Community turns out in force to clear Stramash blaze wreckage

STRAMASH CLEAN UP 26/1/19 A large umber of people from the Lochaber community turned out in the rain to help clear up the fore damage at the Stramash Nursery. PICTURE IAIN FERGUSON, THE WRITE IMAGE

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Despite the incessant rain and driving wind, more than 100 people throughout the day lent a hand at Stramash’s clean-up day on Saturday (January 26) following the devastation caused by a fire at the nursery last week.

People of all ages turned out in force to help clear the wreckage at the outdoor nursery in Fort William after its hand-built wooden yurts, used by toddlers to learn and play, were burned to the ground last Sunday night (January 20).

Digger, tractor and chainsaw operators were all called into action to help clear the remains of the huts and to fell trees on site to get them ready for chipping in order to cover the scorched area of nursery ground.

Among the team of volunteers there were parents of nursery-goers, friends of Stramash staff and even a band of students from Fort William’s West Highland College UHI who gave up their entire Saturday to help with the clear-up. A temporary tea hut was also set up to keep the workers going in the cold, wet conditions.

Stramash team leader, Cameron Sprague, said he was ‘humbled’ by the turnout, saying: ‘The community has been amazing, coming together to get the nursery up and running and move past the tragedy and the remains left there. We’ve had a local business providing tractors, people with diggers, people have been here all day, even before 10am. It’s been a real community effort and we’re so grateful.’

A JustGiving fundraising page has since been setup and has already generated almost £3,000 for the nursery to help with the cost of rebuilding the outdoor facility.

Lyndsay Boyd, lead practitioner at Stramash, said the response has given the team a renewed sense of pride in their work.

She said: ‘It’s made us feel really proud of what we’ve built up over the years, seeing how everyone comes to together and is willing to help without being asked. We’ve had so many offers of support and help since the fire.’

When asked about when she first heard about the fire, she said: ‘I honestly didn’t know what to do, really, thinking about all the work we put in over the last four years to get the yurts up and running – we were so close to getting it finished. But seeing all the support, we’re just thinking about how we can move on.’

Caol and Mallaig councillor Ben Thompson, who was also at the clean-up day, praised the ‘fantastic’ support shown on the day.

He said: ‘I’m a really strong supporter of outdoor play and Saturday emphasised just how much support there is for it from people in the area.’