SNH keen to see Hermaness used to benefit community
A consultation has begun on how Scottish Natural Heritage should manage the UK’s most northerly National Nature Reserve in Unst.
Hermaness NNR is home to one of the largest seabird colonies in Europe and includes internationally important populations of gannets, puffins and bonxies (great skuas).
As well as the bird life the spectacular cliffs are geological interest and are home to several rare plants while the coastal scenery, including views of Muckle Flugga lighthouse and Out Stack – the northernmost British outpost.
The nature reserve is managed by SNH in agreement with the land owners and plans are being drawn up to manage the reserve over the next 10 years.
SNH operations officer for Shetland, Jonathan Swale, said the organisation is legally obliged to protect the natural heritage. The plan being put forward includes ways of improving access, encouraging more work with schools and strengthening the link with the Unst community.
Mr Swale said: “The birdlife is protected and we have to ensure that continues. There are provisions we can make for visitors and steps we can take to make access easier for less [physically] able people and to prevent erosion of the bogs.”
The whole reserve sits on blanket peat bogs, and while that is not a designated protected area it is important as a breeding ground for birds including bonxies and red-throated divers.
With an eye on improving access the management plan proposes path maintenance and improvement and more interpretation boards at the site entrance.
“We would like to see more education use and try to get more school groups out there,” said Mr Swale. “And we are keen to see it as an asset for the local community, both for folk to use it and to get people to come to Unst and stay in Unst.”
The public consultation runs until 25th March inviting comments on the management proposals.
Mr Swale said: “This consultation is important because it allows people to tell us what they think about the reserve and help shape its future management. We are especially keen to see Hermaness used to the benefit of the local community and schools and we hope to gather as many responses as possible. These will be taken into account when we write the final plan for the reserve.”
The proposals and information about the reserve are available on the NNR website.