Thursday, June 14, 2012

Volunteering on the Balmacara Estate

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to participate in a conservation camp sponsored by the National Trust for Scotland.  Jon Downie, the Trust’s Outdoor Action Coordinator, led our group of ten Thistle Camp volunteers as we assisted rangers with a variety of tasks on the Balmacara Estate in the Western Highlands.

Through the gorse we go

The meadow

On a morning late in April we dug up yellow flag irises in a secluded meadow on the Estate. In the afternoon we transplanted them in a former pasture fronting the scenic road that goes past Eilean Donan Castle and continues on toward the bridge to the Isle of Skye. 

Digging up flag iris rhizomes

Iris transportation

Because success in transplanting irises depends upon rhizome health, Jon taught us to inspect the irises before plunging our spades into the boggy meadow. He showed us how to easily determine the position of the rhizomes so that we could limit the damage we inflicted on the plants while digging. Yet even with our diligent efforts, we occasionally lifted up spindly fans of sword-shaped green leaves with no rhizome attached.

In the middle distance, a new home for yellow flag irises
We worked hard throughout our Thistle Camp. But the most difficult bit?  Saying good-bye at the end of the week to the Highlands and to fellow team members.

The 2012 Balmacara Thistle Camp team
This photograph taken for me by NTS Ranger Babs Macritchie

To learn more about the Balmacara Thistle Camp read my August 2012 guest post on the National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA blog:

To learn more about the National Trust for Scotland's Balmacara Estate visit:

To learn more about National Trust for Scotland Thistle Camps visit:


  1. very nice Frances!! Nice to see your camp (as I was in Kintail) in pictures this time :) bye x Tamina

  2. Hi Frances. Beautiful blog. The last week I arrive to Spain and received you email. When I will have my photos ready I send to you.


    Alberto C.