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Shetland Nature Festival Round-up

The Otter came in at Number 1 in the Big 5 poll. The Otter came in at Number 1 in the Big 5 poll. Zoom The 2013 Shetland Nature Festival took place recently, with nature themed events throughout the Isles. The 'official' launch took place at a Sunday teas event in Bigton, with the Hall Committee providing refreshments while festival partners including the RSPB and Geopark Shetland offered entertainment and information about the week ahead. The festival included traditional favourites such as guided walks and the ever popular Noss Open Day, run by Scottish Natural Heritage, but there were also some new departures.

The RSPB hosted an afternoon of fun on the magical island of Mousa, while Shetland Amenity Trust's Woodlands team delivered 'tree magic' and storytelling with Davy Cooper at the Kergord plantation. Old Scatness Broch andIron Age Village was once more open to the public, while visitors to the Shetland Museum and Archives had a surprise chance to try rowing the Vaila Mae– a traditional Shetland sixareen, and were able to find out more about marine matters with Harriet Bolt from KIMO International. The Museum also hosted fascinating talks by underwater photographers Richard and Rachel Shucksmith and trout fisherman Paul Bloomer, and offered a pre-talk menu to highlight Shetland's 'natural larder.'

On July 4th – 'Independence Day' – nature enthusiasts were given ideas of how to get out and explore on their own – such as using the Geopark Shetland app for iPhone and Android, geocaching orsearching for Shetland's 'BIG 5' wildlife attractions - otter, puffin, killer whale, gannet and storm petrel - which were decided by the public through a Facebook poll.

2013 is the 'Year of Natural Scotland' and the Festival reflected that with events tied to YONS themes including 'natural playground'. Geology linked outdoor adventure sports were offered for the first time and proved very popular. A 'wet and wild' coasteeringday was led by SIC outdoor education officer Pete Richardson. Many participants followed this up with a rock climbing session on Bressay with 'Climb Shetland'.

Meanwhile local parkour group NorthernFocusParkour showed how to explore the Sletts in new and imaginative ways. NFP coaches shared their skills and enthusiasm with a range of ages and abilities. Geopark Shetland's Robina Barton said 'it was great fun finding routes through the rocks and being challenged in unexpected ways. It's also asurprisingly good workout and I can't wait to join their adult class!'

Also new for 2013 Shetland Arts Development Agency joined the festival partnership, with an 'artist studio and nature trail' and screenings of 'Rivers and Tides' at Mareel - a portrait of artist Andy Goldworthy showcasing his breathtakingly beautiful natural sculptures. In addition Dunna Chuck Bruck led a recycled crafts workshop and a beach photography competition.

North Shetland Ranger and festival organiser Rory Tallack commented that 'the weather was kind, the events were fun and there were several hundred participants. We have yet to analyse all feedback but we sensed that there were more local participants and fewer tourists than usual. We wonder if this is due to the fact that a lot of accommodation is being used by industry workers. It would be interesting to know if other heritage attractions have noticed any difference in their visitor numbers'.