Yesterday, I (Marion) went along to a tourism taster event at the RSPB Forsinard Nature reserve. Myself, a representative from VisitScotland Thurso office and two volunteers from Castlehill Heritage society enjoyed a brilliant afternoon learning about the Forsinard Flows project and what they're working on.
We visited the new Field centre which was a hive of activity. It was really lovely to see children from Helmsdale Primary school enjoying the fantastic facilities in the education room. We were shown round the building which houses the office, research laboratory facilities, storage and even accommodation for visiting volunteers. The building is brilliant and a real asset for the staff and project volunteers.
We then moved on to the newly refurbished Forsinard Flows visitor centre which is just along the road from the field centre. We walked the road way which took just a few minutes but there is a lovely path across the field which is safer for their younger visitors. We (well, me!) foolishly weren't wearing appropriate footwear so took the dry option along the road. One of the items on the project wishlist is a selection of wellie boots to fill one of the storage areas so that they can lend them to children and people like me who don't think to wear boots!
The visitor centre is just next to the railway line and is a small building but with lots to offer. You arrive to a beautiful reception area where someone will give you a warm welcome and tell you about the displays. There's bathroom facilities for visitors to use and just off to the left, a comfortable Audio Visual room where you can relax on a comfy couch and watch a choice of three films about The Flow Country. Two are short 3/5minute overviews if you're pushed for time but if you get the chance, relax and enjoy the 26minute long video which gives you a superb feel for the area you've found yourself in.
Over on the right hand side of reception is an exhibition which explains more about The Flow Country and how it's the best blanket bog of it's type in the world. Full of gorgeous images and interesting information, sensory objects that visitors can feel and hear and even an interactive game there really is something for the whole family.
It was then time to go back outside and visit the Lookout Tower which was another short, very pleasant walk. The walk is suitable for wheelchair/pushchair users too. Along the way we saw an abundance of lizards and even a little tiny one which looked like a baby! We heard birds calling from the tower as we admired the pools below us. It was so peaceful, I could have gladly stayed there all day.
As part of the Flows to the Future project, a new permanent exhibition has been installed here at our Museum in Thurso. It gives an overview of The Flow Country and you can watch the informative films here too-you can even dress up as a frog if you like! (it's the best frog costume ever!)
I really enjoyed my time in Forsinard and am keen to go back and experience one of their guided walks over the Summer. I'm also looking forward to following the Flows to the Future Project to keep up with their restoration progress. The centre is easily reached by car (approx 40minutes from Thurso) or by train and is one to tick off the bucket list during a trip to Caithness or Sutherland.
Thank you to Jenny and Caroline for showing us around!
You can find out more about the project at www.theflowcountry.org.uk and on their facebook/twitter pages (The Flow Country)