Tag Archives: media

BBC’s On Your Farm visits Mull salmon farmer Geoff Kidd

One of the most welcome improvements that the internet has brought to Mull’s island life, and which I deeply appreciate, is the ability to now be able to access the BBC’s vast output of both TV and radio via catch-up services like iPlayer or, for radio, by subscribing to many podcast versions of popular programmes which are nigh-on impossible to tune in to if you’re in the wrong place on the Isle of Mull.

BBC radio show On Your Farm's Alex James visits the Isle of Mull to talk with salmon farmer Geoff Kidd at Loch SpelveThat said, quite a lot of places on Mull fall into that category. So I was relieved to discover that ‘On your Farm’, which interviews Mull salmon farmer Geoff Kidd from Loch Spelvie in this week’s show, was also available on the iPlayer. Sadly though, it seems to be one of the few programmes which doesn’t get the podcast treatment after broadcast, so to listen you need to be sitting at your PC. Still, at 22 minutes in length it’s hardly a hardship.

Not a regular listener to this show, I was surprised to discover that On Your Farm now seems to be quite hip. It’s presented by ex Blur band member Alex James no less. I suspect that’s because Alex now dabbles in farming himself and makes cheese on his Oxfordshire farm. So perhaps he took the opportunity to pop up to Mull’s own big cheeses. If you haven’t tasted Isle of Mull Cheese you’re missing one of the country’s best.

Beach House Self Catering, Isle of Mull
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Grand Tour of Scotland hits Mull, Iona and Staffa

I learnt something new after watching Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotland on the BBC’s iPlayer. Seems that the whole Thomas Cook travel empire started life thanks to the said Mr Cook, a baptist and worker for the temperance movement, sending the working classes to bonnie Scotland. He apparently thought that taking people on tours of Scotland would keep them sober and away from the gin palaces.

Paul Murton visits Mull, Iona and Staffa in Scotland's Inner Hebrides in the TV programme 'Grand Tours of Scotland'Another little gem was that Cook was so shocked at the poverty which he found Iona locals living under that he set up a fund to which his tourists could contribute. This raised enough funds to buy 24 fishing boats for islanders. So Thomas Cook must rank as one of the very first eco-tourists, wanting to help the community he was visiting.

Anyway, these interesting historical snippets were recounted as Paul spoke to transport historian Nikki Macleod from the University of Greenwich, whilst they sat on the last ocean-going paddle steamer the Waverley, on its way to Tobermory on the Isle of Mull after leaving from Oban. This all starts about 15 minutes into the half hour programme, so it’s a good place to start if your main interest in this episode is his travels to the inner hebrides of Mull, Iona and Staffa.

A few other interesting pieces of information on the presenter include Paul’s connections with Mull. Seems he also has family on the island which he mentions as the Waverley steams into Tobermory harbour … in his opinion the most beautiful in Scotland. And, much like myself, he also chose to get married on Mull. Good call. Worked for us!

I should mention that, unless the programme gets re-broadcast at a later date, you’ll only be able to view this online if you’re somewhere in the UK up until the 17th of November.

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Mull… the Otter’s paradise

At this time of year the BBC trots out its usual gaggle of over-enthusiastic wildlife presenters to coo over all sorts of soft and cuddly creatures in Autumnwatch. It’s just started a new run, “for an eight week celebration of UK wildlife”.

But I am not meaning to belittle overly-keen TV wildlife presenters. It’s great that our national broadcaster makes a big deal out of the country’s wildlife and tries to educate a predominantly urban population about the nature that’s all around us.

In his own small way, that’s also what landscape painter, and more recently, film-maker Angus Stewart is trying to do. I recently discovered his film, made over two years, of a local otter living in amongst the people of Mull and specifically the town of Tobermory. Aptly called ‘Tobermory and the Otter’, it recounts the tale of wild otters which become bold enough to live and interact with Tobermory’s local characters going about their daily lives.

