The Rhoddiepipes – a use for rhododendron wood

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THE RHODDIEPIPES

An Ironic Bagpipes Project by James Merryweather

As far as we know, nobody has ever attempted to make bagpipes from rhododendron timber. It has now been done – and why not? The result is a basic Scottish/Border smallpipe in D, with D and A/G drones. It also has an alternative A chanter. The timber is locally sourced rhododendron with black buffalo horn mounts. The tone is scrumptious, a mix of Northumbrian and Hamish Moore pipes.

Rhododendron ponticum is one of

the greatest threats to the sustainability of

woodland, heath, moorland and even

commercial forest environments. It can no

longer be regarded as an occasional or

attractive curiosity in the countryside and is now recognised to be one of our most invasive and harmful alien weeds. Conventional control methods are labour intensive, require heavy machinery, involve hazardous chemicals and fires, are costly and cause unacceptable environmental damage. They also don’t work at all well. A solution that does away with all of these problems has been found. Over a period of several years’ hard graft and experimentation, Gordon French and Donald Kennedy have devised the Lever & Mulch method for dismantling rhododendrons (www.leverandmulch.co.uk).

As with any invention hatched up to meet an urgent need, contractors and funding bodies need to be made aware of its existence and convinced of its efficacy. James Merryweather, who is not unknown to Chanter readers, is chairman of Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum and has embarked upon a mission to publicise Lever & Mulch using a variety of media, including his lecture: “Problem? What Problem?” With any such enterprise, in which enhanced public understanding is the main goal, impact – eccentric if it seems right – is vital. As long as the core message is not trivialised, the occasional gimmick can be used to implant markers in people’s minds, the more memorable the better. This can be achieved through a lively presentation illustrated by glorious pictures, but something a bit more dramatic always helps people not to forget the event.

An introit on the Rhoddiepipes, newly commissioned from maker Ross Calderwood of Reraig in the western Highlands (www.lochalshpipes.co.uk) is bound to attract attention, and since they are fashioned from the villain of the piece with tunes specially composed, audiences should take notice. So here they are, the revolutionary Rhoddiepipes with some revolutionary tunes celebrating the revolutionary Lever & Mulch rhoddie bashin’ method.

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