A ONCE-overgrown roadside verge which blocked out a scenic seaside Wester Ross view has been transformed into a public garden.
Visitors and locals are now able to enjoy the vista from the Gairloch Wildlife Observation Garden – also known as the “Sitooterie” – as a result of a two-year community effort. Just two years ago, the area was overgrown by gorse bushes towering up to eight feet high. A local retired couple cleared a 20-yard section which revealed the view.
The council then cleared the mass of overgrown gorse, but left behind a vast area of industrial wasteland polluted with netting, plastic bottles, fishing line and general waste which had gathered in the undergrowth over many years.
As momentum started to build, the Shop at the Pier in the Wester Ross village offered to try and raise funds for a much-needed bench. Shopkeeper David Carruthers told how money raised over the winter 2014/15 allowed for the very first ‘square’ in the quirky garden to be completed in May of last year, boosted by two instant donations of benches.
Before long, there were offers of donations of a tub and planters and plants, and recognising the group’s pioneering efforts, Wester Ross Environmental Network (WREN) chipped in with a small grant earlier this year which allowed a new section to be completed in time for the beginning of this season.
Locals and visitors alike now enjoy a tranquil area to relax and observe wildlife
Then in March this year, Beechgrove Garden researchers looking for gardens to film for the popular TV series visited the basic site and asked to be kept informed of future developments.The remarkable community effort so rapidly transformed the wasteland site into a Wildlife Observation Garden for local and visitor use alike that the BBC decided to include it in a recent episode.
They were particularly impressed that every single item of garden furniture, every tub, planter and container, and every single plant – even all the compost– had been donated.
Local businesses have got behind the scheme with builders, a nursery, accountants, stores and Gairloch Estate chipping in goods and services. Local artist Lynn Bennett-Mackenzie crafted an eye-catching ‘Welcome’ sign while decorative ornaments have also been contributed.
Mr Carruthers said: “Earlier this year a couple from the central belt who regularly holiday in the area were enjoying sitting at a bench in the sunshine.Work was going on to try to riddle some poor ground in the rockery area - they suggested some topsoil was required and they were told that it was very hard to find in Wester Ross.
"Two months later they returned on holiday with a boot full of soil improver – the equivalent of 12 big bags of topsoil!”
A local wildlife enthusiast’s suggestion that the group invest in a pair of binoculars because of the intense interest in local wildlife activity prompted an appeal from the garden’s supporters – which resulted in 11 unused pairs being donated within 24 hours.They’ve already been used by visiting Gairloch High School pupils and are now available for use by anyone enjoying the Sitooterie, with a request for a small voluntary donation.
Mr Carruthers added: “The stars of this whole project from the very beginnings to the beautiful floral display in the Wildlife Observation Garden have been the local community. Tireless efforts by dozens of people have made this a huge success. Thousands of visitors and locals have enjoyed this unique amenity.Those who have made this happen on such a scale have done so as part of the community. What has happened has never had any plan, there is no name for the community group, there is no committee, no office bearers and we have never had a meeting!”