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5 Jul 2021

Why we love St Abb’s Head NNR


Speakers: 6 voices – Ciaran Hatsell (CH), Jane Jones (JJ), Terry Jones (TJ), David Kinchin-Smith (DK), Derren Fox (DF), Emma Witcott (EW)

CH - One of the things that I love about St Abb’s Head is there’s something for everyone. When you come to the site if you’re interested in birdwatching, wildflowers, geology or you just want to come for a nice walk, it’s the perfect place. It’s basically a time to just immerse yourself in nature, just take time out of your normal hectic routine to come to a place that is absolutely beautiful and awe-inspiring. Looking out over the coast, looking to the north of here, you have some incredible geology. It’s quite easy to see in the formations of the rocks you’re casting yourself back about 450 million years ago when it was formed. The volcanic activity pushed the rocks up and you can really see them jutting one way and then the other. One of the brilliant things about that is that volcanic activity has created some incredible habitat for seabirds. 450 million years ago when it was formed, who knew that in this day and age it would provide some perfect rocks, ledges and craggy places for the seabirds to nest.

It is seabird city. We’ve got roughly as many visitors as we get seabirds. So we get 60,000 visitors and we’ve got about 60,000 seabirds that nest here every year. A visit at this time of year in the spring and summer, you can see an amazing sight in front of you. We have 42,000 guillemots and if you come in early July the chicks will be jumping straight off the cliff and they’re absolutely amazing.

As part of our work here for the National Trust for Scotland, we count and monitor all the seabirds. Seabirds are basically the biological indicators of the health of the wider ocean, so the work we do here is really, really important. It’s such a special place that we really want to share everything that we have here, so what we’ll do in the summer: often we’ll sit up on the clifftops, we’ll set up telescopes and you can come and look through binoculars and we can bring the place to life for you and tell you about the seabirds and the lives that they have. If you want a great trip to a seabird colony, I’d definitely recommend coming to St Abb’s Head in the summer.

JJ – We love this place because it helps us connect with nature. You can come out and if you’re feeling a bit low, that mood lifts and you become happy. I love it.

TJ – And I love it because the scenery is stunning. It’s just a beautiful place.

DK – What I love most about this place are the towering cliffs covered in seabirds, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the sea air; it’s absolutely amazing.

DF – What I love about St Abb’s Head is these spectacular seabird cliffs just swirling with life of kittiwakes and auks, so full of life and fresh air, and even on the windiest days it’s a spectacular place to be.

EW – I love St Abb’s Head ‘cause it’s just absolutely spectacular and there’s not really anything else like it around here. We live down in Northumberland just down the coast and it’s beautiful but it’s all sandy beaches so then to come up here and see all the cliffs packed with seabirds is really spectacular.

CH – Another reason that I love this place is that you can go from the crazy seabird colonies and the wild dramatic cliffs and you can come down to the tranquil scene of the Mire Loch. The loch was dammed in the early 1900s, mainly for recreation and for boating, and now it forms a really important part of the nature reserve. For walkers, there’s a lot you can do. You can either hug the coastal path or you can stick round the Mire Loch and have a nice tranquil lower lying walk. We try and maintain it for all abilities as well so people who are seasoned hillwalkers to people who just want to jump out their car and have a quick walk - there’s something for everyone. It’s a really great place to come and stretch your legs, if you want to have a bite to eat, you want to come and relax, try and find some butterflies, try and find some other wildlife, it’s a superb place to come and see.

JJ – We absolutely love the walks.

TJ – We love the walks.

JJ – We tend to do this walk probably every day. There’s something different every time you come. We both like wildflowers, don’t we? So one of our things on our walk, we count wildflowers - and yesterday we counted 45 species of wildflower.

CH – In this really busy hectic world that goes on around us, it’s never been more important to connect with nature. Coming to a place like this where you’ve got a beautiful wide ocean, you’ve got incredible cliffs, it’s full of wildlife - you’ve either got seabirds or seals, amazing wildflower meadows, a serene calm loch - it’s so good for you. It’s really good for your mental and physical health to come and have a walk around here, look at some seabirds, engage with them, watch their behaviours. Everything about them is just incredible and the more you learn, the more you come to enjoy it as well.

We want to really encourage people to come to our sites and enjoy them. You can see why we love them: they’re special, they’re incredible, so please come out and have a look at them.

I’m really lucky to get to work here. You’ll often see me out on the cliffs. I’ll be monitoring seabirds, hanging off a cliff edge looking at birds over the edge. So if you do see me, come and say hello, come and speak to me. I’ll be more than happy to have a chat about the wildlife and the amazing place that we’ve got here.

Rugged coastline, beautiful walks and 60,000 seabirds – there’s plenty to discover at St Abb’s Head NNR. Here we join Ciaran Hatsell, Ranger, and some visitors to find out what people most love about this place.

St Abb’s Head NNR is open daily.

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