A Not So Secret Island

This is a slightly different blog to the ones I normally write. This time I will not be telling you the location of this walk. You will see the reason at the endnotei.

This blog is the result of a couple of visits to an island – which explains the very different weather conditions. The first day was really hot and had a forecast of sunshine all day. The second day was forecast for rain and strong gusty winds, and much cooler. I think it was over 10oC of difference between the two consecutive days.

This walk started from our village, along a local single track roadii that passes by some stables. This is now a very pleasant road to walk along as the lockdown has meant an overall reduction in traffic. Each day we only encountered a couple of vehicles.

The Stables

Not far from the stables we turned down to the island on a dirt-track type road. This is quite a steep road (well, that’s what my knees told me, although my fitness tracker may tell a different story). We then crossed a very old wooden bridge which afforded us views over the river. The trees on either side were in full leaf and looked stunning against the blue of the water and sky.

The island is about 99 acres in size and is mainly arable farmland although it has a path round the island. There also used to be an iron age fort on the island.

We turned left after we crossed the bridge. This took us onto a well trodden path at the edge of one of the fields. As the walk was in early June there were lots of spring flowers in bloom – a real bonus for many types of insects and wildlife. I do wish that more farms adopted this policy it would really benefit the wildlife.

Turn left at the bridge and there’s your path

Then, without warning we had a serious predicament! The path cut across the field. Now, I hate walking across fields especially when there is a crop in the field. However, this was a very well trodden path, and from doing a bit of research it appears as if the path has been here for many years. The path took us into another field and was now flanked by the field on the right and a small burn on the left.

Small burn at start of second field

Within a very short period of time we reached a small junction in the path. One small, obviously less well used track led off to the left – I suspect that this took us down to the most easterly part of the island, and we left that for us to explore another day. Instead we took the path that took us along the southerly part of the island.

The path for another day

Although the path took us along the field margin, there were several sections that diverted us down to the river edge where we could follow part of a riverside path.

Periodically we came across lots of small benches which I suspect are riverside beats for fishermen. However, there was one very nice bench which was dedicated to Dr Robin John Hope.

Memorial bench for Dr Robin John Hope

A short distance further on there was a small hut which I suspect was a fishermans hut. Around this area was a hive of activity. Not fishermen, but dozens of sand-martins and swifts flying around the hut.

If we had taken the path that followed the field margin we would have missed most of this. But ever worse, we would have missed the little bridge. Now, there is a warning that we were crossing at our own risk – so we did cross one at a time. However, the bridge did seem quite safe – although there was only a barrier at one side meaning there was nothing to stop you falling at the other. Now, that would have been a lovely dip on a hot summers day.

Cross At Your Own Risk

A short way on we then came across a much larger fishermans hut. We left the fisherman’s hut and branched out onto the path on top of a constructed embankment. This path was quite uneven as it was made up of hard core and covered by weather resistant fencing type material. This led out to a small building. As you will see from the photo it looked absolutely idyllic with a blue sky highlighting the distant hills, river, old trees and a very calm almost mirror like river.

As we reached the building we heard a very quiet rhythmic wooshing noise. Then the penny dropped – this was the hydro generating system that the local estate installed and then commissioned at the end of October 2015. Sure enough, as we drew nearer we saw two Archimedean Screw turbines. The wooshing was the water passing over their corkscrew style mechanisms. This was installed to provide energy to the local estate with excess capacity being fed back into the national grid.

We spent quite a bit of time here having a good look around the building to get some idea how it worked. The water very peacefully flowed under the front of the building and next to the turbines there were a couple of fishladder channels. This is really important as this river contains both trout and salmon.

After crossing the bridge, rather than taking the same route back to the village we walked through a path that crosses the bottom of the field margin. Again, this is a really broad field margin, full of grasses, wildflowers and trees. Occasionally we caught glimpses of the river through gaps in the vegetation. Finally we arrived back at the village, and the end of our walks.

i I live in Scotland and we are currently under what is commonly called ‘lockdown’ due to covid-19. However, a few days ago these measures were eased slightly and people can now travel/drive approximately 5 miles to take exercise. This however, has resulted in many people totally ignoring this instruction and travelling many miles to beauty spots. So, to avoid encouraging anyone to make a long journey to visit this island, I won’t be naming any of the locations.

ii I have seen many (very heated) discussions about different road types which have arisen due to a misunderstanding of the road discussed. A single track road is a road with one vehicle-width carriageway. This road is used by traffic going in both directions. Therefore, if one vehicle meets another vehicle one will have to go into the nearest passing place to let the other one pass. Vehicles are also meant to pull into passing places to let faster vehicles going in the same direction pass.

A Willow Wander through the Upper Reelig Glen Community Wood

It’s me, Willow, I’ve been on another walk.  To be honest, we nearly ended up in the wrong place, but fortunately my hu-mam was driving, and it was she who decided where to go.  But more of that later….

Just outside Inverness, on the Beauly road is a little glen called the Reelig Glen.  This contains some m-a-s-s-i-v-e trees, in fact, at the turn of the century in 2000 one tree there was the biggest tree in Britain.  They called him Dùghall Mòr (in English that’s Big Douglas – as he’s a Douglas Fir) and he was 64 meters tall.

