Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Friday, 22 January 2010

Two strikes

Yesterday morning the garden was full of the noise of birds, happy, one felt, at the return of milder weather and a slightly easier life. The usual mix was there: coal tits at the kitchen window feeder, collared doves and blackbirds at the ground food, sparrows, blue tits, chaffinches, robins and starlings.

Then all went silent and the reason was not hard to discover. There on the buddleia sat another regular: our female sparrowhawk. We watched her for a while before she disappeared into a hedge near the apple blossom tree where some feeders hung. Back to what we were doing, but not for long.

The garden was noisey again, but this time with unmistakeable alarm. The sparrowhawk had ambushed a blackbird for her breakfast and soon only a scatter of feathers remained. She grabbed another this morning and devoured it on the same spot. We couldn't help but feel a pang of regret at the loss of the songsters, but the sparrowhawk takes only what she needs to survive and it is always a priviledge to study and admire this beautiful bird of prey.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

SmugMug etc

Thanks to peewiglet for recommending SmugMug to us. We have moved photographs here and will be adding to existing albums (particularly 'A Mix of Pics') as and when time allows. Any new trip will have its own album and a write up here if it is worthy! Even if nobody reads this blog or looks at the photos, it'a all good fun.

Friday, 15 January 2010

North of Loch Maree

North of Loch Maree lie the wild deer forests of Letterewe, Fisherfield and Strathnashellag. We first visited Letterewe in 1981, bound for A'Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor, accompanied by our young Border Collie, Morag. We had telephoned the keeper at Kernsary during the winter months to make sure that Morag would be welcome, and of course she was. This was Letterewe after all, owned by the Dutch billionnaire Paul van Vlissingen. Chairman of one of the largest privately owned companies in the world, comprising the likes of Calor Gas and Makro supermarkets, he always descibed himself as a 'guardian', dismissing the idea that anyone could 'own' such landscape.

 He had a significant influence on land reform in Scotland through the work he did with The Ramblers Association and others in the 1990s and The Letterewe Accord was the forerunner to the Scottish Parliament's own land reform legislation only introduced some 10 years later. He died in 2006 and the estate was inherited by his two daughters.

When we returned last June, this time heading for Beinn Lair and Beinn a'Chaisgein Mor, we wondered if much would have changed. We'd got so used to seeing places change in recent years, and rarely for the better, but needn't have worried. Sure there were other people around where none were encountered in 1981; the sandy shore of Fionn Loch had a few tents belonging to people canoeing on the loch, presumably having canoed up Fionn Loch  for no roads penetrate here; tents lay across the causeway and near the path that leads to high lochans on the route to Gleann na Muice Beag; and people were heading for a bivouac on A'Mhaighdean. But all was quiet, as it should be in such a place.

Inevitably, van Vlissingen had his critics but I believe that we owe much to Paul van Vlissingen (and to Colonel Whitbread before him, although he was less welcoming!) and just before his death he bought the 6874 acre Tournaig estate situated between Poolewe and Aultbea and adjoining Letterewe, thus affording protection to even more precious wild country.

..... it's very hard to leave.


Thursday, 14 January 2010

Scanning slides

It's a dull dreich day here and snowing again slightly so I'm going to try to digitise some 35mm slides (we've got 1000s of them). I say 'try' because my laptop computer keeps telling me that I need more memory to get the resolution I want/need, and so far 2400dpi is the best I can get. This is barely acceptable and the images are huge - typically 20MB!

Thing is, I'm not even sure that using a flatbed scanner, which claims to be able to give a resolution of 4800dpi, will actually give decent quality images even if I buy a new computer with more memory. I've currently got 2GB. Opinions vary and a proper film scanner, it's suggested, is the only way to get really good results - or get them professionally done at the price of a decent house!

Anyone got any experience of this? Thanks.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


The thaw seems well and truly set in and so it's back to cold, raw and breezy weather. Give me the Alpine calm and intense cold of the past few weeks anytime.

