Feet Firmly Aground

A month has come and gone and it’s safe to say I’m finding my feet here in Fife. It’s been a whirlwind of exploration and community engagement these past few weeks. I’ve been meeting the movers and shakers in conservation along the Fife Coast, from Largo to Limekilns. For this blog, I am sharing with you some of the encounters I’ve had over the course of my first month.


Marie and I on our Fife outing – captured beside the Forth rail bridge in North Queensferry


On my second week in post, I jumped in the electric van - commonly known as the lecky van here at the Ecology Centre – and soundlessly ventured up the coast to Lower Largo, a charming little village with an interesting history. This seaside town was the birth place of Alexander Selkirk, an unknown name to many, but this intrepid seaman was the inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, after he was marooned on an uninhabited Pacific Island for four years. Eat your heart out Bear Grylls! But back to our story, I was in Lower Largo to meet with Priya the Development Officer for Largo Communities Together. This community organisation has a range of community and restoration projects ongoing. So, I was there to discuss Restoration Forth and the potential of Lower Largo beach as a reseeding site. Unfortunately, we saw no signs of seagrass, which we attributed to the environmental conditions and the wave exposed nature of the beach. For now, it doesn’t seem Lower Largo will be on our list of reseeding sites but there are still plenty that our two organisations can do to champion the marine environment. On June 8th – World Oceans Day – I will be assisting Largo Communities Together with planned marine activities to celebrate our local marine environment.


The last week of April was go go go… It was a busy one for putting faces to names, I’m starting to grow my network both locally and further afield. There are plenty of inspiring and knowledgeable folk along the banks of the Forth. It’s safe to say I’m in good company! The beginning of the week consisted of meetings with a local focus, I met with the chair of the Kinghorn Community Council and Ronnie the first manager of the Ecology Centre, and it was a real educational lesson on all things Kinghorn. The latter half of the week, I took to the road and visited Coaltown on Wemyss, Limekilns and North Berwick.



At Limekilns - with the bridges and Rosyth port in the background


In Limekilns I met with some members of the CLP Nature Conservation Group - which stands for Charlestown, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir – with the intention of making their acquaintance and to explore their local seagrass bed. Limekilns is located on the northern banks of the Inner Forth, a peaceful village known historically for its limestone production. Today there are little remnants of Limekilns industrial past. However, industry still leaves an indelible mark upon the local environment, with Rosyth’s dockland to the east and Grangemouth’s oil refinery to the west, the modern economic might of the Forth cannot be escaped. Hidden amongst the melee of ships and industry sits an intertidal seagrass bed brimming with dwarf eelgrass. The CLP members carefully guided me along a serendipitous placed rocky causeway across the muddy landscape – like something out of an Indiana Jones film - to get a sense of the extent of seagrass along their shoreline. We ventured out as far as we dared, prioritising our boots over our curiosity, as the all-consuming mud was eager to rid us of our footwear or worse leave us marooned like poor old Alexander Selkirk. It was reassuring to see a marine habitat so firmly rooted on the banks of the Forth, it is vital that this habitat gets the protection it needs so that it remains a permanent feature of Limekiln’s shore. I left Limekilns chock-full of inspiration, ideas and cupcake, which was kindly brought to celebrate the birthday of one of their members. A tasty treat to get the creative juices flowing! I chewed on the idea of the Inner Forth playing a supporting role to Restoration Forth, the dwarf eelgrass beds along the banks of the Inner Forth could help reseed the Outer Forth. Plenty to think about!



My visit to Limekilns, with the lovely folk of CLP Nature Conservation Group


To quickly mention my activities in Coaltown of Wemyss and North Berwick before I sign off. I have built a connection with the primary school in Coaltown of Wemyss and next month we have set a date to go and survey the rocky shore at their local beach. We will be building on the pupils existing knowledge of seaweed, which they gained through the Big Seaweed Search, a citizen science project run cooperatively by the Marine Conservation Society and the Natural History Museum. And last but certainly not least, was the Restoration Forth evening held at the Seabird Centre over in North Berwick. This evening was set up to usher in Restoration Forth and inform the public of the mechanics of this project and the work that led to its inception. It was a fantastic evening where I was able to meet some of the people who gave arms and legs to this project and those who will help steer it over the next few years.



One of the tables Marie and I set up to spread awareness of seagrass, at the Restoration Forth evening


I am off to Loch Craignish at the end of this week, for a week of research and engagement. Marie and I will assist Issy - a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh - carry out some of her research on the seagrass beds in Loch Craignish and in addition we will be meeting some of the team at SeaWilding. I am chuffed to bits to be heading off for some time in the water and amongst some west coast seagrass. I’ll be posting on the Ecology Centre’s social media pages while I’m away so you’ll be sure to be inundated with seagrass news and media. Thanks again for reading!


Lyle


Links to the organisation mentioned in this blog:

· Largo Communities Together: Largo Communities Together, making local lives richer Largo Community Together

· CLP Nature Conservation Group: Charlestown, Limekilns and Pattiesmuir (CLP) Nature Conservation Group - CCN Scotland (communitiesforseas.scot)

· The big seaweed search: The Big Seaweed Search

Alternatively, you can find them under the same name on Facebook