Willow looking at Reelig Glen sign

The Reelig Glen car park

The Reelig Glen is quite an old bit of woodland, and was owned by the Fraser family for about 500 years.  Now, as a dog I don’t know much about years, but I’m told it’s much older than both my hu-mam and hu-dad, so it must be really old.  A man called James Baillie Fraser planted many of the trees during his lifetime.  He was born in 1783 and died in 1856.  The woodland was sold to the Forestry Commission in 1949.  Since 2000, the upper part of the woodland is managed by the Kirkhill and Bunchrew Community Trust Community Woodland Group in partnership with Forestry Commission Scotland.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the carpark the path to Dùghall Mòr was closed.  They’ve had a land slip and the Forestry Commission are working to make it safe again.  So, I thought, that was that.  But no, my ever resourceful humans said not to worry there was another walk we could go on.  They hadn’t been on that walk before, so it was an adventure for all of us.  I love adventures.

Entrance to Community Woodland

Entrance to the Upper Reelig Glen Community Woodland

So, I lept out of the car and crossed the carpark and found the entrance to this walk.  After a few strides there it was, a zig-zag of steps going up and up and up into the woodland. My hu-dad and myself went charging up the steps, well, to be honest, I went charging and my hu-dad had no option.  As for my hu-mam, phhht, she just plodded on in her own time.  She eventually caught us up.

And it’s just as well she did!  What a lovely surprise.  There was a large semi-wooded area that had seats and a table – if we’d known we could have brought a picnic.  But there were all these structures, that looked like mini-wooden teepees.

Willow in glade

Willow at the wooden structures area

I could just imaging sitting in one of them when it was dark, telling spooky ghost stories, as the trees creaked and groaned in the wind, with the branches casting moving shadows as they were buffeted by the wind.

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Now this area is quite important as there are two directions you can go as they make a loop.  So, as long as you follow the path markers you won’t get lost.  Unfortunately.  You see, we left this area and followed the path to the left.  It was great, and I was hopping along quite happily when a distant voice said “shouldn’t we be turning up here, this is where the marker is?”  My hu-mam.  She never misses a trick.  There I was trying to get a longer walk, but oh no, she has to notice the post.

Still, this took us up to another entrance into the woodland.  There wasn’t an official carpark here but there was a map that my humans studied.  To be honest, I don’t know why they can’t just sniff the air, that’s how we dogs manage.

Upper Reelig Community Wood sign

Second entrance to the Community Woodland

We carried on down the path and came across the Community Log Cabin.  Well that was interesting, it looked like a great place, with seats and tables, and a serving hatch.  But the best bit – it had a green roof.  No, not a painted green roof, and actual green living roof.  I wanted to climb up to inspect it, but I wasn’t allowed.

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Within eyeshot of the cabin was another shelter.  But this one wasn’t like the other shelters we’d seen.  So, obviously, I had to take my humans to explore.  It was a Xylophone.  My hu-dad showed me how it worked, but I wasn’t allowed to have a go.  But it looked like great fun.

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A few minutes later we had reached the end of the loop and were back at the area with the wooden structures.  So, it was down the hill now and back to the carpark.  As we were going down we came across an area where the wind had blown down a whole swathe of trees.

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We had a lovely walk somewhere none of us had been before, and will definitely be back.  It was a bit strenuous at first, but if you need to you can do what my hu-mam did and just take it easy and slowly.  Once at the loop section that’s nice and reasonably level.  The paths, as you’ll see from my photos, are mainly natural ground/woodland path, with small sections on the loop being hardcore.

So, at the start of this blog I said we were lucky my hu-mam was driving as we would never have got here.  Why?  Well, my hu-mam told us that we were going to Monadh Mor, but it turns out she really meant Moniack.  To be more accurate she actually meant the woods near Moniack Castle which are called Reelig Glen.  My poor hu-dad would never have worked that out.  My hu-mams mind works in very strange ways.

Now remember when you are out and about in Scotland to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – don’t let your humans drop litter, if you make a mess get your humans to pick up after you, and don’t destroy anything.



Scottish Outdoor Access Code website (IMPORTANT!) – https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/



In the Footsteps of Those Who Went Before

Scotland, this year has had fantastic weather.  We’d a great spring which extended into a fantastic summer which has had lots of sunshine.  However, that’s meant that there hasn’t been that much rain, which has adversely affected farmers and gardeners.  In addition, some of the local lochs have seen a drop in their water levels, allowing us a glimpse back to the past.

One of these lochs is Loch Glascarnoch, which has seen its water level fall this year and part of the bottom of the loch has now dried out, revealing a landscape that is rarely seen, and a road that is normally submerged.  So, why is there a road at the bottom of a loch?