We're trying out SmugMug so there is a gallery open there now should anyone be interested. I think other galleries are locked at present but they're on picasa anyway so I've not bothered to change that.

Bye for now.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

To Pool of Muckhart and Seamab Hill

Thursday 8 January

There hasn't been any more significant snow here for a few days, although flakes are gently falling again this morning. We haven't bothered to drive anywhere in case parking is still as difficult and decided to walk from home to Seamab Hill above Pool of Muckhart. An enjoyable 8 mile trip. Here are a few pics.

        Seamab Hill 439m above Pool of Muckhart             
A 'Chainsaw Carving' of an eagle sits at the gate to what is now the Muckhart Nature Park.

Chainsaw Carving

Me below Seamab

Looking towards West Lomond and Bishop Hill

A few more photos have been added  here

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Beauly to Denny Power Line

As expected this abominable project has been given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government. It is an appalling act of vandalism and means there is now little hope for the future of any of Scotland's wild landscapes. If you are planning to visit the Scottish hills for their incomparable beauty then do it soon, because the pace of industrialisation of these precious wild places has just massively increased. More and more wind turbines coming to hills near you soon...

Beauly to Denny Power Upgrade

Today the Scottish Government will announce their decision on whether to approve the above upgrade which, if given the go-ahead, will see 200ft pylons marching through some of Scotland's finest scenery. I'm afraid I fear the worst and we will see yet more wild landscapes utterly ruined. More later.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Possible ski-tour

Wandered across the tracks from the house on a glorious morning to check the posssibility of a ski-tour to a little hill called Cult Hill, a mere 264m.

After crossing a minor road, we strolled passed Keith Farm with a wee pony enjoying the winter sunshine and a late breakfast.

The snowy Ochils promise some fun outings if, as forecasted, this weather continues for weeks to come.

The farmers at Wester Aldie were busy coping with conditions they hadn't expected in Kinross-shire when they came a few years ago, and they were relieved to learn that we'd never experienced such a long hard spell here before. We chatted amiably for a while and established that it would be possible to ski from there to our planned hill.

Cult Hill 264m

It's a short tour, only about 11.5km round-trip, but should be an enjoyable one in such beautiful conditions. Meantime, some snow-clearing around the house required...

A couple of short slideshows here

Monday, 4 January 2010

Snowing again

No surprise, but it's snowing again here and the nice top-up for the local Ochils which we noticed yesterday, had been scoured a bit by the overnight wind. The ski-touring should be fabulous when the side roads are clear of snow allowing access, but for the moment we can only dream of being out in conditions like those in early January 2008.

Arriving at the top we noticed a slab avalanche on a route we often take and were glad we'd opted for a different one on that day! Perhaps not a common occurrence in these hills, but Hamish Brown noted that one of the biggest avalanches he'd ever seen in Scotland was in the Ochils not that far from here, on the northern slopes of Whitewisp.

A reminder that you don't have to be in the big hills to get avalanches.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year and welcome to our blog

What's this? A bridge over a bridge? Well, actually, yes, and it's at a place called Rumbling Bridge in the county of Kinross-shire.We walked here yesterday, the last one for 2009, access to the hills being almost impossible with barriers of frozen snow blocking off-road parking places.

The Lower Bridge, built in 1713 for horses and carts, crosses the narrowest part of the River Devon and, with a 24 metre drop to the river and no parapet, it's not the best place to be on Hogmanay! The higher bridge, which carries today's traffic, was built in 1816. The Devon itself rises in the Ochils some 6 miles from where it enters the River Forth - a short distance you may think - but its actual journey there is about 30 miles as it flows east then takes a sharp turn (the 'cruick' or bend) west at Crook of Devon. A trip from home to the source will make a fine 2 day backpack in Spring.

At Rumbling Bridge the river rages in waterfalls and swirling pools as it rushes through the enclosing rock walls, potholed on both sides. After heavy rain or thaw, or as now in the grip of hard frost, it is a fine and awesome sight.