The importance of picnics on boardwalks

Blawhorn Moss NNR

Francesca and other SNH staff arrive at Blawhorn with the remnants of the Beast from the East lying around.

Blawhorn Moss NNR is one of the more out of the way, low profile national nature reserves here in Scotland but even this small NNR has an important role to play. Here, Francesca Osowska, chief executive of SNH, remembers visiting Blawhorn Moss just over 2 years ago on her epic #CycleForNature journey (for more about it see here) and how getting round the NNRs influenced her appreciation of these special sites.

My first visit to a National Nature Reserve as chief executive of SNH was to Blawhorn Moss.  It was in March 2018 and was day two of the so-called #CycleForNature, my attempt to visit all SNH offices in a year, by bike.  The overall journey took 32 days so on day two we were still feeling our way in terms of logistics and timing.  We were roughly on time and no-one got lost, which was a big relief!  You might also remember early 2018 as being the time of Beast from the East.  Two weeks before Edinburgh had come to a complete standstill in the snow and we had thought that #CycleForNature would have to be postponed.  But, in the event, the weather behaved and we were able to get on our bikes.

A small but merry band of colleagues left Silvan House this particular Tuesday morning to travel on various cycle paths and quiet roads to Blawhorn Moss.  A lot of the route was on the Union Canal and we had to push our bikes through piled up snow on the tow path.  Although we weren’t far from the centre of Edinburgh, it felt like a real adventure and quite rural.  After a few hours of gentle cycling (and a cheeky coffee stop) we emerged to the oasis of Blawhorn Moss, met by reserve manager, David Pickett.  A volunteer work party was carrying out boardwalk repairs and it was great to chat with colleagues and volunteers about what the reserve meant to them.  The connection with the local community came across really strongly.  Although you wouldn’t think it when you are there (it feels really remote), Blawhorn Moss is close to a number of population centres and provides schools and other groups with a great destination for learning and other activities.  Despite our weather worries, we had a picnic on the boardwalk, with excellent cake provided by David!

During the course of #CycleForNature I visited a number of NNRs, from the highly visited, such as Loch Leven to the less well known such as Moine Mhor.  From the south west of Caerlaverock to the north east of Tentsmuir.  Islands such as the Isle of May, woodland such as Glen Tanar and wild places such as Beinn Eighe.  And of course bogs like Blawhorn Moss and Flanders Moss.  The variety is striking, but so is the commonality.  All play a key role in engaging the local community in nature.  And all are great examples of conservation on the ground.  It confirmed to me the special place that NNRs have in SNH’s work and the need to celebrate what they achieve.

As I relive these memories, it also hardens my resolve to get back on the NNR visiting trail as soon as I can after the current restrictions are lifted.

Some of our outstanding volunteers Billy, David, Sandy, John, and Ally from our neighbours Beechbrae with Amee and Dave from SNH.
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