A MAN who aims to make Peeblesshire the major go-to area for wildlife started work this week.
He is Eddie Sharp, the Kailzie Local Area Wildlife Education and Discovery (KLAWED) project officer.
Speaking to TheSouthern earlier in the week, Mr Sharp said: “I’m really looking forward to it – it’s like getting paid for doing your hobby!”
A key part of the new three-year appointment will be promoting the region as a destination to visit for wildlife watching: “I want to make Peeblesshire the premium place to go and watch wildlife,” said Mr Sharp.
He hopes also to attract more Borderers to the osprey centre at Kailzie Gardens near Peebles and increase their awareness and knowledge of wildlife, while also attracting more wildlife to the area.
Another role will be progressing the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife’s aim of creating a wildlife viewing centre of excellence.
He will also be organising an annual wildlife festival and providing training courses about wildlife. He hopes to create a DVD from footage of ospreys and other birds on which cameras are trained 24 hours a day.
“It’s exciting and challenging, but it’s something I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into, and getting moving and seeing the changes,” said Mr Sharp.
A former engineering manager, he explained why he had applied for the new post.
“It was ideal, it suited my background and gave me an opportunity to bring my project management skills to it and I have been volunteering and doing a lot of work in the environment, so it allows me to combine both.”
Mr Sharp grew up in the Falkirk area where his brothers worked on the local farm. He always enjoyed the countryside, but in the 1990s that interest took a more concrete form, for he and a friend started to run a wildlife group in South Queensferry where he lives “to get people interested and take them out.”
“I always ended up with the kids because my knowledge was at about the same level as theirs and we learned as we went along. And my own son was growing up and that, too, is where the interest came from, and I just carried on.”
His knowledge grew and he went on to become a Scottish Wildlife Trust watch leader.
Mr Sharp has also been involved in running a local community woodland.
He said: “We planted thousands of trees and managed them, looking after them for the last 20 years, and I’m still involved in the woodland management.”
Mr Sharp, 55, took redundancy to study a one-year countryside and environment management course at Oatridge College in West Lothian, which he has just completed. He became involved at Kailzie after a friend, a volunteer for the osprey project, suggested he visit.
Mr Sharp was so impressed he put his name down as a volunteer for the following year. Last year, while he studied, he volunteered at the project as well as with the RSPB in Kinross.
“Kailzie is a fantastic place. It’s a little gem, nestling between the hills and along the Tweed, it’s a nice place to be.
“There is a lot of wildlife round there and a lot more that could be attracted.
“I’m excited about the job because there is so much potential. There is a lot there but there are so many opportunities to make it better.”