As Angus explains, “This film is a rare insight into the usually secretive life of wild otters. You will see how an otter makes use of a community, its ingenuity and strategies, how it went about stealing… from fishing boats and the range of fish it caught as well as showing the remarkable interactions it chose to have with the town’s residents.”

The film reflects the changing nature of Mull weather throughout the year, with the ever-familiar backdrop of Tobermory’s painted facade completing the background of footage showing the extrovert otter in action.

It’s certainly a far cry from our all too camera-shy otters at our self-catering holiday home, Beach House. We have otters that live in and around the mouth of the local river, also called Beach. The Beach river flows into a crescent-shaped pebble-strewn beach which has large beds of seaweed towards the eastern tip of the bay. This is a perfect playground where the otters like to potter, most likely looking for tasty morsels of shellfish and unfortunate crab.

By contrast, the otters in Angus’s film seem far more relaxed in the hustle and bustle of life in and around Tobermory. So, if you rather like otters you might want to check out the movie clips of the full 50 minute presentation on his website and YouTube page. Though not currently available on DVD, it may be in the future.

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Waters off Mull may be first 1GW offshore windfarm

According to a BBC report, of the two strongest contenders for the UK’s first 1GW offshore windfarm, the Argyll Array just west of the Isle of Mull is one. The other could be Triton Knoll off the Lincolnshire coast.

When not on Mull we live on the other side of Scotland in East Lothian and Edinburgh. There we can see Cockenzie Power Station on the Forth coastline, powered by coal, whilst just a few miles down the A1 on the east coast you have Torness Nuclear Power Station, beyond Dunbar. Ironically however, the local issue causing most debate appears to be resistance from factions concerned about any more wind turbines being added on top of the Lammermuir hills.

It’s one of those challenging conundrums. Is it nimbyism? Perhaps. But at least the use of windfarms off shore not only gets to better and more consistent winds but, for people who think turbines are ugly or harm wildlife, it may be an option that only meets wind resistance and avoids the people kind!

The bigger logistical issue is how you then get this power to shore and transported to places that need it.

Still, it looks like Mull may come to be known for more than being a popular tourist and holiday destination and become a leader in the field of renewable energy.

That’s a good thing… isn’t it?

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CalMac’s Oban to Craignure ferry now a political football

It seems that one of the UK’s more colourful Union leaders, Bob Crow of the RMT, has waded in to the debate on potentially privatising or outsourcing some of Scotland’s ferry routes.

There’s been recent debate of the options open to the Scottish government when it comes to how critical links, such as the Oban to Mull run, can be maintained and even improved. But there is equal concern that any new approach, such as putting specific routes out to tender, doesn’t simply result in poorer service and higher prices.

It’s this outcome that would be the worst case scenario, causing harm to Island life and the economy on Mull and Iona, much of which benefits from its popularity as a tourist destination.

You can see a previous post on this issue and some comments here.

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Mini-Review: Mull Eagle Paradise

Things I didn’t know before I watched ‘Mull – Eagle Paradise‘ using the BBC’s iPlayer catch-up service…

  • Wildlife Cameraman Gordon Buchanan is from Mull
  • The last Eagle was killed in the UK in 1918
  • Eagles were re-introduced initially to the island of Rhum in the 60s
  • Despite 140 birds being released in the 60s, the first Eagle chick to be born didn’t happen until 1985 on Mull
  • Mull is particularly appealing to Sea Eagles because, despite the name, they rather like the plentiful supply of rabbits
  • A third of all the sea eagles live on Mull

So, all things considered, I found this rather short BBC programme quite informative. With only 10 minutes there wasn’t much talk of some of the resistance to the growth in eagle numbers from farmers, who feel that these beautiful birds are predating lambs. More studies are being done but, for now at least, it’s uncertain whether eagles actively kill live lambs or are simply scavenging dead carcasses.

There’s no doubt that eagles have been very beneficial to tourism on the Island. At Beach House we’ve seen them floating around high up over Loch Scridain and the Ross of Mull. Of course, people visit the island for many reasons, but there’s no denying that the eagles add something special to the mix.

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