Sunday 1 November 2015

Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve - Arctic alpine wild land walking

Gnarled old birches the seed source for the recovering woodland
Thirty five years ago the vast arctic alpine plateau of Creag Meagaidh was bought by a commercial forestry company for commercial forestry, the plan was to cover 1000 acres of species rich grassland with conifers, probably sitka spruce. The glen and the plateau had been long overgrazed by sheep and deer but their grassland diversity survived without trees. The Nature Conservancy Council ( now SNH), the RSPB and celebrity ecologist David Bellamy got involved, the land was put back on the market and Creag Meagaidh became a National Nature Reserve.

Over the next ten years the red deer population, estimated at over 1000 was reduced to less than 100.  Yesterday Hamza (Ardnamurchan's resident wildlife photographer) and I saw the effect of excluding grazing, the birch woods have regenerated heather and blaeberry have replaced the hill grasses and its an altogether more beautiful and valuable place than it was or might have been under commercial forestry.

Coire Ardair
This extraordinaty national asset is open to all, from snow and ice climbers in the gullies above Coire Ardair, to hill walkers on the tops and birdwatchers in the glen. Its not exactly, " a thing to do around Kilchoan, its a three hour drive from here but as it's just off the A 86 you could visit on your way here or on your way home.

Inexperienced walkers can't get lost there's a well engineered path from the car park to Coire Ardair through the birch woods and then open
Coire Ardair water colour by my cousin Ian
hillside. There are still deer to be seen along with dippers in the river and snow buntings beside the path. In summer there are nesting dotterel, one of Britain's rarest breeding birds, up on the plateau together with golden plovers and more snow buntings. Don' miss out on this tract of Scottish wild land that is accessible by walkers of all abilities.

Amazing technology... Ian read the blog in California this morning, then dashed off a watercolour based on the photograph.

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