The Hen Harrier Weekend event in the Highlands of Scotland was due to take place on Sunday 7 August, at the Cairngorm Mountain Base Station. Andrea Goddard, one of the organisers, explains:
"We were all prepared for an amazing Hen Harrier Day in the Highlands. Hours of voluntary work by our dedicated team had gone into meetings, making placards, writing risk assessments, event plans, emailing attendees, making and distributing posters, liaising with our speakers, planning the running order, and everything else you can imagine which goes on behind the scene of event management.
Especially as it was our first.
We were determined for everything to be done properly and for it to be a success.
We were prepared.
We weren’t, however, prepared for a summer storm.
Gale force winds were expected at exactly the location and time of Hen Harrier Day Highlands, although we were hopeful that it wouldn’t be as bad as the forecast had predicted. So, at 10am on the morning of the event one of our organisers went up to Cairngorm Mountain Base Station to begin setting up and he immediately realised we had to cancel.
The wind was blowing up stones and our trailer was in real danger of being blown over, it was difficult to even stand – the wind was horrendous! The gale was much worse than anticipated. One short call later and the plug was pulled. We didn’t know at the time but a few metres up at the summit of Cairngorm wind speeds of 115mph were being recorded!
With the decision made, we immediately issued a cancellation statement on our Facebook event page and twitter account. Phone calls were made to our speakers (one had already begun their journey and had to do a U-turn on the A9) and we tried our best to let everyone know. Luckily, most people found out in good time or had already decided not to come because of the weather and so only a few made the journey and were disappointed. We are so sorry if you were one of those that didn’t hear in time.
Anyway, however upsetting the decision was to cancel, it was the right decision and we will be back next year (with a summer gale contingency plan!), bigger and better than this year would have been.
Mostly, it was a shame not to hear our speaker’s talks. I imagine hours of preparation went into them, so we didn’t want all their work to be for nothing. I have listed the speaker’s names below in the order they would have been heard on the day. If the name is in red, you can click on it to be linked to their speech. This will be in either written or audio format:
Brian Etheridge – Highland Raptor Study Group and eminent Hen Harrier expert.
Allan Bantick OBE – Former Chair Scottish Wildlife Trust
Jeep Solid (aka Roderick Mackenzie) – Local Poet and author of ‘The Kingdom of Moray’
Peter Argyle – Board Convenor – Cairngorm National Park Authority
Thomas MacDonell – Director of Conservation & Forestry, Wildland Ltd.
Ian Thomson – Head of Investigations – RSPB Scotland
Thank you to our speakers for all their hard work and also thank you to Natural Retreats for agreeing for us to use Cairngorm Mountain as our venue.
It was heartening to hear afterwards of how many people were planning to attend – way, way more than we expected. And also lovely to hear all your kind words of reassurance. Your support blew us away (as did the wind, nearly)! It was also amazing to see how well the other 11 Hen Harrier events had done throughout the country this year. Everyone involved did a wonderful job. The word is definitely spreading about the plight of the hen harrier!
So folks, we look forward to seeing you again next year, come rain, shine or gales."