Friday, 1 May 2015

Allt Ockle Walk - 1

We ought to go walking elsewhere - climb Ben Nevis, explore the Cuillins - but we don't.  We have a thousand walks on West Ardnamurchan, and even if we repeat some of them the landscape is forever changing, we discover things we didn't see the first time, the animals and insects are always different, and, most important of all, we can choose our day.  Like today: 2C overnight under clear skies, a frost on the ground, a forecast for bright sunshine, and the opportunity to walk somewhere before the bracken comes up.  So we went to Ockle....

....arriving just before nine, and walked the old track that follows the Allt Ockle upstream.  To the west is the wall of Ardnamurchan Estate forestry while, to the east, had we wanted to strike out that way, are miles and miles of gloriously bleak, rolling, open muirlands which rise to the heights of Beinn Bhreac.

All the way along the track lies evidence of the people who once lived here.  Some of the piles of stones are evidently the remains of houses - in 1806 Ockle had over a dozen buildings in use, many of which would have been dwellings - but some are not as easily explained, such as this lozenge-shaped mound some 6 metres long.

This view looking back towards Ockle gives some idea of what beautiful morning we enjoyed.  In the distance is Eigg and, beyond it, Rum, while to the right is Burnside, one of Ockle Holidays' letting cottages.

We climbed diagonally up the side of the valley as the track running up the east side of the glen is blocked by a stand of conifers, forestry which probably dates back to a time when grants were given for planting without thought to how difficult it might be to exploit the mature wood once it had grown.

Once past the woodland, the upper reaches of the Ockle glen opens up, open moor to the left dropping to land which has, judging by the richness of the summer growth of bracken, once been worked as arable land.

It's not difficult to find the structures left by the people who exploited this land.  The rocks in the left foreground are part of a shieling hut, one of several here which are evidence of the area being used for summer grazing of the animals while Ockle township's fields were growing the people's crops.

But there are also plenty of signs of much more permanent occupation.  Old walls, perhaps hundreds of years old, snake down the open slopes of the valley towards the burn, their course dictated by where the richer soil lay.

Close to these areas of once-tilled land are the dwellings of the people who worked it.  Here, a small, rectangular building sits on a low rocky mound in the middle of a field, probably the house where the farmer lived, located close to a rill of clear running water.

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