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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday  14th April 2007
Listen to this programme in full
Stag in Richmond Park
This week, Richard explores Loch Lomond, Britain's biggest area of freshwater, whose islands have long been used as places to live, work and take refuge.
Loch Lomond may be Britain's biggest area of freshwater - but not all of its statistics are that clear cut. The number of islands in the loch, for example, is still debated - depending on whether you count the tiny ones, not much more than rocks, and the crannogs, artificial islands dating from the Iron Age.

Fiona Baker thinks there are about thirty seven. She's a consultant archaeologist, who ten years ago came on behalf of the Friends of Loch Lomond to survey the islands. She's back again this year to do a check-up and takes Richard to the graveyard on Inchcailloch, traditional resting place of Clan McGregor, where burials took place right into the twentieth century.

This is an island where you can have one foot in the Highlands and one in the Lowlands. The views up the loch to Ben Lomond may be magnificent, but Steve Longster of Scottish Natural Heritage shows Richard how to value the small-scale view on Inchcailloch. To him, a bank of mosses is as fascinating and as varied as any woodland and he gives Richard an introduction to this tiny world, roamed by moss bears.

Graham Archibald of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park takes Richard on their solar-powered boat to view the loch's islands from the water. Every one has had its use over the years, but now, he says, they're largely used as litter bins by passing tourists.

 Liz Etheridge is more interested in what lies beneath the waters of the loch. It may not be a view to bring in the visitors, but in these dark waters live powan, an extremely rare species of fish in danger of extinction. Liz tells Richard what the powan can teach us about evolution and about Loch Lomond itself.

Dane Sherrard is the minister at the Church in Luss one of Scotland's most sought-after wedding venues. In 2010, it will have been a place of pilgrimage for fifteen hundred years, and Dane intends to make it remain so. He tells Richard the story of St Kessog and of the link between Robert the Bruce and the islands of the loch. And here, on the river banks, still blooms the Luss lily, worn by pilgrims down the centuries to show their allegiance to this holy place.

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