Kerrera couple take the helm of island marina

Gill Vollum and her husband Tim will be taking over the marina lease on September 1.

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On September 1 Kerrera couple Tim and Gill Vollum will take over the lease of Oban Marina on Kerrera from its owners Gary Adams and Catherine Peat, who are planning to take their boat on more sailing adventures.

One of their first acts will be to rename Oban Marina, which sits off the coast of the Isle of Kerrera, ‘Kerrera Marina’ to distinguish it from Oban’s North Pier Pontoons opposite. ‘We wanted a new challenge,’ explained Tim. ‘We thought there is a lot of potential there.’

‘I have watched it grow from a smaller boat yard to a thriving marina,’ added Gill. ‘It is part of my childhood.’

Gill grew up on the island where her father was the ferryman, before her family moved into Kerrera’s Balliemore Farm in 1984, when she was aged seven. Then, a decade ago in 2011, Gill moved back to Kerrera from North Wales with her husband Tim.

‘We made the decision in 10 minutes,’ she explained. ‘My dad was ill. We wanted the children to have the freedom I had.’

She took over the farm, which rears Scottish Blackface sheep, pure Llyns, crosses and a herd of Dexter cows, and became a post lady on the island. Gill and Tim’s sons, Rory, seven, and Olly, 10, who are both pupils at Park Primary in Oban, are now the third generation of her family to live at Balliemore Farm.

Meanwhile Tim works on Kerrera as a care manager at New Reflexions, a UK-wide organisation which provides residential care for children that have behavioural or emotional difficulties. But in the months following September, he will be stepping away from New Reflexions.

‘It’s the end of 24 years of running residential placements for children,’ he said. ‘We have a very clear plan,’ he added: ‘This is long term.’

‘We are going to sit ourselves between the farm and the marina,’ explained Gill. ‘We would love to have the marina and farm running symbiotically, that our children might love to continue it,’ she added. ‘It is lovely to give them the option. They have already baggsied a shed for their offices.’

Under Gary and Catherine’s ownership, improvements have been made to the marina’s three main challenges: the supply of water, wifi, and fuel.

‘They have tackled these problems and come up trumps,’ said Gill.

‘Gary and Catherine had two bore holes dug that are producing a reasonable amount of water,’ said Tim, adding that the wifi has also been boosted. ‘They’ve managed to get diesel onto the island and now the new road will make it even easier.’

The Kerrera marina stands to benefit from the Scottish Government’s pledge to spend £500,000 building a 1.25km forestry grade road finally linking the island’s two separate communities in the north and south, and Argyll and Bute Council’s promise to tarmac the surface.

‘The north end has been reliant on the marina,’ Tim said. ‘It seems a shame the infrastructure at Gallanach [the CalMac ferry crossing] was there, but only half the island could use it. It connects people to the marina as well.

‘It means we can get diesel to the marina. Tradesmen and engineers can bring their vans with them, where previously they had to throw their tools into a boat and lug them over.’

‘We are thinking of a couple of electric vehicles to shuttle them from the marina to the CalMac ferry,’ adds Gill. The couple also want visitors to come to Kerrera Marina as a local food destination, serving meat reared by Kerrera’s three farms, which will also be available to buy in island farm shops. ‘Call it a Meat Mecca or Beef Babylon!’ jokes Tim.

‘The marina at the moment is quite poised: there has been an upswing in boating,’ he said. More people are holidaying on their own doorstep on the West Coast rather than going abroad, they observe, especially this year as folk emerge from lockdowns.

‘Kerrera is a great place to roam free,’ says Gill. ‘You feel it as soon as you step on it. There is a feeling of peace, and you just relax and unwind. Life is a lot easier on Kerrera. Life is less stressful. It’s like a giant breath of fresh air. Whatever challenges I have, I can deal with it.’