saltire Award, a considerable achievement for a small Shetland school.

Through the project the pupils investigated alternative sources of energy and were able to learn how, when designing a device, many problems arise and that by working through them, designs can be altered and improved. During the project they also consulted with environmental agencies and local experts and considered the environmental impacts of our energy consumption and how this can be minimised. The trip to Glasgow to present their model was a real life experience and one which has built confidence, aspirations and lasting memories.

Shetland RSPB Wildlife Explorers Group

Founded in 2011, Shetland RSPB Wildlife Explorers Group operates separately from RSPB Scotland, is run by volunteers and funded through local fundraising. The group meets monthly and is targeted at under 12s, although over 12s are not excluded. 

Meetings are all about getting outdoors and cover a wide variety of nature-based topics, including rock pooling, bird watching, bug hunting, bog-jumping, exploring Shetland's wild places, creating habitats and more. The group also has a share in an allotment, built a bug hotel and planted wildlife friendly plants. To be accessible to all families, meetings have taken place in Unst, Yell and various mainland sites and the group only charges £1 or £2 per meeting.

By getting families out enjoying the natural world the group instils a life-long caring and active relationship with nature. They gain a knowledge and understanding of the world around them and form friendships. Comments from children and parents show the enthusiasm of the volunteers is infectious:

“It never ceases to amaze me what they uncover due to their local knowledge. My son saw his first long eared owl at the back of Clickimin loch! It switches children on to how important the environment is at a very early age, in a fantastic fun way.”

“They always come up with activities whatever the weather.  Although you can drop off your children, nobody ever does because we enjoy it so much!”

“I love Wildlife Explorers cos I love bugs. It teaches us about being good to the creatures we meet“.

“I liked digging our allotment patch, there was loads of worms!”

Scalloway Primary School Eco-committee

Scalloway Primary School Eco-committee consists of fourteen pupils, two from each Primary class, and four staff. The nursery is also included in their activities, along with the rest of the school.

Between November 2012 and July 2013, the Eco-committee carried out a number of environmental projects focused on waste minimisation, food and the environment and health and wellbeing. This included:

  • - Joining the Litterless Campaign and linking up with schools in Greenock and Athens, Greece to find out how litter is tackled in their area. 
  • - Collecting used plastic bottles and bags for recycling.
  • - Recycling 450kg of textiles from the local community through the Rag Bag Scheme.
  • - Carrying out a week long canteen and staffroom waste audit, which involved all pupils and staff in reducing food and packaging waste.
  • - P3 - P7 pupils spent a day cleaning Burwick Beach, filling 250 bags with over 1.5 tonnes of rubbish. Following this P6 wrote to a local seafood farmer regarding the amount of mussel pegs found. The farmer wrote back saying he would work with other producers to reduce this. The school will follow this up and check if it reduces.

Since their Burwick Beach clean-up featured in The Shetland Times, another group has contacted the school to help them encourage the fishing industry to reduce/gather litter when out at sea. They hope to start this project 2013/14.

They raised £225 through the Rag Bag Scheme, and £250 from the Litterless Campaign. With this they bought seeds and plan to set up a polytunnel and hen house.

Shetland Islands Climate and Settlement Project (SICSP)

SICSP is a multidisciplinary, international research effort exploring relationships between climate trends and human populations. Studying ways in which people adapted to past environmental change is relevant to current and future global change and provides information that can be used to develop future management strategies for northern coastal environments.

Shetland became the geological focus for this project due to its many coastal sand environments, where landscape and settlement histories can be researched through rich archaeological, documentary and environmental data. Now in its 11th season, field research has specifically concentrated on the Quendale area, where an entire township (Broo) was buried in sand in the 17th century; this was a time of extreme climate shifts, referred to as the Little Ice Age and resulted in a series of sand movement events that significantly impacted upon the township's landscape and economy. 

The project team consists of archaeologists, historians and scientists drawn from 4 US and 4 UK universities, and researchers from the Climate Change Institute (USA). 

