I am walking the shoreline of Loch Creran on the West Coast of Scotland. This is a personal challenge which I hope will also be inspiring, you can read more about it here.
Walk 8 was done in the company of Henry, storm Henry that is. There is something very thrilling about being outside in stormy weather, helped immensely by knowing I have a dry warm home to return to, of course. I have been in storms at sea and on dry land but in a tent and would not wish to repeat either, so I know how very fortunate I am to be able to choose to have this experience.
Before leaving home I had watched the white horses and spindrift flying up the loch so expected a pretty windy walk but that was to be later. The beginning of my walk was incredibly calm because of the protection afforded by the outer edge of the Sea-Life Centre bay. I could see the white horses charging along out-with the bay but inside all was calm at sea-level. That was not the case above, the wind was howling through the trees making them sway and bend and creak like mad.
Before I had really even started out I came across a few small fallen branches covered in lungwort. I know this to be good for dying wool ( an interest of mine) so I picked it off and stored it in my bag.
I started out not long after high tide which provided me with a few challenges. Firstly I was stopped by the sea wall for the old railway track which comes right down into the sea here. I climbed up onto the old railway track and made my way through the undergrowth there. This old railway track is right next to the fairly new Sustrans cycle path which you can follow all the way from Oban to Fort William if you so desire.
I made my way back down to the loch beside a couple of trees absolutely covered in lichens where I picked a little more lungwort.
If you look carefully you can see how the tree has grown around the boulder. This made me stop and think about the relationship between the two and how long they had been together side by side like this.
Life does this, plants us next to others, but unlike this tree and boulder we can choose whether or not to stay. I wonder how useful that always is? If we had to stay would we find a way to make it work, to co-exist in a way which did no harm to either.
It would be nice to think we could and perhaps if we still had access to this ancient wisdom of nature we would understand how to do it. Instead we believe that by moving away we are free but this is not always the case, after all we take ourselves with us into our next encounters.
Of course there are times when we do need to leave a situation for our own safety and sanity but sometimes this is the easy option, a coping-out, running away from and we leave the unresolved issues hanging. I wonder what would happen if we asked ourselves, how could I stay? What needs to happen so that I might remain? If we drop into and open to the possibility that there is a way, we just don’t know what it is yet, perhaps something else can happen, something we alone cannot fathom?
Not long after this I encountered the first of several rocky outcrops along the shoreline. This one I managed to gingerly scale and then follow the tree line around finding the first little buds of a honeysuckle bright green against the grey day and another tree wearing her lungwort like layers of some exotic party dress.
Along the next rocky section I found a piece of bark with this incredible growth on it. I have checked my lichen guides and can find nothing like it, can anyone help?
Looking inwards from the sea the woodland here is like a secret garden where no-one ever goes, well no human anyway. Bright green velvet moss coats every stone and ferny fronds abound, surely the landscape of fairy folk.
The next rocky outcrop was unscalable and the rhododendron impenetrable so I had to work my way back to a section where I could crawl through the rhodies into the woods behind. It was sheltered on the other side so I hunkered down by the edge and had my first tea-break and surveyed the next section which looked like it might be hard going; trees coming right down to the water’s edge and more rocks, oh dear.
Just before I started working my way over the seaweed laden lower branches there were the remains of some structure in the water. I wonder what, something to do with the old railway perhaps which hugs the coast line along here? This railway line from Oban to Ballachulish was closed in 1966, you can read more about it’s history here.
What I came upon next makes me suspect there definitely was something more going on hereabouts. Firstly I spotted some corrugated iron sticking out of the earth, then lots of bricks and concrete strewn all over the shore, and then clothes hanging on the branches with the seaweed. Then I came across the source; black plastic bags of stuff nearly covered with earth but exposed enough for me to see them. It seems there had been some sort of dump here, no doubt illegal, and not that long ago. I climbed up to the old railway track to see if there was anything that would indicate why it happened here, but there was nothing obvious. It is fairly near where the cycle path crosses over the main road, so perhaps people could access from there in the past. A sad mystery because yet again people have used the earth as a dumping ground, out of sight out of mind, but never gone.
Next right by a river I passed a large piece of opaque plastic flapping about in the wind and a perfectly good round fender, both too heavy and unwieldy for me to carry home. This river has a very fancy arched bridge over it which I climbed up to and over. There is a path along the old railway here so someone comes this way, I hope not to dump stuff.
The shore after this changed, there were still a few rocks but much more gravel and I could finally walk rather than scrabble. I was also well and truly out of the lee of the previous bays and exposed to the howling winds. It was exciting to see waves crashing into the rocks, small by stormy sea standards but the biggest I’ve ever seen on this loch.
This is turning into a long post, just like my walk. As with any adventure we set out blind, hoping to get somewhere but as this walk proved that is not always as simple as we may think.
My next find was an old wooden boat. She must have been magnificent in her heyday; whilst she still retains some grandeur of shape and line she was rotten and holed beyond repair, I suspect.
After crossing another river by way of the old railway bridge I am full on to the wind howling down the loch. It’s wonderful and a little frightening. I love the power of nature but it also brings with it memories of long wakeful nights at sea or bouncing about alongside harbour walls when every fibre of my being was on red alert watching, waiting, guessing, tending, and praying for a drop in the wind or a change in direction. There’s nothing quite like being tucked up safely in a well protected harbour when the wind is howling. If you are interested in reading about my families adventures afloat you can check out our website at 28feetafloat.com. We sailed in the Med for a year much of which was delightful but we had a few hairy times which you can read about below.
Back to dry land, and yet another river to cross. This one had a much more impressive iron bridge but not as safe as it looks since there were holes between the grass covered sleepers which made me feel decidedly unsafe.
Now decision time; do I charge up the lane to try and get the next bus due in 10 mins or carry on. Although I did feel tired I decided to carry on but find a place to rest. I tucked myself in by some gorse bushes and settled back on my space blanket using my rucksack as a pillow. I was out of the wind and able to enjoy the ever changing view. As a blast of rain travelled down the loch the hills on the other side of the loch disappeared in the grey haze only to reappear within 20mins flooded with sunshine, that’s Scottish weather for you!
The great advantage of all this wind and rain is the delightful sight of rainbows, double ones at that.
The last leg of my walk took me into Barcaldine a small village near the loch. I past Creran Marine where many yachts are wintered ashore and then MRC which also winters yachts and is home to several local businesses. It used to be a seaweed factory making alginates for various products including toothpaste.
I ended my walk looking down the MRC pontoon to a lone yacht still on it’s mooring. This short video attests to it’s plight in the strong winds and waves. Boy was I glad to be ashore and heading home on a warm bus to the comfort of my cozy home.