Route of walk


Lets have a look at Loch Glascarnoch and why it’s even here.  1943 saw the formation of the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB).  This was a nationalised body set up to oversea the development of Scotlands’ resources for water power – yes, they were well ahead of the ‘green energy’ revolution.  One of the schemes NoSHEB undertook was the Conon Valley Hydro Scheme, and the area round Glascarnoch was part of the second phase of this scheme.  Loch Glascarnoch is a man-made loch with its water coming from Loch Droma in the west and Loch Vaich in the North.  At the Dingwall end of Loch Glascarnoch is the Glascarnoch Dam which provides storage and flow regulation for Mossford.  On the southern bank of Loch Glascarnoch, upstream from the dam is the entrance to an 8km tunnel which takes this water southwards to Grudie Bridge to the nearby power station at Mossford.  These works started in 1953 and were completed in 1957.

Once the Glascarnoch dam was completed this led to the creation of Loch Glascarnoch.  Anything that was in this area was now underwater.  Including the road that has now been revealed.

Facing Contin direction length of road

Location where we joined the road – looking eastwards

It’s strange walking down a road that you’ve passed more times than you care to remember, but have never seen.  And perhaps even stranger to think that once there’s heavy rain it will disappear again – and who knows the next time it will re-appear.

What a change it must have been for people in the area in the late 1950’s when this loch was created and all the routes they used for generations had now disappeared.  This led me to wonder how long there’s been a road here?

Well there’s quite a few documented references to a road in this area.  In 1755 Captain John Forbes identified the roads in the Highlands as being poor and this one as being one of the poorest.  So who would have used this road?  Well, probably prior to this period the Drovers would have used it.  Even then there were other  people calling for the improvements of the road, including Pennant in 1772 and John Knox in 1786. So, I guess calling for road improvements today is nothing new.  However, following the creation of Ullapool as a fishing station in 1788 led to road improvement being more important.

In 1790 the area was surveyed by George Brown of Elgin who produced an estimated cost of £8,000 for the road.  The government of the day thought this was excessive. But 2 years later in the spring of 1792 Kenneth Mackenzie of Torridon was contracted to build the 40 miles of road.  He completed this in 1797 at a cost of £4,582.  Unfortunately, it has been documented that his road quickly fell into disrepair.

The road was then upgraded by Thomas Telford in 1840.  I suspect this was the route of the road we were walking on.

We both had watches that allowed us to track our route so we have posted a trace of the route above.

Looking back towards Ullapool

Part way along the route, looking westwards.  Vegetation starting to grow.

It felt really strange walking along the bottom of a loch.  You see things from a totally different perspective.  A wide open basin, that has now been dry for so long that vegetation has started growing, and deep cracks have appeared in the dried peaty bottom.

Cracked loch bottom

A dry cracked basin.

There are 2 submerged bridges on the route.  We were lucky to cross both bridges as they are both now completely exposed.

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A short distance further on there was a very muddy patch.  This can be easily recognised, if you are lucky enough to walk this route, by the mound of stones in the loch.  A wee word of warning, please be very careful here, the ground is very soft, and you can end up sinking into it.  A better route, and the one we took on our return journey, was on much firmer ground closer to the current A835.

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So, this section is comprised of soft mud.  Take care as this could happen to you too!  The left leg went in, the right leg got wet trying to get out.  The easier path can be clearly seen on the route trace at the start of this blog – it’s the U-shaped deviation from the otherwise straight route.

Muddy after falling in

Shortly after this, you will come to the second bridge.  Well, after my unexpected adventure I was more cautious about this as there was water running over the road.  But nothing to worry about, I barely got the soles of my shoes wet, and not enough to clean my shoes.

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After we passed the second bridge, the loch bottom started to intrude on the road a bit more.  So, although the road was there, and easy to walk on, there were continual reminders that this was no ordinary road.

Near the end of the road looking East

Nearing the end of the road looking East


Eventually we came to the end of the walkable part of the road, and could see where the loch still had more to reveal.  Oh well, perhaps that will be revealed either later this summer or in the future, all of course weather dependent.

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I’ve mentioned before that this is a very strange environment, and there were some amazing rocks revealed, with very unusual markings.  I think I’ll be doing more research into these.

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I hope the following picture of my husband walking along the road gives some idea of scale – the wide, fractured loch bottom over a huge area.

Ian walking west nearing 1st bridge

Husband walking West – large open, flat basin over an extended distance

We made the decision that we would pass the parking place where our car was parked and continue to see the western end of the road.  This part, tends to be the only part that can be seen from the current A835 roadside.  Therefore, it was no surprise to see that it was overgrown, and barely visible.

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So, a lovely way to spend a morning, and a trip well worth doing if you ever get the chance.  And, if you do, spend a little time thinking of the people through the centuries who have walked this way.









Spring Work – Summer Relax

You may remember our exploits in the garden last year. I covered that in the post It’ll only take 5 minutes. Well, we never learn. You see, when I wrote that post we did think we’d do “something” with the side garden but that was more along the lines of clearing it of weeds, levelling it, and then perhaps cover it in decorative gravel.  So, we thought we’d decide and plan it over the winter and then tackled it this year.


Some things didn’t really go to plan.

