I realise I am very fortunate to work in one of the loveliest spots in Scotland at Glenmore, at the foot of the Cairngorms mountains and in the heart of the Caledonian Pinewoods. This weekend I had a fantastic time working with a great bunch of people. I organised a Woodland Survival ‘themed’ weekend, where the customers participated in about 16 hours of activities relating to navigation, survival and bushcraft. We practised basic navigation using a map and compass; built survival shelters; found and purified water; made cord from roots and nettles; and tried lighting fires with a bow drill.
While out in the woods close to the camp site we were lucky enough to spot this wee fellow in the trees. This is not a rare occurrence as I’m fortunate to see red squirrels each day at Glenmore.
We also watched two roe deer grazing about 100 metres away from us on Saturday evening while out practising our map and compass skills.
By request of the group I extended our Saturday evening session to include an extra half an hour to watch the Pipistrelle and Daubentons bats feeding over the burn.
The culmination of the weekend was a 6 hour mini expedition on Sunday. We practised our navigation as walked through the woods at Glenmore and identified flowers and trees on the way.
Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum)
We skirted the south side of Glenmore Lodge National Outdoor Training Centre and took the main track along Ryvoan Pass.
Ryvoan Pass is an old drove road used by farmers to take their cattle to market. It is also known as the Cateran’s Trail, or thieves road as it was used by Lochaber clansmen who woulld walk to the rich pickings in Morayshire and return driving stolen cattle back along the same route.
We continued along the pass to the beautiful An Lochan Uaine which looked spectacular in the sunshine.
It is said that the fairies wash their clothes here, hence the green colour. Or it could be to do with the rocks.
This photos from a previous walk up Meall a’ Bhuachaile shows the pass with the lochan
Eventually we arrived at Ryvoan Bothy.
The one roomed Ryvoan Bothy was originally a croft dating from the 18th.century, and abandoned in 1877. It was the birthplace of a well known local character, Grigar Ruighe Bhothan, famed for both his physical strength and his capacity for the locally made strong liquor! It is said that the Creag Dhu club carried out some temporary repairs to prevent it from falling into complete disrepair until it was taken over by the Mountain Bothies Association in 1972.
We made use of the bothy as a safe place to try our fire-lighting skills for real. We lit a small fire in my hobo wood burning stove using the tinder we had collected on the way (birch bark and lichens) and the dead wood which we shaved and carved into feather sticks. We had gathered lots of dead wood to light a fire in the grate, but once the stove got going with small (finger-thick) pieces of wood, we found the bothy chimney was blocked. We abandoned the idea of lighting the main fire.
Some of us sat inside long enough to boil up two litres of water for hot chocolate and tea – getting well and truly kippered – then we allowed the fire to go out in the stove, so we could sit outside to enjoy our drinks and soak up the sunshine. Other walkers passing by must of though us completely daft, choosing to sit inside in a lovely sunny day and lighting a fire in the heat!
During the walk we spotted numerous Fly Agaric toadstools and I told the adults about the hallucinogenic properties of these, the flying reindeer and the Lapland shamans.
I’ll end with the poem that, by tradition, has been posted on the wall of Ryvoan Bothy for many years.
I Leave Tonight From Euston ~ A M Lawrence
I shall leave tonight from Euston
By the seven-thirty train,
And from Perth in the early morning
I shall see the hills again.
From the top of Ben Macdhui
I shall watch the gathering storm,
And see the crisp snow lying
At the back of Cairngorm.
I shall feel the mist from Bhrotain
and the pass by Lairig Ghru
To look on dark Loch Einich
From the heights of Sgoran Dubh.
From the broken Barns of Bynack
I shall see the sunrise gleam
On the forehead of Ben Rinnes
And Strathspey awake from dream.
And again in the dusk of evening
I shall find once more alone
The dark water of the Green Loch,
And the pass beyond Ryvoan.
For tonight I leave from Euston
And leave the world behind;
Who has the hills as a lover,
Will find them wondrous kind.