Tuesday 26 May 2015

A walk through Glen Affric - Re-wilding Scotland's mountains

Scotland's woodland cover probably reached a post-glacial peak about 7,000 to 8,000 ago. Since then human activity and climate change have reduced that native woodland to a few scattered remnants.

What Scotland's mountains ought to look like below the tree line.
Pine forest on the better drained, acid infertile soils in the straths of the Central and Eastern   Highlands are my favourites with a range of ages from bright green and new to dark, gnarled red barked veterans of 200 years or more. Beneath the canopy and in clearings blaeberry, cowberry, mosses and heather predominate. These remnants are one end of the boreal forest that girdles the sub-arc tic. If you want to see it visit Glen Affric National Nature Reserve this is what Scotland's mountains ought to look like.

I have long wanted to visit Glen Affric, this weekend was an opportunity. I needed to take a trailer up to Glen Urquhart to collect hay so decided to make it a two day trip combining this with a walk into Alt Beithe hostel in the heart of  the glen.

The walk in to Alt Beithe is about 14 km
on a stony track from the Forestry Commission car park at the S.E., end of Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin (Ben-a-vaydun).

You walk through a succession of woodlands, from mature pine wood, through naturally re-generating woodland where deer and sheep have been excluded out into the higher altitude grassland of the upper valley.
Alt Beithe

The Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and National Trust for Scotland are showing how Scotland's natural woodlands could be restored by excluding deer and sheep.

If you are a "Guardian" reader you'll be familiar with George Monbiot's writing and the case he makes for "re-wilding" Britain. George outlines his philosophy, rationale and strategy in; FERAL, Searching for enchantment on the frontiers of rewilding, Allen Lane, 2013.

We could make a contribution here in Ormsaigbeg by establishing a community woodland on the common grazing!

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