Jul 2, 2023 | Food & farming

Talking about Food: a visit to the Raasay Walled Garden

by Anne MacLennan

On 10th June, over 30 people converged on Raasay’s Walled Garden for a guided tour of this beautiful and productive area behind Raasay House. We heard about its history going back to the 16th century, and of the mammoth effort required to restore the neglected site in recent years.

The garden is organised in four quadrants, with polytunnels and outside beds, orchard, allotment beds and an area of lawn with rose beds, other flowers and herbs. Plans for further development and restoration were shared. Fresh produce is sold in the Veg Shack at the entrance and in the local shop. This was particularly beneficial during Covid lockdown, and reduced travel off the island.

A delicious lunch was provided by local volunteers. I have to recommend nettle and wild garlic soup with home-made bread. Throughout the event, there was a buzz of animated conversation as people caught up with friends and made new contacts. The conversation was mainly about experiences, challenges and triumphs of growing food in this area. Many tips were exchanged.

After lunch we heard from Rosie Macleod about the Carbon Neutral Islands Raasay project and from Donald Murdie, an experienced crofter and horticulturalist. We then divided into three groups focussed on Growing, Getting or Sharing. This session was masterfully facilitated by Chrissie Gillies to consider four questions: What is working? What is not working? What could work? and What barriers are there? Action points were then discussed by the larger group.

Considering the barriers and what could work, three themes involved:

  • land, crofting and resources
  • local produce, networks and support
  • policy, making our voices heard, and understanding.

Action points were to:

  • increase awareness of what is already happening around Skye and Raasay
  • extend current provision
  • investigate alternatives to the current system(s).

In addition, there was  general support for continuing conversations and knowledge-sharing in pursuit of developing a more sustainable food system throughout Skye and Lochalsh.

Our thanks go to Katherine Gillies and her team of volunteers in garden and kitchen for making the event such a success.