Final stages of the West Highland College UHI expedition reach Ullapool and Gairloch

Final stages of the West Highland College UHI expedition reach Ullapool and Gairloch

Ullapool College Centre manager receives the baton from Jessica Leggatt after the final leg of the WHAT expedition

The final leg of a 25 day expedition throughout the West Highlands which began with an ascent of Ben Nevis, ended in Ullapool on Friday June 6.

Jess-batonJessica Leggatt, a first year student from West Highland College UHI’s BA (Hons) Adventure Tourism Management degree programme based in Fort William, arrived by kayak at Ullapool having completed the final leg of the expedition, which travelled by  sea kayak from Poolewe, following the spectacular coast of Wester Ross.  Jess was accompanied by expedition staff and, on Friday, a group of college staff with Ullapool College Centre Manager Christine Crook paddled out to meet Jess in canoes to celebrate her arrival.

Earlier that week in Gairloch, Andrew Smith, a student on the Access to Skills and Learning Programme, successfully ran the Gairloch 10K holding tightly to a section of the West Highland College UHI expedition baton.

WHAT (the West Highland Adventure Trail) was conceived by third year Adventure Tourism Management degree programme students as a new concept, linking West Highland College UHI’s 10 college centres in Lochaber, Skye & Wester Ross.  The journey was connected by a relay involving the efforts of 33 students and staff who between them walked, climbed, scrambled, biked, canoed and sea kayaked more than 300 miles taking in key mountains, islands and lochs in the West Highlands.  Beginning with an ascent of Ben Nevis this voyage took in many challenging and beautiful landscapes, including the Mamores, Loch Leven, Garbh Bheinn, Loch Sunart, Eigg and Rhum, the Knoydart peninsula, Loch Duich, the Cuillins of Skye , Raasay, the Torridons, Loch Maree, River Ewe and the Summer Isles and finally Loch Broom and Ullapool.

A specially commissioned baton was created for the expedition and was carried throughout to all 10 college centres and on the way collected a variety of letters, poems, certificates and artwork from local communities and groups voicing their aspirations for the future.

Andrew-batonStudents and lecturers from Gairloch Learning Centre, which has only been open for one year, contributed profiles of themselves, describing the changes that the development of the centre has made to them personally and to the learning environment in Gairloch.  Centre Manager Susan MacLean said “This was a terrific opportunity for the students in Gairloch to recognise that they are an important part of the wider college and they enjoyed their role in this venture”.

In Ullapool, pupils from the primary school prepared art work, haiku’s and wrote memories which were collected at a special assembly by Programme Leader Matt Groves, Lecturer Paul Kelly and Jessica herself.

Also created for the baton in Ullapool was a new book, “Saving Planet Airgon”, written and illustrated by local college students who are enrolled on the Access to Skills and Learning Programme in Ullapool.  Students researched and were supported to create the book about Saving Planet Airgon, an imaginary world in 2062 by Tony Bennett, SLP Lecturer, Morven DaForno, Support Worker and carers of students on the programme.

Finally, Pipers from Ullapool Pipe Band and senior management of the college and local well-wishers gathered in the Harbour Marquee to formally receive the expedition Baton and to congratulate all the students, college centres and community groups who had taken part.

Lydia Rohmer, college Principal and Chief Executive described WHAT as an “ambitious and aspirational project which overcame many challenges along the way and required perseverance, teamwork and a willingness to succeed to complete.” She continued “We look forward to seeing the legacy of this trail develop in the coming months and years for students, staff and communities in the areas served by West Highland College UHI."