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Scotland’s coasts and waters are home to a tremendous variety of flora, fauna and wildlife. A wide range of organisations made the most of this connection.

They used the Themed Year to shine a spotlight on their own content, products and experiences to attract and inspire audiences.

Catriona Webster from NatureScot told us about the activities they delivered to celebrate the Year of Coasts and Waters.

Why did your organisation decide to get involved with Year of Coasts and Waters 20/21?

The Themed Years are a fantastic platform to celebrate the best of Scotland. NatureScot has always been an enthusiastic supporter and participant.

The organisation was really excited about the Year of Coasts and Waters. Much of its work is about encouraging and inspiring people to enjoy and connect with our coasts, rivers, lochs, and seas.

Think of the coastal, marine and freshwater teams to the wonderful National Nature Reserves. The organisation also increases awareness and understanding of their biodiversity.

What are the main things you created around the Themed Year?

NatureScot developed a special programme of activities and projects to celebrate YCW2020. It launched the £150,000 "Plunge In! Coasts and Waters Community Fund" to help communities mark the year in style.

The fund generated a huge amount of interest. Ultimately, it funded 25 new projects across the country. This reflected the amazing reach and diversity of our shorelines and waterways. Some examples include:

  • river rangers
  • ocean-inspired artwork
  • saltmarsh stories sea safaris
  • Gaelic song
  • orca watching

These successful projects will ensure the Themed Year will leave a lasting legacy in dozens of communities.

NatureScot commissioned acclaimed traditional musician Ingrid Henderson to create Message in a Bottle. This new musical composition is inspired by the movements of ocean currents.

The performance included the Gaelic language, film and animation. It celebrated Scotland’s unique marine environment.

The musical premiered at a special performance at Celtic Connections in January to great acclaim. This was followed by a well-received virtual performance in the summer.

NatureScot also launched their In Tune with Nature competition in partnership with Fèis Rois.

This inspired people to connect with nature through music. From almost 150 entrants, the 12 winning artists composed a piece of music inspired by one of 10 National Nature Reserves across Scotland.

NatureScot also launched a national photography competition. This allowed them to create a celebratory Year of Coasts and Waters themed calendar for 2021.

NatureScot lastly continued to promote a range of fantastic content arising from their day-today work.

This included the launch of a new community-led marine biodiversity monitoring project. But it also included the exciting hatching of a captive skate egg in a first for the species.

Were there any unexpected outcomes?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic inevitably impacted on many of the planned activties for the Year of Coasts and Waters.

NatureScot had to think creatively to ensure that as much of the work to mark the year as possible could continue. Some innovative solutions emerged, such as Message in a Bottle, moving to a virtual performance.

Many of the Plunge In recipients rose to the challenge with online talks and events. But also with art parcels for local residents and even virtual song sessions.

Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve

What do you have planned for 2021?

Whether planned or as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the work to celebrate the year will carry on into 2021.

NatureScot looks forward to continue to support and promote these activities. One of these is the In Tune with Nature music videos, filmed by the winning entrants on NatureScot's inspiring nature reserves.

Many of our community fund projects had to delay their plans until next year as a result of coronavirus restrictions.

So, NatureScot will be highlighting and celebrating their work. It looks forward to Message in a Bottle returning to music festivals next year, should circumstances allow.

NatureScot expect to have plenty of exciting work to highlight on the theme throughout the year. Think of basking shark tagging, peatland restoration, blue carbon research, and sea cave surveys.

How other organisations engaged with the Themed Year

RSPB Scotland

RSPB Scotland planned a range of guided walks on their reserves to celebrate the Themed Year. Family activity packs were produced for reserve sites for pond-dipping and rock-pooling sessions.

The planned DolphinFest festival in Aberdeen wasn’t able to take place in April 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Organisers held event in 2021 instead.

This provided opportunities for people to engage with, and be enthused by, local marine wildlife.

RSPB Scotland’s Nature of Scotland Awards progressed in a digital format for 2020. They included a ‘Coasts and Waters’ category. This celebrated people who work to maintain Scotland’s unique wildlife and natural environment.

Marine Conservation Society

Every year is a year of coasts and waters for the Marine Conservation Society. The organisation got on board with YCW2020 in all sorts of ways, using the Themed Year and #YCW2020 hashtag to promote their own campaigns.

This included ocean recovery and projects such as the Great British Beach Clean. The society created online and member’s magazine articles about the year.

Scotland Conservation Officer, Catherine Gemmell, wrote an "ocean optimism" blog for BBC Springwatch. The Themed Year was highlighted again at the organisation’s digital AGM in November.

Scottish Canals

Scottish Canals looks after:

  • five Scottish canals
  • bridges
  • buildings
  • locks
  • The Falkirk Wheel
  • The Kelpies
  • 19 water supply reservoirs in locations across Scotland

The organisation supported the Year of Coasts and Waters via a creative microsite. This used the brand to highlight some of the ways in which Scotland’s canals can be enjoyed.

It was also a partner in the "Canal Festival Time Machine", part of the YCW2020 supported events programme.

John Muir Trust

The John Muir Trust made the most of the Themed Year across a range of activities. They produced online content with inspiring stories.

This included joining a conservation officer on virtual walks along the North West coasts of Scotland. They also produced extensive educational resources which could be downloaded from their website.

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