I've been badgering the Woodland Trust for some time to create a special wood for us - in return for a donation in the afterlife Early possible sites were in Wester Glen Tarken - where the moss at the head of the glen could really do with a few trees, but problems with agricultural tenancies, proved too great an obstacle.
In early 2019 however the Trust bought the Ben Shieldaig estate - an area we are very famiiar with - and the site of one of the most important fragments of the "Ancient Caledonian forest" as well as a significant area of Atlantic Rain Forest with few invasive species
First visit October 2019
We paid our fisrt visit in mid October and identified a broad glen on the Eastern flank above Loch Damh as a potential site. We also had several sightings of the White Tailed Eagles that nest on Shieldaig Island
Below the Western face
With Ian Price from the Trust
Potential site above Loch Damh
Views of the forest on the Western Side
A view of the hill from near the road above the village
Before any trees can be planted, a lot of work has to be done. As well as the extra fencing that's needed, soil samples have to be analysed and peat depths measured - trees may not be planted where this is above a certain depth.
Unfortunately COVID delayed all this, and it was not until June this year that I made a return visit.
Ben Shieldaig from the Torridon Applecross coast road
The best views of this hill are from the road that leads along the South side of Loch Torridon and then round to Applecross, so after a hard day on Fuar Tholl I took advantage of a fine day to drive out to the "corner" where it turns South and take some photos.
Unfortunately this road is part of the "500" route round the Northern coast and thus appallingly crowded so it was a good thing I was not in any hurry
Scots pines along the road - The genetic make up of the trees in this fragment is significantly different from that of those in Cairngorms
Ben Shieldaig - views from the West
and from slighly further West - Liathach behind
I continued along the road taking photos of the stunning views looking towards the head of the loch . I can't resist including them, so here they are (roughly nearest first: some were taken on the way out some on the return. Ben Alligin and Liathach dominate
A zoomed view - Ben Alligin - with the white houses of Inveralligin on the shore below
At the "corner " there was a great silhouette of the Skye hills
Looking down the sound of Sleat and over Raasay: the Blaven group is just L of the end of the island ,while the Black Cuillin are peeping out above the rest of it. The isolated triangular hill is Beinn na Cro while Beinn na Cailleach is on the L
Looking North to Red Point and Red Point beach
Ascent and traverse of the hill
Next morning I set out with Ian, Malcolm the project manager, and Caz the keen new ranger. (some of the pics are hers)
Malcolm set off directly up through the forest which was "jungly" to say the least - with shoulder high heather and ferns. I felt a bit like Colonel Fawcett who disappeared in the Amazon
A fine stand of Scots pine
Silhouetted against the sky
Far from easy going on the way up. It may only be a 500 m hill but it's still quite a pull
Once above the trees it didn't get a lot better
Looking back down
After about 2 hours we arrived abruptly on the Spine of the hill and after a short rest, headed South towards the top. The boulder in this photo along with many others on the summit ridge looks very much as if it were carried here by a glacier, which suggests that this hill was completely covered in the ice age
Edit I recently read an article which concluded that there were 1000m or so of ice above Perth, so it seems more than likely that Ben Shieldaig was covered.
Another view down looking West towards the Applecross hills
Looking East up the loch
A small lochan on the ridge:
there were several false summits, but eventually we arrived at the cairn
With Ian and Malcolm
Ian and Caz
After lunch, we continued South and descended the glen earmarked for our wood: looking down to Loch Damh
More views looking down: as we descended I noticed large numbers of grazed off rowan saplings - once the grazers are excluded this area should regenerate rapidly
looking South across the floor of the glen: apparently Golden Eagles nest in these cliffs
A final view back up from the road.where Malcolm had left a car
I haven't heard any more since then, but Let's hope things are moving slowly forward
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