From the vaults: A bit of good news never goes amiss (14/03/2010)

A bit of good news never goes amiss

A regular port of call on my tours of the blogs and websites is Chris Townsend’s outdoor site. Today’s visit was a particularly gratifying one as Chris was the bearer of welcome news in respect of the river Braan.

Many of you will know, some may not, that the Braan is the river which shadows the A822 between Amulree and Dunkeld, feeding the falls at Rumbling Bridge and those below Ossian’s Hall in The Hermitage (an NTS property). Latterly the river has been earmarked for a possible hydro scheme which threatened to severely impact on flows through the falls. The good news is that this proposal has been rejected by the Scottish Executive.

There’s particular resonance for me in this ruling: stretches of this river have been favourites of mine over almost two decades; mostly during holidays in Birnam, Dunkeld and the surrounding area. There will be plenty who, like me, will welcome this decision.

And welcome the implications of it too: suggesting, as it does, that we have a voice which is sometimes heard and that victories are just as possible as setbacks. There will be plenty of other battles ahead.


Picture (upper): The falls of the Braan, the Hermitage near Dunkeld. Final stop on the journey of many a salmon run.

Picture (lower): Younger, fitter, faster – Rob enjoying one of many days spent walking by the Braan.


From the vaults: On the cusp (07/03/2010)

On the cusp

There are places barely a stone’s throw out of town, a couple of miles at most, overlooked places where hardly anyone ventures. I have no idea why these oases of calm remain undisturbed; they are not remote or inaccessible and the terrain is undemanding; but they exist nonetheless, and I’m grateful that they do.

A few days can be a long time as winter and spring begin to overlap, and a few days was all it was since I’d been along this way. Even in that brief space of time, change was very much in evidence: woodland snowdrops – some already declining – have been joined by clumps of wild crocus among the leaf litter; there is now a faint but distinct blush of emergent copper on the beech trees, which seem so well established in our locality.

The clarity of the early afternoon light picked out the finest of detail; unfortunately also highlighting the ugly intrusion of an area of dense and regimented plantation, obtrusive and incongruous alongside the random yet harmonious balance of the mixed woodlands to either side. A shoal of large fish, possibly Carp (fish recognition is outwith my range), meandered close to the surface of a pond, giving the impression that they might be taking the opportunity to bask while the herons were elsewhere.

A buzzard drifted in low and silent along the edge of a small copse, almost harrier-like in its approach, and was escorted noisily away by a posse of protective, chattering jays. All around, in hedgerows, in trees, on woodland floors, along the banks of watercourses there was activity; the business of regeneration gathering pace.

From the vaults: Winter loosens its grip … (03/03/2010)

Winter loosens its grip …

… if only by a little.

Living at a relatively low altitude (around 350 feet) it can be easy, even after years of walking the hills, to overlook just how different things can be at even quite modest elevations.

Although temperatures have yet to pick up significantly there is a changed feel around the garden and its immediate neighbourhood: Crocuses are opening, along with early Cyclamen; tiny nodules on branches are developing into recognisable buds; the blue tits finally seem to have accepted that the old nest-box isn’t coming back and have set about the business of appointing the new one to their tastes.

So it was with something of a surprise that I stepped out onto the car park – altitude 800 feet or thereabouts – to find the ground frozen brick hard and the run-off from the hills a treacherous sheet of verglas. And it was cold, very much winter cold, once out of the lee of the hill and into the teeth of the wind. Few people seemed to be out and about; all of them well wrapped and moving briskly. I was glad not to have been deceived into leaving a layer behind and it was another small lesson in the wisdom of never going out under-equipped.

Sitting here now, back at the computer, the sun has gained enough strength to warm the rooms at the south of the house and, out in the garden, shoots are clearly visible which were still to emerge even a couple of days back. Nobody’s fooled.