In May last year we arranged for a gardener to come round and clear all the weeds, fruit bushes, rosa rugosa, grass, long lost shrubs, and flatted the spoil heap of soil we’d built up over the years, ready for us to start our redesign this year. Well, we waited, ‘I’ll be at the end of the month’, two months later turned into ‘I haven’t forgotten you, I’ll be round in 2 – 3 weeks time’, turned into ….. well …… nothing …………. still waiting.

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By the end of the summer we decided, we could just tackle it ourselves. Amazing what you can do with a couple of spades, a fork and a rake. The rosa rugosa roots were massive, and there were runners speading out all over the area. No mercy was given on either side, but we were a force to be reckoned with and out they came!

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We had planned replacing the fence but thought we would let the old one get through another winter and then replace it. Well, that didn’t run to plan either.  During our path laying last year I leaned on the fence, and it moved… a lot. I didn’t realise I needed to lose weight, or was it my newly honed muscles. There was no way that it would weather another Highland winter so after 27 years marking the border of the garden, we got it replaced.

The fencing contractor was great.  He came when he said he would, and replaced the fence at break-neck speed, and even removed our old ‘hole in the roof shed’.  However, the fence was 140+ meters long, so that meant a lot of fence to paint (280+ meters as we had to do inside and outside). We got most of it painted, but unfortunately the winter came quicker than we expected.

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I don’t think we expected such a long cold winter and spring was really late coming this year, so it was well into April before it was warm enough to finish painting the fence. Then, we lifted the membrane and started lowering and levelling the garden.

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Firstly, we had to get the level from the front gate down to the level of the existing patio correct as we didn’t want to put in any steps.  Also, we had to get the patio reasonably level with just a very small slope for drainage.  So out came the string lines – oh, yes, a beautiful trip hazard – still, it let both of us practice our very unattractive ballet leaps, in steel toe capped wellies.  A sight to behold.


Over the winter we decided on 3 raised beds – one for vegetables, one for wildflowers and the other for flowers. The Woodblocx arrived and the first tub went together really easily. That then gave us a store for some of the soil that was to come out of the patio area.



Nice and easy producing a plan.  But there’s always something that will be a spanner in the works.  I guess the next bit of the garden was the bit that we were most undecided about. Would we have an arch to mark moving from the relaxing patio area to the productive work area of the garden? Then, the next question was, could we find one that would fit? We were quite tight for space, so the dimensions would have to be accurate.

Search as we did, both online and at the chain DIY stores, we couldn’t find one that had the perfect dimensions.  So, the next option?  Perhaps we could leave this bit out, and then put one in when we found one that was the correct size.


One thing one of our local garden centres has is a brilliant restaurant.  So up we went for a coffee, and what did we see?  An arch! Exactly the size we needed, the look we wanted and cheaper than the diy stores. So a few days later it was delivered, along with the metal spikes we were going to use to stand it in.


I guess we didn’t really think too much about it, but, despite being in the house for over 27 years, we hadn’t really worked this soil. So we started to hammer in the spikes, only to hit something hard. So, the fork came out, the spade was used too but no, nothing was getting past. Then the crow bar came out – that sorted it. A layer of tar. Gradually we broke through it but in the process decided that really we’d have to dig down and try to get all the rubble out. Oh, all the builders rubbish was there, oily cloths, tar, boulders, concrete all had to be removed.

We did realise early on in this process, that we would have to make sure that all 4 of the spikes were positioned millimetre perfect. In the end, due to all the builders rubbish we ended up having to dig out holes for 3 of the spikes, the remaining one sunk into the soil beautifully. Then the moment of truth. We lugged the arch from our existing patio, where we’d built it, round to the spikes, and lifted it into place. Would it fit? Like a glove. So, we backfilled the holes and tightened up the screws in the arch.



By this time, we decided that we wanted to put a trellis behind each of the flower tubs – which would let me grow one of my favourite climbing flowers, sweet peas. Knowing that we had so much hassle with the spikes for the arch we decided to sink the spikes for the trellis work at this stage, and to position the posts for the trellis. Yes, more tar, more builders rubbish, but finally, with all that completed we could build the two remaining raised beds, fill them, and then fit the trellis. Our final job at this stage was to fit wooden edging to the path and backfill with soil to give a flat surface.

Looking back, it was just as well we found the arch as there was no way we could have retro fitted it.

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As you’ll probably have guessed by now, we have loads of soil that we’ve dug out. Some we used to fill the raised beds but there’s still tonnes of the stuff.

So, back to the fork and rake to get the patio dug out. If you read the previous blog from last year you’ll know that we redid a couple of paths. At that time we decided that if we had enough soil we would use it to fill in a couple of areas in the back garden that needed raising and finishing. So a lot of the soil was wheelbarrowed round to those areas. We still had a lot left, but thought that as the shed had been removed we could work on this area later and use the soil there.


We had drafted a plan for slabbing the patio and paths over the winter.  However, we then decided to change them to incorporate different sizes of slab and finally came up with a design we liked.

The patio slabs being delivered

The patio slabs being delivered

The next stage was slabbing the area. As you’ll see from the photos the area between the arch and the gate is very much our working area. We’ve the wood store, the vegetable raised bed and the wheelie bin area. So that was the first area to be slabbed.

