Students from the University of Cumbria were the first university group to visit the isle of Rum since wildfires broke out damaging the island’s fragile ecology.
The Ambleside-based second year outdoor studies students spent five days on the island as part of a field trip investigating various aspects of the island’s physical geography. Research of footpath erosion - real concern on the island - was one area where students took time to study the changes on one of the main routes leading into the island’s mountainous countryside.
“I’ve made 30 trips here so the work we’ve done in that time has helped conservationists chart the changes to the paths which help determine how it can be managed,” said Dr Lois Mansfield, principal lecturer in resource management, who led the field trip. “When you get to these remote parts of Scotland people still want to walk here but the weather is so poor that the erosion is far worse than you would get, say, in the Lake District. All the data we collect is fed back to Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) because we’re surveying paths that are difficult to survey so the students are helping by carrying out useful research.”
With golden eagles and members of the island’s numerous deer population watching closely, the group also trekked to Harris on the west coast of the island to examine the evolution of glacial landscapes. Inhabited by just 30 people, the group made the most of the island’s varied landscapes to carry out their own research. Their work is now being assessed and will form part of the module’s overall marking.
“The reason I chose this module was that I’d heard last year about this trip and how much of a rewarding experience this was and wanted to come and see if for myself,” Laura Euington, a student on the foundation degree in outdoor education course, said. “It is hard work but it’s worth it to come to a place like this and see something totally different.”
As well as offering an inspirational experience it’s hoped the field trip will offer a greater understanding of the way landscapes are formed.
“As a geographer I think it’s important that students are given the opportunity to learn about their discipline area outside the classroom,” Dr Mansfield said. “We run field trips at home and abroad and with the recent fires on Rum, these processes really bring home the importance of field work linking theory to environmental change.”