Thursday, 2 June 2016

A Walk up a Burn

Sometimes, but not often, we drive out of the village without any idea of where we're going to walk - but an easy choice is to select one of the many small burns which drain western Ardnamurchan's hills and follow it to its source.  This one, called the Allt Loisgte, the burnt burn, drains the eastern slopes of Cathair Mhic Dhiarmaid. It flows under the Kilmory road, just below Braehouse cottage, and into the Achateny Water. It doesn't look very interesting from the road....

....but follow it upstream and it disappears into a beautiful and increasingly spectacular steep-sided glen, whose sides are covered in trees.

The sides of this gorge become so precipitate that it's impossible to scramble down to the burn, which descends in a series of waterfalls.

This is a place of thick mosses and, growing on the dead branches of the birch, big fungi. In early summer flowers like lesser celandines, violets, primroses and wood anemones manage to find a place to grow.

Above the gorge the burn seems to have shrunk, but much of it is now underground - though there is plenty of evidence that, in flood, it flows across the grass.

There comes a point where the trees can't survive exposure to the winter winds which blast up the Achateny Water's wide glen. The burn only appears at the surface in those places where it crosses a band of hard rock, then it disappears underground again.

About half way up the slope the burn is lost in a flat, boggy area, but its upper course can be seen at top left of the picture, where it descends rapidly from the ridge line.

Its source is this area of thick peat, in places over two metres deep, which clothes the summit of the ridge. It's like a gigantic sponge which steadily releases water into the headwaters of the burn, keeping it flowing in all but the longest spell of dry weather.

What's particularly satisfying about this walk is that, sitting on a rock near the burn's source, one can see its whole course laid out below. Right in the middle of the picture is the wooded gorge, while the Achateny Water, which drains distant Loch Mudle, runs along the bottom of the hill.

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