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Next was the patio.  We knew this was going to be a challenge as there are so many different angles and levels in the garden.  After a few trips over the string level we got the correct angles and set to laying the patio.  We always knew there was going to be a tight spot at the hedge as we had just enough room to fit a slab in there – and phew! it worked, I don’t think we had more than 1mm to spare.


Once the patio was complete then it was onto the pathio.  This was the area that linked the new patio with the existing patio.  When we started building that we realised it was almost a small patio in its own right, and was almost too wide to be called a path.  Hence the new word – pathio.

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So joining the new and existing patios was always going to be a close shave.  Remember, we had to match the correct height and angle with the existing patio.  Relief – all the trips over the string line were (nearly) worth it – it fitted.


I’ve mentioned it a few times – we have a lot of soil.  It was becoming more and more apparent that the area between the pathio and the fence was going to be another raised bed. So, back to digging and raking.  Eventually we managed to level the area but there was going to be a slope and it was going to be too steep for the decorative gravel.  A quick look around the garden and we decided to re-use some more of the granite setts that we’ve had lying around.

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A year or too after we moved into the house a builder decided to “fly tip” builders rubble further up the track from us.  In those days it wasn’t illegal to do that.  But, one of the many trips was to dump off some really lovely old granite setts.  It was quite funny, as soon as the lorry left, everyone in the area were out with their wheel barrows and rescued the setts.  Now, if you walk round the village you will see lots of features made up of these lovely setts.


Remember earlier I mentioned a gardener, who last May, said he’d be at the end of the month?  Well you’ll never believe this, but on the 31 May this year, he arrived.  Still, it gave us a chance to show him what we’d been up to.


We knew we had quite a lot of wildlife visiting our garden, but we didn’t realise just how many different species paid us a visit.  We ended up becoming trusted by one of the blackbirds, who has become increasingly bold in coming up really close to us.  We also tried to build in escape routes between the fence and the gravel by adding in concrete lintels a few centimetres from the fence – this will allow the hedgehogs to transit through the garden.  In the final stages we found another visitor – a common frog.  He’d found a wee hidey hole under the membrane within the centre of one of the plants.




Delivering one of the 5 bags of decorative gravel


At the start of June the 5 bulk bags of decorative gravel arrived for the raised flower bed.  So, it was many trips with our barrow, but finally, all the area was covered.

As with all gardens this will continue being a work in progress as I already have cuttings in tubs which I hope will be big enough next year to plant round the edges of the raised beds to help soften them.


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Just a wee reminder of before and after:

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So, things I learned during the process:

  • Always plan what you want to achieve
  • Calculate what you need
  • Shop around – I’d have never got the arch I really wanted if I hadn’t
  • Don’t assume the chain stores will be cheaper – both the arch and the gravel were a lot cheaper from the garden centre
  • Tackle each part as a mini project in its own right
  • Set realistic goals
  • Make sure you take breaks – or you’ll just get scunnered
  • If you think something will be better, deviate slightly from the plan – we hadn’t thought of the wood logging but it really added a finishing touch
  • Logistics – we kept the impetus going by making sure materials were going to be delivered when we needed them – that gave us a target to aim for in finishing off an existing mini-project
  • Alter the plan if you need to – you may end up with something better



Stop Press! Willow has something to say

Hi, Willow here.  Do you remember in my last blog entry I told you about the thinning of the woodland? As its Saturday, and my hu-mum has been very good, I’ve decided to let her go for a walk without me.  But, I instructed her to take her camera, and to go into the woods and to get a photo of the wood cutting machine.

Well she back now, and seems to have had a great walk – apparently she met lots of lovely dogs and humans.  As we’ve had a bit of snow this week, and it’s been really frosty I noticed that she took some photos of the mountains.  These are looking west towards Contin.

Look West no cw

She also remembered to take the photos as I instructed.  One of the cutting mechanism, and other photo is of the two machines that are now working in the woods.  I’ve inspected the first photo and I think the red machine lifts and stacks the wood before it’s taken out of the woodland.

She was also very excited about one of her other photos.  Apparently my humans were watching a program this week about trees.  In it they showed what happens when a rotting bit of wood is composted in woodland – it excretes water, which if it’s cold, then freezes and forms a fluffy looking coating on the wood.  Well my hu-mum was so excited that she managed to get a photo of the white fluffy water.  Of course, me being a dog, have seen this many times.

Water caused by digester no copyright

Well, I’ve got to go now but before I do I’ve want to say a very happy New Year to all of you, I hope you all enjoy 2018.


Oh PS, If you liked these photos you may want to visit my hu-mum’s shop on: siobhanfraser.redbubble.com

They’re Cutting My Woods Down – Another Willow the Wanderer post

Well, that’s what I thought first of all, they’re cutting my woods down. But no, my humans have told me that’s not what’s happening – they are only thinning out the woods, and only removing the trees that didn’t originally grow in Scotland (like Sitka spruce and Western Hemlock). I worked something else out – but you’ve not to tell my hu-mum or hu-dad ‘cos they’ll never think of this – there’s new paths so I’ll get new routes to explore.


