Ulva plans new homes and midsummer festival

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Plans to build new homes on Ulva are gathering pace following the island’s community buy-out this summer.

John Addy, a director of the North West Mull Community Woodland Company, which led the buy-out, said repopulation is at the heart of its plans – ‘up to around 20 by renovating the existing housing stock and then up to maybe as many as 50 or more by building new houses’.

The buildings have been surveyed, and the renovations are being designed, for free by Moxon Architects in Aberdeenshire, and the aim is to start construction next year.

Mr Addy said: ‘We are in discussions with Argyll and Bute Council with a view to building new houses.’

The ‘neglected Big House’, he added, ‘offers a wonderful business opportunity if we can find the right investor’, as a possible guest house, restaurant with rooms, artist’s retreat or self-catering units.

He added: ‘We are currently testing the market and are very much open to suggestions.

‘We are commissioning surveys of the pier and slipways both on Ulva and on Mull at Ulva Ferry, to assess any urgent repairs. We are exploring better access and increased capacity – for example, to accommodate more than one boat at a time.

‘On the day we received the keys to the island, a group of enthusiastic gardeners established themselves to work on the overgrown garden close to the Big House. Over the summer it has been transformed by the hard work of around a dozen volunteers – the Ulva Garden Force.

The 'Ulva Garden Force'
The ‘Ulva Garden Force’

‘The keys were handed over on the longest day, June 21, and we therefore expect midsummer-day on Ulva will have a special resonance each year. The community is already looking forward to planning our first anniversary celebrations on midsummer 2019 when we hope to be toasting significant progress achieved.

‘We have no plans to allow commercial stalking clients to shoot on Ulva, and our objective is to sustain a healthy herd at levels which allow natural regeneration of the vegetation.

‘The hill ground is clearly over-grazed. The sales particulars for the island boasted a herd of around 400 deer, but we believe in order to achieve the recommended density of around five head of deer per 100ha of available deer run, we need to get the total down to around 70 to 80. We acknowledge this represents a very significant reduction in numbers, which will need to be managed carefully and over a realistic timescale.

‘Shifting the emphasis of deer management on Ulva from commercial stag shooting to habitat and biodiversity improvement has drawn criticism from some “traditional” land managers. But we hope the fuss will die down when the benefits become known.

‘We have decided to adopt a lead-free policy for all shooting on Ulva. Although copper bullets do not have the same stopping power of lead, in expert hands, and with a large enough calibre rifle, we have concluded this is the way to go in order to eliminate lead from the food chain.

‘We are currently looking for a development manager to take on the large range of projects planned over the next few years.’