Monadhliath Memories

A long time ago I was privileged to own a small bolthole property with an IV2 postcode – my own little patch of the proper Highlands. I visited it every fortnight, tended it well, and eventually couldn’t spare the time to keep it up as base moved beyond a reasonable commute distance.

A couple of weekends ago I revisited the area for the first time in years.

Some things have changed: a little traffic-light-controlled bridge is no longer there as the B851 has been slightly widened in parts; some of the surrouding hillsides have been clear-felled of their trees. But otherwise the lie of the land remains largely mercifully untouched. Strathnairn, with its rocky crags and landscapes of naught but light and water, still exudes a permeating emptiness – a present absence – that turns the role of viewer on its head, asking you “so what do you stand for?”.

Of course, my other favourite afternoon escape route was a few miles up the road to the comparative civilisation of Dores. That hasn’t changed much either. The view down Loch Ness is just as impressive, and the solar halo just hanging in the sky was both awe-inspiring and uplifting.

There’s a chain, that binds us all in lives of wonder
There’s a chain, hold it closely as you go
Let this name be your family and your shelter
Take this chain all your days, don’t let go.

Buchanty Spout

Sedimentary conglomerate rocks, a bend in the River Almond and some nice late afternoon light.

I’ve never explored this area particularly, but on a whim having passed through the hamlet of Buchanty the previous day, with a day to spare and remembering someone in the local photographic society having posted a nice photo of the Spout, I thought I’d have a look.

Even on an average day the flow was quite awesome – a small gorge, but deep water flowing fast along its way like a bubbling jacuzzi.

Olympus Pen-F in high-resolution mode; circular polarizer, an ND8 and grad-ND4 filters and HDR bracketing to control the lighting.

In the Woods

The Black Woods of Rannoch are a particularly favourite stroll. One of the Caledonian Forest reserves (the only one I know in Perthshire), they boast many native and rare flora species – Scots Pine, birch, rowans, alder, willow and juniper and lichens and fungi – as well as being home to wild deer (as I discovered when a stag suddenly trundled right across the path barely 20yd in front of me).

Interaction with mankind is a different matter. There’s something about the flow and depth of river water in the weir that creeps me out, but the text on the last sign-post says:

The Black Wood of Rannoch Canals

Before you you can see a ditch cut through the heather. This dates from around 1800 and once formed part of a York Building Company scheme to remove timber from the Black Wood of Rannoch. In order to extract the logs they devised a system of canals (the ditch before you was the lowest of the three canals).

The scheme provided a great deal of work and employed most of the men and women of the district. Over four miles of canals had to be dug using picks and shovels. The trees then had to be felled before being floated along the canals and then down a chute to Loch Rannoch. The logs were tied together in rafts for the journy down the loch to Kinloch Rannoch, then sent singly down the Rivers Tummel and Tay to their final destination at Perth and Dundee.

If the project had been a success, the Black Wood of Rannoch would have ben completely destroyed. In the event, the plan to float the logs down the rivers did not work. The scheme was abandoned, and the wood saved.

Employment just does justify desecration. The woods are too special.