Willow Exploring_lowres

Willow The Wanderer exploring. Look in the background for trees felled in a previous storm

There is a downside though. As we don’t know where exactly in the woods the machine is going to be, I have to stay on the lead. My hu-mum says it’s because I will only go and supervise and get in the way. Me! Get in the Way! What a cheek! Mind you, she is right about the supervising.

I sat and wondered why they would want to cut down trees. Then remembered back to when I was a little puppy. My favourite pond looked very different then. There were hardly any trees around it, or bushes. But now, it’s really thick with lots of different plants. It must have been telepathy because my hu-dad looked out a photo he took 12 years ago (a couple of years before I was born) and there was my pond. Oh, it looks so much better now.

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Now shhhh! Don’t tell them what I’m thinking. As you’ll see, my hu-mum took some photos of the tracks and felled logs. What I noticed – there’s new tracks – I’ve even planned a new route in the photos below. Now this is great. These tracks often fill up with water when it rains – and I can spend ages just running back and forth through them, splashing away till my wee heart’s content. And the added bonus – they’re often filled with mud. Whoo hooo. A dogs delight.

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Just as a bit of interest, have you ever seen one of these tree cutting machines working? This big metal thing clamps itself onto the trunk of the tree, and then slices it off at ground level. Then it tilts the tree until it’s horizontal and runs it back and fore until there’s no branches left. Finally, it feeds lengths of the trunk through and cuts them to the correct length. Then onto the next one. I did ask my hu-mum to take a photo but she said she couldn’t as the big metal thing (she meant the cutting mechanism) was swinging back and fore too much and it would just be a blur.  I stood there for ages and ages just looking. See my hu-mum was right, I do like supervising. 



Willow supervising

Once they finish working in the woods it’ll be great, as there will be lots of space, and light. This means that all the little saplings and other bushes will have the space and light they need to grow. I’ve seen that in the other parts of the woods that they’ve cleared over the years. It also means that all the wildlife that I’m used to seeing – the red squirrels, pine martens, and the different deer will have a more natural home too.


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Now, I can’t wait until they finish working there as I am desperate to get in exploring.

A Step Back in Time

I thought I’d step back in time for this blog. Perhaps in more ways than one: this is a walk we did in July 2015 and it is walking back in time to explore something that happened many millions of years ago.

We started off in Hopeman in Moray.  If you are coming by car there’s loads of parking spaces facing the beach.  Once we walked past the beach we came across some beach huts.  They were beautifully painted by their owners and really expressed their personalities with loads of different colours and even geometric designs.

Beach Huts by Hopeman Beach lowres

There was a well worn path which followed the shore but you could also walk along the beach for at least part of the way.  All the way along we were afforded stunning views of the Moray Firth and were lulled by the waves crashing onto the beach. 

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Part way along the walk the sandy beach is replaced by a rocky shoreline – which was lovely as it gave real character to the waves crashing against the rocks.  Then quite un-expectantly we came across a lovely pebble beach. 

Flat sea worn pebbles and crashing waves lowres

A bit further on we turned a corner – and there it was, in all its glory.  Clashach Cove.  A geologists delight.

First Glimpse of Clashach Cove lowres

Although I’ve seen several fault lines in Scotland this one did surprise me as I hardly ever think of a fault line in sandstone.  But yet, if I’d thought a bit more about it I would have realised that the oil and gas sector, which has been so important to Scotland recently, has resulted from sub-surface reservoirs of oil and gas in porous sandstone.  And, some of the reservoirs in the North Sea (eg the Rotleigend reservoirs) also contain faults.  So, when you’re looking at these remember that Clashach Cove is an example of a conventional hydrocarbon reservoir.  Apparently, and I only found this out once I started investigating Clashach Cove in a bit more detail, this area is the best place in Britain to see sandstone faults and their deformation bands.

Footwall and Fault at Clashach Cove lowres

So where and when were these rocks formed? 

These were formed about 299 to 252 million years ago.  You’ll hear geologists refer to this as being in the Permian period.  What we don’t know is when the rocks were split by the fault.  It would have been after the rocks had been formed, but we don’t know how long after.  Now the thing that I find a bit mind blowing with geology if you’ve to think in really long timescales, and remember that the surface of the earth is moving.  So, these rocks were once sand dunes and they were in a hot and arid desert environment.  It’s thought that they were only 20o N of the equator when they were formed.

What am I actually looking at anyway?

Well obviously I’m going to say – a lovely bit of geology, but, you’re looking at three major features.  The first is a fault line.  This has caused the rocks to split.  If you look at the large cave you will see a greyish wall making up its left side. This is the fault line. 

Caves at Clashach Cove lowres

The next really interesting feature is the layering on the rocks.  If you remember, these were sand dunes which resulted from the wind blowing sand grains to build them up.  Different wind directions will have contributed to the changing directions of the layers.  

