Jenny Tweedie from RSPB Scotland gives us an update on the new visitor hub launching at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond this spring.
RSPB Scotland opens new visitor hub at Loch Lomond
RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond launched its new visitor hub this spring, almost four years after the land was purchased. The reserve has always been open to the public, but until now, visitors have had to walk in from the nearby village of Gartocharn. Now, a new access road from the A811 and a 15-space car park mean that the site is much easier to get to, and visitors will be able to use these new facilities every weekend (10am - 3pm) until October.
As paths and signs are still being developed, the team of staff and volunteers will also be leading regular guided walks and events to help people discover the site and its amazing wildlife. But what’s been going on at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond in the last four years? Here are just some of the highlights...
First a quick re-cap
In 2012, Wards Estate was bought by RSPB Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority, with additional funding from the National Heritage Memorial Fund. It was the first time that a non-government wildlife charity, a national park and a statutory conservation body had joined forces in this way to acquire and look after a key site for biodiversity and people in Scotland.
The site is one of the most highly designated areas in Scotland. It’s a long list, but it’s a SSSI, an SPA, a National Scenic Area, and a Ramsar site, just to get you started, as well as being part of the National Park. Its rich variety of wildlife, inhabiting woodlands, mires, fens, grasslands and the floodplain also make it one of the most important wildlife sites in the UK.
As with almost every new reserve, there were very few facilities when we arrived and lots of projects we wanted to get our teeth into. Initially, the team worked out of a farmhouse on site, and we had no road, no office, nothing for visitors and lots of habitat work needing our attention. Since 2012, we have installed temporary offices for staff and volunteers, put in our access track and car park and created and opened a visitor hub with support from the National Lottery through Awards for All Scotland.
We’ve also made massive inroads into improving the reserve’s grassland for a variety of species including lapwings and geese. Some exciting path work will soon be starting, funded by the ScottishPower Foundation, and the installation of an architecture project will begin in May 2016. It’s all go!
We’ve carried out loads of surveys since 2012 and have uncovered some incredible beasties! Just last year, a great otter spider was found in one of the pools, a species that hadn’t been recorded in Scotland for more than 20 years.
The record came after the discovery of an equally rare beetle on the reserve in 2014, (the wonderfully named horsetail sloth weevil) and other records including spotted crake, a migratory bird with a British population thought to be fewer than 200!
Volunteers are incredibly important to the work of the RSPB, and they’ve certainly been invaluable at Loch Lomond. When you visit the reserve, keep a look out for the new hedgerow that’s been planted, as 15 volunteers helped to put this in. Other work they’ve been getting stuck into includes the removal of invasive, non-native species such as skunk cabbage and Himalayan balsam, maintaining paths, and survey work. Thank you to everyone who’s been helping out!
Meet the team
RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond is managed by Paula Baker, who took up the post in 2013, after seven years as assistant site manager at RSPB Scotland's Lochwinnoch reserve, near Paisley. Her team includes Becky Austin and Emma Wilcock.
So that’s just some of what’s been happening at Loch Lomond. To find out what else has been going on, you’ll really have to come and see it for yourself. Keep up to date with all the latest on the website or follow RSPB Glasgow on Twitter or Facebook.
A few up-coming events
April 30 - Family Nature Day
May 7 or 8 (depending on the weather!) - Dawn Chorus Walk
26 June - Wild Food Foraging