Well here I am, Paul Sharman, the next NTS Ranger for St. Kilda – another blow in from far away, Devon to be precise. Having previously worked as a Ranger on Dartmoor, the granite landscape and stone settlements feel somehow familiar to me. Island living is a new experience though as is the abundance of seabird life encountered each time I leave the office.
My background has been with the National Trust for England and Wales and in recent years as a mature student I gained a PhD in Cultural Geography in 2008. Following a recent job teaching conservation ecology to students at Bournemouth University, I arrived here at the beginning of June and hit the ground running. The Bonxies have introduced themselves in no uncertain manner and St. Kilda tourists are arriving by the boatload. Reconciling the needs of breeding Skuas with visitors dreams poses a unique set of challenges on the hills of St. Kilda. After a long and tiring day fending off Bonxie attacks, enthusiastic visitors from St Kilda, Melbourne, Australia restored the smile to my face.
I get asked am I an ornithologist, a botanist, an archaeologist? My answer is all three. Effectively I am a cultural ecologist working in one of the few places in the developed world where human and natural communities have been and remain inextricably connected. For many in secular Britain, the voyage to remote St Kilda fulfils a spiritual as well as recreational need. For others ticking off a ‘Marilyn’ or spotting that rare bird are the reasons for coming here. We may now discourage disturbing the birds but they still underpin human existence on this island.
Expecting a remote and isolated experience I’d like to extend a warm thank you to the QinetiQ Hebrides staff for making me so welcome. From BBQs at the Puff-Inn to groceries delivered by helicopter – so many unexpected aspects to this job. No doubt many more surprises to report on in the future.
Ironically, having been whisked here by helicopter I missed out on the three hour sea-crossing and the awesome approach past the stacks of Boreray. Greeting visitors off the jetty I am only too aware of the cost and effort others have put into getting here. St Kilda is open for everyone and I am honoured to facilitate that experience - and many, many thanks to Mark MacIntyre and Karen Thorburn NTS Volunteers from Edinburgh whose enthusiastic help made my first few days so much easier.