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Take a walk on the wild side – guided by new app

Take a walk on the wild side – guided by new app
22 June 2021

A digital guide is now available for one of Orkney’s most popular coastal walks.

Accessible on smartphones and other mobile devices, the new app offers a wealth of information for folk enjoying a walk around the Mull Head local nature reserve in Deerness.

It has been developed as part of a project by Orkney Islands Council to improve access and interpretation at Mull Head, which also includes the installation of new boardwalks and interpretation panels.One of the newly installed boardwalks.

“A walk around Mull Head is always a great experience, much loved by local folk and the many visitors who explore the area each year,” said Graham Sinclair, the Council’s chair of Development and Infrastructure.

“This project will enhance that experience still further – giving those enjoying a walk an even greater understanding of what makes the reserve so special.

“I am grateful that the Orkney LEADER Programme and the Heritage Lottery Fund jointly funded this imaginative initiative.”

The new app provides images and commentary – in both audio and text form – on points of interest at 20 locations around the reserve, which are marked by a series of location posts.

The sound recordings were made by local musician and audio engineer Brian Cromarty. They feature the voices of Brian himself, his wife Eileen Linklater, daughter Lucy, and Deerness friend and fellow musician Kenny Ritch Jr.

The app is available online here via the website.

You are advised to download and install the app before visiting Mull Head because mobile phone coverage is limited in parts of the reserve.

In addition, the project has seen the installation of two new interpretation boards at the reserve car park.

One of these includes photographs and short descriptions of selected natural and cultural heritage features of the reserve. The second focuses on access to the reserve, explaining the various walk options, including route lengths and their levels of difficulty.

Importantly, it advises visitors to adhere to the defined routes to avoid disturbance to wildlife and damage to fragile habitats. This message is repeated on a low sign close to the trig point at Mull Head. The text on this sign reads: “Please continue your walk via the coastal path to avoid damage to fragile moorland habitats and disturbance to ground nesting birds.”Photo of a Razorbill by Derren Fox.

New sections of boardwalk have been installed in particularly wet, muddy locations, as well as way-marker posts which will encourage people to follow defined routes through the reserve. New hazard signs are also in place warning of the dangers of high cliffs.

OIC environment officer Eileen Summers said: “We have also had fencing repaired and new gates installed that will enable sheep to be brought onto the reserve to graze an area of overgrown grass over autumn and winter, whilst flowering species are dormant.

“As the grass gradually becomes shorter and less thick and tussocky, conditions should become more favourable for wildflowers to establish and thrive. This is known as conservation grazing and, over time, it will help provide more foraging habitat for invertebrate species such as bumblebees, hoverflies, moths and butterflies.”

A leaflet about the Mull Head local nature reserve has also been updated and reprinted as part of the project and is available from VisitScotland’s iCentre in Kirkwall and from Deerness Stores.

Meanwhile, the Council’s engineering team is working on options for dealing with a significant landslip, which happened during the winter and has blocked access to the Brough of Deernness. The Mull Head circular route is unaffected by this.

The interpretation centre near the Mull Head car park has been closed to visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic and this remains the case meantime.

(Razorbill photo by Derren Fox).


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