Saturday, 29 April 2017

Port Charlotte Fire Crew fill the sea tanks

We are open from Monday 1st May

Members of Port Charlotte fire crew helped us to fill the sea tanks ready for the season this week.

Hopefully over the next week Steve will be busy finding creatures to put in them.

We are open from Monday (1st May) until the end of September, so come and look around and have a try at our hands-on displays, they are not just for the kids. we have a very challenging geology quiz.

Bring the kids if you are stuck for an activity this holiday Monday.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Seasonal job vacancies at the Centre

The Islay Natural History Trust is looking for an enthusiastic individual to help run its visitor centre and activities this summer. 

We are looking for someone enthusiastic in talking to visitors, some wildlife knowledge is desirable but not essential.  The centre is open from the 1st May, Monday to Friday 10.30-4.30, hours/days will be negotiable, we are looking to fill 2-3 days, maybe more with the right applicant, some weekend activities may require assistance.  

Apply by sending us your CV, email your interest and for more information to or contact Fiona (Islay) 850607

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Seaweed Foraging a Success

We at the Islay Natural History Trust had an amazing weekend (8th & 9th April) learning about the seaweeds on the shore.  I am so glad we finally managed to arrange this and discovered the expertise not so far away on Easedale with Duncan (Slate Island Seaweeds Ltd).  Two seaweed workshops over last weekend attracted 31 participants all eager to discover what bounty the seashore could provide.  We learned that there was more to seaweeds than meets the eye, not just a slimy mass of algae that when past it's best creates 'stinky corners'! 

Foraged fresh and sustainably and with the right know-how in how to cook it, it is a wonder to the pallet.  There are the green seaweeds, similar to terrestrial plants, the reds, mid to low shore, a whole host of tender edible varieties and the brown seaweeds a group all themselves and none of them perilous to eat unlike fungi. So we were treated to alfresco cooking in the lovely weather, on the beach at Sanaigmore and in the Youth Hostel garden in Port Charlotte.

Cookery demonstration in the SYHA garden

Purple Laver grows in profusion on many of our shores coating rocks in a shiny black film.  This is the basis for laverbread and the noki used in sushi, but dried and baked in the oven makes amazing crisps, far better than potato crisps and so much healthier!  Pepper Dulse has an amazing flavour, though not according to my daughter! Although our younger participants on the Sunday were first in the queue trying all the flavours that were presented to them. 

taste testing on the beach

Traditional Carageen pudding went down very well, and Carageen was used as a thickening agent for egg-less pancakes.  

False Irish Moss (alternative to Carageen) thickening milk for eggless pancakes
Wild garlic and pepper dulse pesto
Dulse on cooking tastes like ham and Oar-weed (kelp) provided us with a fantastic tagliatelle alternative.  There were even a good number of adventurous folk prepared to sample cooked limpets off the BBQ.  We also used some of the terrestrial 'weeds' in our recipes including wild garlic and hawthorn leaves.

So hopefully it has inspired many of us to consider being a little more adventurous in our cooking, it certainly has for me, I came home and cooked nettle soup for my tea.
Saturday foraging crowd:
Taste testing everything

Eager students

The best finds on the lowest turn of the tide

Velvet Horn

Smooth periwinkle enjoying Pepper dulse too!
Peering into pools

Our eager participants on Port Charlotte beach on Sundays Workshop

Sunday's foraging:

Lovely crowd for Sunday's workshop

Eager to try wild garlic and pepper dulse pesto

George Jackson sampling Duncan's seaweed treats

Considering the interest and enthusiasm of all who took part I am sure we will introduce some of these teachings into our Sunday nature walks over the summer and organise more workshops in the future.

Fiona MacG