Newsletter – July 2016

Welcome to the 1st Summer 2016 edition of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere news!
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I was fortunate to give the opening introduction to participants at an event for local business supporters of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Charter. The event was an opportunity to share our experience of making Craigengillan Estate a living model of environmental excellence within the UNESCO Biosphere and Dark Sky Park. Set amidst the hills of the Southern Uplands in East Ayrshire, Craigengillan lies within one of the most beautiful of landscapes and has a fascinating history but it is our philosophy that makes it a special place and supports the sustainable principles of the Biosphere. The riding stables, holiday cottages and the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory are all businesses that benefit from the natural assets of the Biosphere. By encouraging the traditional crafts of hedge laying, drystane dyking and selective logging of trees by horse we are caring for the environment as well as developing the long term viability of the estate and a skilled workforce.
The estate and surrounding countryside also provide a fantastic outdoor learning resource for local school pupils from Primary School children discovering bog plants to Secondary School groups undertaking the challenge of Duke of Edinburgh Scotland awards.
Craigengillan Estate is pleased to be a Proud Supporter of the Biosphere and can inspire a positive future by demonstrating that a sustainable way of living is already happening.

Mark Gibson
Chair of Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Trustees
Craigengillan Estate, Dalmellington

Signature plant

Whorled Caraway is a summer flowering plant with distinctive whorl of leaves around the base of the stem which is an indicator of marshy grassland that is a Biosphere High Focus Habitat known as purple moor grass and rush pasture. It occurs on poorly drained, mainly acidic sites in lowland areas with high rainfall and wet soils and is often found with other habitats, such as wet heath, scrub and dry grassland.

In the past, purple moor grass and rush pasture was cut for hay during dry summers, but this practice is now in decline. Today, only a few sites are managed as hay meadows, and most are kept as rough grazing for cattle and sheep.

Purple moor grass and rush pasture is bursting with wildlife with up to 50 different plant species present in just a few square metres of grassland. Usually dominated by large tussocks of purple moor-grass it is also home to whorled caraway and damp loving plants like meadowsweet, ragged-robin and water mint.  Purple moor grass and rush pasture is particularly important for its populations of butterflies. Find out more in the Biosphere Natural Heritage Management Plan here.

A recipe for success 

Ballantrae's second Festival of Food and Drink once again saw visitors flocking to what's becoming one of the must "go to" events of the food calendar.  Marquees in the wonderful setting of Ballantrae harbour overlooking spectacular views provided the stage for over fifty food stalls, celebrity chef demonstrations, food foraging expeditions and a Biosphere tent. Sparkling sunshine, some of the best food available in Scotland and laid back music combined to create a fantastic atmosphere.  Organisers say none of it would have been possible without the help of a large band of volunteers, the police, hospitality and tourism students from the Ayr campus, first aiders and of course, the visitors themselves - so a huge thank you to them.

Find out more about events in Ballantrae here.

Photo by Rev. Stephen Ogston


Biosphere Learning 

There has been a flurry of outdoor learning activities in the Biosphere over the last few weeks. Carrick Academy Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme had a Silver expedition in the Galloway Hills run by Adventure Centre for Education. The group successfully completed an adventurous journey by canoeing across lochs over 3 days and tested water quality using a testing kit provided by OPAL. Pupils from Doon Academy were also using the OPAL testing kits to survey a local river and hedgerows. Meanwhile East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative led a visit by pupils from Patna Primary School to the Scottish Wildlife Trust Reserve at Dalmellington Moss. Pupils discovered the history of the peat bog, were amazed by the depth of the peat, made their own bog potions and searched and found their Star Species the insectivorous Sundew. East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative are keen to hear from Schools who require support in environmental education activities. Find out more about the Biosphere Learning and Research here.

Making Connections

Local business supporters of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Charter where invited along to Osprey viewing experience at the Roundhouse Cafe at Loch Doon near Dalmellington. The evening was an opportunity for businesses to make connections and share how their business support the sustainable principles of the Biosphere. Opening Introduction to the event was given by Mark Gibson from Craigengillan Estate and Chair of Biosphere Partnership Trustees. As well as Roundhouse Cafe businesses Viridian Skies and Nocturnal Wildlife Tours shared their experiences of operating in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere. The evening was dedicated to making connections. Businesses shared how they support the principles of the Biosphere and reap the benefits from the natural assets of the area. The businesses then had an opportunity to hear from East Ayrshire Coalfield Environment Initiative and visit Ness Glen under the guidance of freelance ecologist Rory Whytock to dicover a temperate rain forest dripping with mosses and ferns. 
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