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The third feature is the two caves.  The main cave is a large hollow and you can walk into it.  The second cave entrance is a tunnel which takes you through the rock and you can come out onto the beach at the other side.  Even on a quiet day you can really hear the waves booming when you are in the tunnel and can feel each wave hitting the rocks.  It sounds like a massive storm is going on outside, but actually it’s just some really quite small waves.

If you do visit the area, do take time to wander around the beach area as there are lovely rock formations right round the beach.

Waves pounding entrance in rocks lowres

We turned and headed back to Hopeman at this point.  However, if you continue on the same coastal path you will come to a quarry with fossilised reptile footprints.  The path will take you past this and you can follow it to Lossiemouth.






https://www.geolsoc.org.uk/GeositesClashachMoray accessed 05 10 2017




Into The Hot Houses

A couple of weeks ago I covered a trip to the Botanic Gardens in Inverness – but only covered the journey through the outside gardens.  There are also 2 large glasshouses: one a warm, spacious environment and the other a more tropical damp environment.  Both are on 2 levels but the levels are more obvious in the cactus and succulents house.

Cactus and Succulents lowres

I don’t think I really realised until then the wide variety of different succulents and cacti that exist.  There’s a mix of colours and textures.  There are some I really wouldn’t want to get too close to as they are completely covered in a multitude of sharp spines, to others that are really fluffy looking.  Although to be honest, I didn’t try touching them either in case they were slightly sharper than they looked.  Nature has a way of tricking you sometimes.

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I was quite taken with some of the flowers on the cactus as they were very colourful.

Flowering Cactus lowres

The succulents also looked lovely as they too had a wide variety of different colours and textures.

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In between the two different glasshouses is a fascinating area.  It’s full of the man-eaters.  OK, well, yes I know, that’s a gross exaggeration.  There are lots of carnivorous plants – but they don’t eat humans, they’re more happy with insects.  I had seen some Venus Flytraps on a previous visit but didn’t notice any on this visit.  The one thing that did surprise me though was that these plants didn’t just rely on attracting insects with their “killing mechanism” they had beautiful flowers too.


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Moving onto the more tropical glasshouse this is a real joy to walk through as the plants are really closely planted and are a beautiful mix of colours in both their foliage and flowers, especially the entrance from the cactus greenhouse.  When you’re wandering through this area you really feel as is you are pushing your way through a tropical paradise.

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There were far too many flowers to get individual closeups but I have singled out some of my favourites in this section.  From flowers that looked like Birds  of Paradise, some that looked like beaks of Parrots and a tree covered in Cork.

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There’s also a small waterfall and a fish pond with lots of different sized fishes and a couple that really looked as if they were monsters from the deep.

The Monster from the Deep lowres

So two very different environments, one stark almost minimalist in feel with the cactus and the succulents while the other is lush and tropical where you feel the plants are all vying with each other as they would in the wild.

Definitely a place to visit especially with winter rapidly approaching.

2 Bridges and Loads of Water – a Willow Wander

Hello Willow, the tripawd Labrador, here again.  My hu-man and hu-mam are both resting after a brilliant walk, so I thought I’d tell you all about it.  This is a very historic route as it was used by drovers and the military in the past, and the rock formations we’ll see are even older, but more of that later.

View from Silverbridge lowres

We parked at a place called Silverbridge, which is past Garve on the Ullapool road.  It’s another Forest Enterprise carpark and is nice and safely away from the main road which is great for a dog like me.  Well, once we left the car park we crossed a lovely old bridge and I was going to explore one side of it but was told there was a nicer place to visit.  So down some steps we went and then I saw the bridge properly.   It’s a really old bridge, my hu-dad thinks it was built around 1762.  Perhaps my humans remember it being built when they were young?  There are nice waterfalls here and the water looks lovely as it drops over them.

Bridge at Silverbridge over Black Water lowres

We followed a well laid out path along the river – it was up and down a bit to start with but my hu-mam made it no problem and then it flattened out well.  We crossed a little stream, and somebody had very kindly thought of my humans and put in a crossing.  Now, as you probably know, my natural temptation is to jump into every bit of water I can find but I was good on this trip. 

Waterfall to stream lowres

As we walked, the river was beside us and every now and again we saw some lovely views of the river. Now, my hu-mam takes photos of our walks but what no-one really knows is that I stop, find a nice spot with a good view, and then she comes along and takes the photo. She’d never manage without me, you know.   On the other side of the path was mixed woodland.  It was really peaceful and, as it was autumn, the leaves were all changing colour.

Peaceful river with autumn colours lowres

We then came to a fork in the path, which was greeted with lots of “oh, we’re here already” from my hu-mam.  So, I took my humans across a really steep bridge and into another carpark.  This one was hidden between the trees and you could see the river really well.  It was at a place called Little Garve which was a really important stopping place for drovers and their cattle, as they used to rest here, and get shoes put onto the cattle.

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The Drove Roads

Many years ago people called Drovers used to walk cattle from the north and west of Scotland down to markets in the more populated areas of Scotland.  In this part of the Highlands these markets could have been in Muir of Ord which used to hold a big fair.   Very often these cattle would then be walked down to the central belt of Scotland to large trysts in Falkirk or Crieff.  For the drovers who were using the drove roads in this part of the Highlands they would have been walking on paths, but from Little Garve onwards they would have been walking on much harder roads so needed to shoe their cattle to make it easier for them to walk on the hard roads.

