Harmeny School is a residential school just outside Edinburgh on the edge of the Pentland Hills. It sits in about 30 acres of woodland that includes a pond, a wildlife area, an allotment, and a treetop classroom. The schools have an opportunity to “twin” with Harmeny as a way to learn from each other experiences and their culture. Alastair and his pupils have kindly taken the time to write about what Crofting Connections means to them.
Hi there, my name is Alastair and I teach Outdoor Education at Harmeny School near Edinburgh. The journey that got me here started with Crofting. My Grandmother was from North Uist and I have spent every school holiday at the family croft since I can remember. I’m now 32 years old so that’s a long time!
The first time I really felt a connection with the natural world was in Uist when my brothers and I spent our days with a local crofter. We would help with the lambing in the spring and threshing in the autumn, we went fishing together, and we drove the tractor.
I not only enjoyed being in the outdoors doing these jobs, I felt a great sense of identity and pride about my heritage. I learned to play the pipes. I tried, on several occasions, to learn Gaelic and am still trying. It is no surprise that several years later I decided that I wanted to work in the outdoors!
What I do is try and help pupils learn about nature and perhaps connect with the natural world. I thought it might work to help the pupils at Harmeny gain some of the experiences similar to those I had when I was a child. Not just to learn about nature but learn about our own country, its history, and its culture. That’s how Harmeny got involved in Crofting Connections.
Some of our Pupils are from the Highlands, however I don’t think that it really matters where you are from. Crofting is part of our countries history and will be an important part of our future. Growing our own food as a community in a sustainable way, learning about our country, its traditions, culture and language and making connections with the natural world could be a good thing for everyone.
Here is what his pupils say:
Blair-I liked working outdoors. It was fun getting mucky. I learnt about Champion, Skerry Blue and Witchill potatoes. We cut them up and cooked them as crisps and chips. We also used them to make Stovies. They were delicious.
Christian-I enjoyed building raised beds. It was fun watering the potato plants. We spent a long time collecting for and building up a compost heap. I think we got a good harvest of potatoes and they tasted amazing!
Zander-I liked to plant things in the ground and make crisps.
Corrie-I spent time digging the Runrig and preparing the soil. We planted buckwheat, barley and oats. I watered them and watched them grow. I harvested the most buckwheat. We also grew potatoes. I was really pleased with how many we dug up. We made crisps on the campfire. I really like growing things. I am thinking about getting a job as a farmer or gardener.