Rangers and stalkers from Assynt Foundation in Sutherland, working together with colleagues from the John Muir Trust and Highland Council Ranger Service educated a group of Ullapool High School second year pupils on important rural skills, teaching them tracking techniques to allow them to get up close to red deer – the UK’s largest land mammal recently.
The youngsters learned how to navigate across rough and uneven terrain, identify tracks, and how to avoid being sensed. They spent two days on the hill with professional deer stalkers to learn about wild venison as part of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership scheme’s (CALLP) Outdoor and Woodland Learning Project.
Part of the project meant familiarising themselves with the challenging food chain issues relating to deer management. They were shown recently culled deer and given lessons on butchering methods (Gralloching) out on the hill. The deer were then transported to Glencanisp Lodge where the pupils learned more about techniques of butchering deer carcasses and got a taste of barbequed venison.
CALLP Education Manager Fiona Saywell said: “Many people’s only experience of meat is plastic wrapped products that are indistinguishable from the animal they came from. Thanks to players of the National Lottery we were able to show local school pupils how wild venison gets from the open hill onto our plates through our hill to grill programme. The children really impressed the stalkers with their attitude. They were happy to stay quiet while patiently crawling on the ground towards the deer and keen to get hands on.”
Anne Hunter, Deputy Head Teacher of Ullapool High School said: “This was an excellent opportunity and a true cross curricular project which put learning into a realistic context. We could never have done anything like this without the fantastic support of CALLP. I am sure other schools would love to have this opportunity.”
Pupil Macy Paton said “It was really good fun stalking the deer, and very interesting seeing the deer butchered, getting to hold the organs and helping skin one.”
Assynt Foundation Factor Gordon Robertson added: “It is great thing to be able to come together with other agencies and offer some of the fantastic natural assets we have here to the education of our young people. Staff at the High School have been so supportive, and our partnership will provide experiences and skills that will be with these pupils all their lives. It will help, in a little way, to shape their future for the better”.
CALLP and the Outdoor and Woodland Learning Project are hugely grateful to Assynt Foundation, John Muir Trust and Highland Council Rangers for sharing their knowledge, expertise and skills to help facilitate successful delivery of the Hill to Grill programme. The Outdoor and Woodland Learning project is being delivered by the Culag Community Woodland Trust and is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Gannochy Trust.