Project outcomes to date include:

  • - Fieldwork experience for UK and US students as well as Shetland volunteers
  • - Outreach ties with Shetland and Maine primary schools
  • - Local primary school site visits to learn about the techniques used and gain hands-on archaeological experience 
  • - Collaboration with local archivists and community groups to carry out research
  • - Site open days
  • - Disseminating project findings through public talks, radio interviews and conference presentations

Shetland Young Scot Youth Legacy Ambassadors

Recruited in 2011, The Shetland Youth Legacy Ambassador's role is to promote and champion the 2014 Commonwealth Games, as well as the lasting opportunities major sporting events bring to Scotland. 

Since recruitment the young people have led on a number of projects based around the four legacy themes: active, sustainable, flourishing and connected, with a particular focus on helping their community become more environmentally responsible and live more sustainably.

During 2013 they carried out a project to showcase the sustainable theme. Working in partnership with local and national partners, they created a legacy plantation within Michaelswood, Aith. 

The ambassadors have striven to involve the community in all projects. In this project, as well as planting 420 trees in a popular community woodland, they ran a competition in all local schools to name the new area. The winning entry, Civitatis Arbores, which translates as Trees of the Commonwealth, was submitted by Ewan Inkster and Sean Walterson from Aith Junior High School.

The ambassadors commissioned local company, Enviroglass, to create a recycled glass name plaque. This plaque was unveiled at the official opening, carried out by Shona Robison, Minister for Sport & Commonwealth Games, in July 2013.

The Youth Legacy Ambassadors hope to work alongside Ray & Betty Ferrie to maintain the new plantation. They are also in the process of applying for additional trees from the Woodland Trust to expand this area.

Michaelswood

Established in 1993 by Ray, Betty and Alan Ferrie as a woodland in memory of their son/brother Michael, Michaelswood has grown to become an area which means many things to many people. Michaelswood is rooted in the local community and a favourite attraction for families, individuals, schools, Community Groups, tourists, wedding parties and many more as well as the wealth of wildlife which can be found enjoying the facilities. 

Ray, Betty and Alan have put a lot of thought into the woodland and planned their planting to accommodate a variety of wildlife, spaces and activities. Paths meander through the plantation and lead to some pleasant surprises and interesting features, such as resting places, viewing points and intriguing signs. There are a number of features especially for children, like picnic and play areas as well as a pirate ship and Wendy House. There is also a bird hide, with plenty of materials to help identify the range of birds at Michaelswood, and a pond which is full of life. 

As well as the maintenance of the ever expanding woodland, new plants are added year on year. This year included a legacy plantation created by Shetland's Youth Legacy Ambassadors, which is another example of how the community has embraced the woodland. The Ferrie family has also used the woodland to help others cope with loss, reflected by trees, benches and other items around the woodland dedicated to loved ones. 

Rick Nickerson

Rick has been a stalwart of the Shetland environmental scene for more than 25 years.

Whilst many of his achievements have been as part of his working life, he has consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty and put in many voluntary hours for environmental campaigns.

During his time at KIMO he campaigned on behalf of local authorities on a range of issues, including maritime safety, marine litter, nuclear emissions and oil pollution, as well as growing the organisation from a few members to a large and vibrant body. KIMO now has over 150 member authorities in 14 different countries. Rick's lobbying on marine litter whilst at KIMO ensured it was included in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which has resulted in all EU countries developing programmes to reduce levels and sources. 

As a councillor Rick continued to champion environmental issues and support KIMO. He was also responsible for the Council's nuclear policy and a tireless campaigner on emissions from Sellafield and Dounreay. Rick's engagement with stakeholder processes at both these sites ensured emissions were under scrutiny and those effecting Shetland have been reduced as much as possible, particularly on issues such as Technetium 99 from Sellafield, which have now been stopped.

During one of his first environmental roles, at the Shetland Amenity Trust, he laid the foundation for many sustainable environmental projects, such as Dunna Chuck Bruck, Da Voar Redd Up and the Shetland Environmental Awards.