Nature documentaries are the big winners on TV, series such as The Blue Planet and Countryfile have becomes flagship programmes for the BBC, attracting some of their highest viewing figures. The live diary-styled Springwatch programmes have a huge following on social media with even reports of some Facebook groups forming and meeting for holidays!
It’s one thing to love nature from the comfort of your home with a glass of something refreshing, but how many of these ‘sofa nature watchers’ have actually ever experienced nature for themselves? It can be daunting if you don’t know where to go or what to look for, particularly if you have a young family. Whatever your level of knowledge, whether you are a ‘Nature Newbie’ or a seasoned nature lover the Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend is an ideal opportunity to get out and try a spot of nature watching first hand, with dozens of events taking place for all levels of ability and varied interests.
For those who are less confident in knowing what to look for, or those who just want to know more, there will be a number of guided events where you can join an expert and benefit from their experience. These include the Tomintoul Wildlife Guided Tour and the 100 yard wildlife walks taking place in Blair Atholl and Glen Tilt. There will also be the opportunity explore Insh Marshes on a six-mile guided walk with the with the RSPB Warden, Pete Moore. But if you are looking for a less energetic wildlife encounter, you can spend an evening with Speyside Wildlife’s knowledgeable guide and watch the nocturnal creatures that visit their warm and comfortable, baited hide.
There is a very special guest in Deeside this year, Marra the Sea Eagle has taken time out of her busy Springwatch and Countryfile schedule to join in with the BIG Weekend. You can come and see a spectacular aerial display over Braemar and meet Marra and friends on the ground at the Braemar Hub. There will also be a range of family workshops and hands on activities taking place in Braemar from crafts to poetry and butterflies to tree folklore. The evenings are not to be missed either with a film night and a family ceilidh planned.
The Cairngorms National Park is well known for its exceptionally high nature value and is often held up as an example of Britain’s last great wilderness. It is also an extremely attractive place to live and work, with an increasing population and a thriving economy. Ecological restoration and rural regeneration are key issues for Scotland’s National Parks, emphasised by the vision for the Cairngorms as “a place where people and nature thrive together”. Over the past few years rewilding and repopulation have become hot topics and there has been much discussion in the news as organisations, academics and policy makers focus on what land use policy might look like in the future. ‘Restoration and regeneration: the place of people in the landscape’ will be the topic on the evening of Friday 11 May at Boat of Garten Hall. A panel of speakers will be chaired by Deborah Long, Dundee University and will each give a short presentation followed by questions from the audience. Come and join the fantastic line-up of expert speakers for a lively and informative discussion.
Giving back to the National Park can be a rewarding experience and volunteering is good for you too! It can reduce depression and stress, increase quality of life, help meet new people, build confidence and learn new skills. It can also be a great chance to get out and about in the fresh air and beauty of Scotland’s landscapes.
There will be a unique opportunity to try your hand at taking care of the spectacular landscapes and unique habitats of the Cairngorms National Park amongst the woodlands of the iconic Mar Lodge Estate and in Blair Atholl on the river Tilt. You can join Mountains and The People, National Trust for Scotland and Volunteer Cairngorms on an informal and friendly taster session in Deeside. You will have the option to give path maintenance a go and help take care of the riverside track at the Salmon Ladder on the spectacular Lui Water, or help look after the amazing woodlands alongside the River Dee, ring barking trees to help maintain biodiversity. In Blair Atholl you can join Volunteer Cairngorms to help keep the Blair Atholl trails in good condition by cutting back overhanging vegetation on the paths beside the River Tilt.
There is a new event taking place this year, on Friday 11th May Forest Enterprise Scotland and Laggan Wolftrax will host a hands-on Rural Skills Day. This will be a unique opportunity for anyone with an interest in a career in woodlands or forestry from sustainable timber processing to green woodworking and bushcraft skills. There will be hands on activities & demonstrations that demonstrate the many rural skills that take place in the Cairngorms National Park including: sustainable timber processing, deer management, tree climbing, forestry machinery, mountain bike skills & activities, green woodworking, bushcraft activities, wild plant trail, wildcat action to mention just a few.
You might be more comfortable on your own two feet but there are a number of opportunities to see the Park over the weekend from a different mode of transport. If you have ever fancied yourself on a canoe safari then this is the weekend to try it out. The Abernethy Trust are offering a full day guided descent of the Spey with all equipment provided, a fantastic way to see Cairngorms Nature from the river. Don’t worry if you haven’t canoed before – novices are welcome!
If wheels are your thing then you can join an off-road guided mountain bike trip. Starting at the beautiful Mar Lodge, the trip takes you along the magnificent Glen Lui to Derry Lodge. You will learn more about Mar Lodge Estate and the wildlife that lives here from the Head ranger while being guided by an expert Mountain Bike Leader.
Whatever your age, ability or level of knowledge there will be something to bring you closer to nature during the Cairngorms Nature BIG Weekend – many events are free, some are drop in but others require you to book a place. Please visit cairngormsnaturebigweekend.com for more information or to book a place.