Little Garve Bridge

Now, the bridge we crossed is really interesting.  Again, it’s a really old bridge as it was built around 1762.  After the Jacobite uprisings a man called General Wade built lots of roads and bridges across Scotland.  This was to make it easier for the troops to move around the country to stop any further uprisings.  It’s thought that this bridge was built by Major Caulfield, Wades successor.

Little Garve Bridge lowres

We then followed the river back to Silverbridge.  Now, you may not know this about my hu-mam but she loves rocks, see she does have some good taste.  So, we were both in our element on the way back as there were fantastic rocks in the river. 

A Bit about the Geology

The one main feature in this whole area is Ben Wyvis a mountain which is 1046 meters high.  This whole area has a Psammite bedrock and had originally started off as a sandstone but underwent  metamorphism.  This was about 541 to 2500 million years ago.  What’s really interesting about this walk is that the area around Little Garve has superficial deposits that were laid down about 2 million years ago in a fullivial, or river, setting.  This is different from the superficial deposits nearer Silverbridge as they are glacial deposits from about 3 million years ago.

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You may be wondering how a dog knows so much about geology.  Well, on the way back I was encouraged to cool my paws down in a burn.  But then I found a much better pool which I waded into, cooled my paws down and had a big drink. You know, you can learn an awful lot from licking rocks.  Actually, I think I gave my hu-mam a bit of a fright as she thought I’d jumped into the river.  Ha ha, fooled you.

So, all too soon we came back to Silverbridge, so it was quite nice to get a different view of the same bridge. 

Black Water under Silverbridge lowres


Grid Ref: NH 395 630

Length, about 2-3 miles and took us about 75 to 90 minutes









Coulter’s Candy

I guess that’s what stepping back in time does – it reminds you of all sorts of childhood memories.  This week the open air, Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore certainly achieved that for me, when we re-visited to catch up on the Croft and Village sections we missed on our last visit.

Aultarie Croft from Pavilion lowres

Aultarie Croft

This is a croft that still has animals on it. The three Highland Cattle were hiding – all we could see were the top of their horns but I’ve captured some of the other livestock.

The farmhouse area incorporates 3 different items.  Its main front room has been interpreted as a late 1930s living room.  The room across from it has been transformed into a wee sweetie shop, called Kirk’s Store.  And yes, you can buy sweets there.  They even had a tub of Coulter’s Candy – so of course, I had to buy some.  The Coulter’s Candy song (you may know it as Ally Bally, or Ally Bally Bee) then circulated in my head all day.  It was written by Robert Coltart (1832 – 1880), a Galashiels weaver, to help market his sweeties.  And there I was thinking marketing was a modern phenomenon.  There are many versions of the song but I’ve included a link below for the version by Donovan.

Farmhouse and Post Office lowres

Attached to the side of the farmhouse is the Glenlivet Post Office.  This was acquired by the museum and has been rebuilt as it was when it was operating. 

There are loads of things to see in this area:

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But don’t just look at the outside of the buildings, when you go inside it really is stepping back in time – but strangely familiar.

A tin cottage, interpreted as it would have been in the 1930s, which was originally used by farm workers.

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Balameanach Village

Once you get back to the Shepherd’s Bothy and Fank you then start picking up the buildings that make up the village – Balameanach.  Do spend some time going inside these as they are a real glimpse into the not too distant past.  Remember, if you were born in the 1950s or 1960s then you will have probably seen, if not used, some of the items in the interpretations.  Even if you were born more recently all the items will be really familiar.

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The Blackhouse was one of the first buildings that the museum acquired and it has been rebuilt here.  You will see scaffolding in this picture which is there as they are now re-thatching the roof.  If you look closely you will see turfs have been laid on the roof, and one of the other photos shows the marram grass which has been gathered into sheaves ready for thatching the roof.  I believe this was to be done the week after we visited.  Next to the Lewis Blackhouse is the Loom shed which contains a loom similar to those introduced to the Harris Tweed industry in the 1900s.

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Highland Cottage is one of the buildings I find most interesting.  At one end of the site there’s the 1700s township whereas at the other end of the site are buildings from the 20th century.  This wee cottage sits at the middle of the site, quite near the entrance, and represents the transition from turf dwellings to stone build houses.  This building represents buildings from the early 1800s.

Like many other villages of the time it wasn’t just made up of houses but would have had a wealth of other activities from industry, craftspeople, a school and church.  These have also been included in the museum by the restoration of buildings, and their contents, from all over the Highlands.

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 It’s just as I was writing this blog that I realised what it is that I really like about this museum.  It represents the life of ordinary Highlanders from the past which means that many of the items are really familiar – whether that’s an old tractor, or a kitchen storage unit, a 1950s clock or even a tub of Coulter’s Candy.  I never tasted Coulter’s Candy as a bairn but I knew the song and that’s the memory that was triggered.

Coulter’s Candy song – sung by Donovan