Islanders on Mull launch crowdfunding bid to save rare habitat

Calgary Bay on Mull is a unique habitat but one which is under threat from grazing sheep. Picture: Getty Images
Calgary Bay on Mull is a unique habitat but one which is under threat from grazing sheep. Picture: Getty Images
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With its dazzling white sands and crystal clear waters it is renowned as one of the jewels of the Hebrides.

But the carpet of flowers which used to create such a stunning backdrop to a summer’s day out at Calgary Bay on the isle of Mull has now disappeared due to sheep grazing on the machair.

Now a crowdfunding appeal has been launched on Justgiving aimed at raising £12,000 to control the grazing, by fencing the vulnerable area during the crucial summer months.Andy Mortley, chairman of the Friends of Calgary Bay, Mull, said the appeal has raised more than £1,500 in five days. A letter has also been sent to the Calgary Herald, asking residents in Calgary’s namesake province in western Canada to help.

The Calgary Bay machair is one of Europe’s rarest habitats and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Found only on the windswept west coast of Scotland and Ireland, machair is renowned for its spectacular array of wild flowers, which attract a wealth of wildlife and birds.

But Mr Mortley said: “We have recognised that there has been a problem for about 20 years and maybe longer. The Friends of Calgary Bay have been working to replant grass and address the problem of erosion on the edge of the machair but the one thing we have not been able to do is to control the grazing. The local shepherd has tried his best to herd the sheep off every day but it needs fencing.”

He said that a small area of the machair was fenced some years ago to see what would happen and a host of flowers appeared, proving that the seeds of the plants are intact under the surface. Mr Mortley added: “The list of flowers that have grown there is actually quite long, we had orchids, field gentians and blue flowered harebells, the list is quite amazing.”