I met up with a visiting friend and fellow Bookcrosser on Friday morning and we set off for a short walk in Boblainy forest.
Our route started by following the main forest road through the conifer plantation. Although this is a commercial (Forestry Commission-owned) forest planted with conifers for harvesting, this is not as dull and boring as it sounds. The main track is fairly wide and edged with larch trees looking bright in their new fresh green needles and the wide grass verges contain a mixture of native tress and flowers. We saw several spotted Wood butterflies flitting about on the grasses and small veined white butterflies on the bracken.<
After 2km we branched off on a path marked for (Loch) Bruicheach. The map shows this track to be still in the forest, but the trees to the north (within the FC boundary) have all been felled. This gives a wonderful open view to Kinerras in the foreground with Strathglass and the hills of Glen Strathfarrar beyond.
Very shortly the track terminated and there were two indistinct, but muddy, paths leading into the trees again. One of these followed the line of an old WW2 logging railway, but as this one finished at the forest boundary at a deer fence, we took the other path.
The evidence of the recent harvesting work (up until last summer, I think) was visible in the condition of the paths here, as they are pretty churned up and muddy. Suddenly our view opened up again and the small Loch a’Bhron was seen nestling in a dip in a small patch of cleared forest ahead. Going by local knowledge and people’s memories we think it is about five years since the trees were removed in this part of the forest. But surprisingly, the loch is surrounded by what looks to be mature heather moorland habitat. It looks like the Forestry Commission have deliberately removed the larger brashing and other debris left after harvesting to encourage the growth of native plants, or the heather has regenerated in the area much quicker than usual. Either way it looks very natural.
After a picnic lunch close to the loch, we followed the rough track to the edge of the FC land. Once through the deer fence gate we were out onto the open moorland of Eskadale Moor. This land is managed for shooting and we came across a large cage that is used for trapping vermin – or at least what is described by the estate as vermin, eg crows, jackdaws, etc. A notice on the trap informed the public that this trap is legal and was ‘registered’ with the local constabulary.
We followed the path along the edge of the forest towards Loch Bruicheach, although the loch is hidden from view at this point. To get a view of the loch we ascended the wee bump of Meall Mor (407m) There is no path up the hill and it was a case of ploughing up tussocky, knee-deep heather with ankle-wrenching holes every-so-often and soaking wet boggy bits.
All around this boggy ground we saw many of the two species of insectivorous flowers native to our country: Butterwort and Sundew. Both these plants live on nutrient-poor soil and so supplement their nutrient intake by trapping small insects and digesting them.
Cells on the leaf surface produce a mucilagenous secretion which forms visible droplets across the leaf surface. This wet appearance probably helps lure prey in search of water (a similar phenomena is observed in the sundews). The droplets serve mainly to entrap insects. Once an insect is trapped, other cells secrete enzymes such as amylase, esterase, phosphatase, protease, and ribonuclease which break down the digestible components of the insect body. These fluids are then absorbed back into the leaf surface through cuticular holes, leaving only the chitin exoskeleton of the larger insects on the leaf surface.
The enzymes secreted by the plant have been traditionally used in farming in Scotland to help with butter and cheese production. According to Flora Celtica, the leaves of butterwort were chopped, wrapped in muslin and added to milk. After a short time the cream would separate and eventually the milk curdle completely. Sundew was used in a similar way.
A pale brown/tan coloured moth was spotted flitting among the heather. This moth was on a mission and did not stop for a minute, but kept up a frantic wing beat making it very difficult to identify or get a photo. I think it was a Northern Eggar moth.
The rounded top of Meall Mor is not particularly spectacular, but it gave good views west to Loch Bruicheah and it’s broch. According to the website Scotland’s Places no dating or occupation evidence is available, however there is a large amount of vitrified material spread widely.
With this being a meeting of bookcrossing friends, I left a book on the summit of this hill. I realise this spot is probably visited very infrequently and the book may be there for months before it is picked up! The book was a novel, but the fictitious setting sounds like it is based on Eilean Aigas, which we over-looked.
We descended from the summit by heading north over more rough, tussocky heather interspersed with more wee boggy bits! From here we dropped down very steeply to the crofting township of Kinerras.
Once down on the single-track road at Kinerras we looked back to the steep slope we had descended.
The return route was an easy, quick amble along the single track road for about 3kms, then a short section through a small mixed woodland. This section would have been simple if we hadn’t lost the ‘path’ (of sorts) and if we hadn’t had to climb over so many fallen trees.
Once back at the Culburnie entrance to the forest Ardachy released a Bookcrossing book. I’m sure his book will be picked up long before mine.
We were out for about 5 hours and during that time we did not see one other person walking in the woods or on the moor. Yet we were on the edge of the village and only 15 miles from the city of Inverness.