North Harris Trust’s new ranger, Michael Hunter, found himself up at great heights within days of beginning his job this month.

Michael was plunged straight into the Harris Mountain Festival, treating the programme of events as an extended induction to his role.

The going got much tougher last week, when a party of 12 John Muir Trust volunteers arrived to get stuck into essential work on the land, including tree-planting in Ardvourlie, building a dry-stone dyke between the common grazing and lighthouse land on Scalpay and path maintenance work along the footpath from Huisinis to Crabhadail.

Fortunately, hands-on construction is right up Michael’s street, with a career history which has taken him from Mexico to Skye, indoors and out.

Belfast-born Michael spent two gap years between school and university doing farm work, building and volunteering in countries including Israel and Syria, cycled around Europe and the Middle East and returned to complete a degree in Ecology at the University of St Andrews.

He then worked in Mexico as a teacher in a Steiner school, specialising in music, English and outdoor education. Most recently he’s been at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Skye as a maintenance worker – until he saw a job that, for him ‘ticks all the boxes’.

He told yesterday (Monday May 13th): “It’s as if this job has brought together all the strands of my career – the educational side of it really interests me and I’m looking forward to getting schools more involved with our work. I’m hugely interested in the natural world, in Gaelic culture and language and in engaging people with physical work.

“I’m hoping to begin a regular volunteering initiative on a weekly basis, with something that needs to be done and the opportunity for local people to come and get stuck in, even if they only have an hour to spare.”

For now, Michael’s spending all his leisure time walking and camping in the Harris hills, getting to know the geography and topography of the North Harris Trust Estate and becoming more familiar with the wildlife and plant life.

He’s pictured on his first day at work at the Trust office in Tarbert and with the John Muir Trust volunteers hard at work at Ardvourlie last week (North Harris Trust).