The sun was shining bright, and the winds were whipping through Islay as we gathered for a memorable day at the Dunlossit Estate Community Open Morning. Held at Ballygrant Hall, it was a chance for members of the public to immerse themselves in the world of peatland restoration and conservation.

In the Hall participants were greeted with an array of information about Peatland Action, estate projects, and the process of peat restoration. Not forgetting the all-important teas, coffees, and delicious millionaire shortbread from our local café, Craigard Kitchen.

Representing ACT were Angharad and Deb from the Peatland restoration team, with Julie, Sara, and Philippa from the wider team. Alongside us were David Gillies, estate manager, and Leonie Schroder, estate owner, who shared their insights and enthusiasm for the Peatland Action funded projects and broader estate initiatives, including native tree planting and our Branching Out project - coming soon.

Visitors learning about peatland restoration at Ballygrant Hall 

Transport to the restoration site was an adventure in itself, courtesy of Dunlossit. A tractor and passenger trailer combo took us on a bumpy but exhilarating ride - a true Islay mode of transport!

Group travelling in tractor trailer

Group travelling to restoration site in tractor trailer 

There was a great variety of attendees, from local councillor Dougie McFadzean to farming tenants, NatureScot representatives, and members of the public. It was a great opportunity for the community to share their knowledge from different perspectives on topics ranging from geological features to the history of peat cutting in the area.

Out in the field, Angharad guided participants through various restoration methods and showcasing recently restored peat banks. Participants were amazed at how unobtrusive the works were, blending seamlessly into the surrounding environment.

ACT staff member talking to group

Angharad Ward speaks to the group about our peatland restoration work 

One of the highlights was watching dams being constructed from peat to block ditches, expertly carried out by the team from local contractor Iain MacPherson & Son. It was fascinating to observe how quickly pools formed behind each dam, providing vital water sources for insects and birds throughout the year.

Digger creating a peat bank with two people watching

Leonie Schroder and David Gillies watching a peat dam being built, by Angharad Ward 

Participants even got their hands dirty, helping collect samples of sphagnum moss for an upcoming session with Keills Primary School. Amidst our activities, we encountered some local wildlife, including deer and a frog seeking refuge in the water collected on digger tracks - we made sure the frog was safely away before the machine started up again!

Frog in pool of water made by a tractor tyre

Frog in pool of water created by digger tracks, by Angharad Ward 

Overall, the Dunlossit Community Open Morning was a fantastic opportunity to engage with the public, raise awareness about peatland restoration, and demonstrate the tangible impact of our efforts on the ground.

Our collaboration with Dunlossit Estate continues, with a site visit from Keills Primary School on 27th March. It's another chance to inspire the next generation and showcase why peat is neat!

Read more about our peatland restoration work here.

All photos by Rachael Keenan