From Winter hibernation to a Spring awakening – what do the Rangers do at the start of every year?
‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’.
So runs the old adage, which can be interpreted a couple of ways. Keep warm clothing on till the end of the month of May or alternatively, until May (Hawthorn) is in bloom. In either case, it’s good advice, given the capricious nature of Scotland’s weather.
After a false start in February, Spring has well and truly sprung and we are gearing up for the influx of spring and summer visitors. While hot sunny weather is the icing on the cake to visitors’ enjoyment of Rothiemurchus it brings the added risk of fires burning out of control so additional patrols are needed to ensure all is OK. We have been busy over the colder, darker months running special pre-season induction tours for staff, keeping them up to date with Rothiemurchus and making sure they can pass on to visitors the delights of Ranger-led tours such as getting close to our Hairy Coos and Feed the Deer.
‘Hairy Coo’ tours continued to enthral visitors looking for a close-up of our iconic Highland cattle and they are even more appealing now that fluffy spring calves have appeared, adding to the ‘aaaaww!’ factor.
‘Feed the Deer’ tours were another pleaser with the usual four-legged favourites at the head of the queue to be fed by hand. June will see tiny spotted calves making an appearance.
Weather-wise, we came through a relatively snow-free winter, a source of some relief to the Ranger team, since the novelty of clearing snow around the Centre doesn’t last long. Lack of snow, however, kept us busy with tours, with frustrated holiday snowsports enthusiasts looking for other activities during their visit.
Unseasonably dry and warm weather in February meant winter’s dead vegetation was dried out so High Fire Risk signs had to be posted. Humans and wildlife enjoyed this mild spell, with the first oystercatchers of spring flying upriver.
But it’s not all fire-fighting and litter picking, a very important part of our job is engaging with the public, chatting to visitors on patrols, welcoming people from far and wide and enabling them to enjoy Rothiemurchus responsibly. And, on one particular and very happy day of the year, our public engagement revolves exclusively around chocolate. This is, of course, the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Held at Loch an Eilein on Easter Sunday. This popular event is organised by the Ranger team and each year hundreds of tasty chocolate eggs are ordered (and taste-tested!) and hidden, ready to be discovered on Easter morning. What follows on that day is organised chaos, as happy hungry children (and parents) scour the ground in search of these delicious treats. This year promises to be a lovely and warm day, so it will likely be a speed-hunt, with the pressure on the youngsters to find the eggs before they melt! It’s always good fun.
Other things happening on a regular basis over the winter months included downloading visitor counters, leaflet distribution and helping move cattle. At the business end of a phone or computer, we dealt with enquiries ranging from educational tour bookings, access, and lost dogs, to special event requests, filming and wildlife, to name but a few. The chaos of our computer image filing system was also sorted out (sort of!).
All of this housekeeping and day-to-day graft helps us prepare for the Easter holidays which are now upon us. It’s great to see so many people enjoying this special place at this time of year, and if you see one of the Rangers when you’re out and about, do stop and say hello, we’re always looking for an excuse to blether! For now, we’ll leave you to the sunshine, as we’ve got some chocolate eggs to eat, I mean, hide!
You can join us at Loch an Eilein on Sunday the 21st of April for the Easter Egg Hunt, there will also be a burger stall and activities for kids.