Search the for­est gorge for the elu­sive troll

The Oban Times - - News - He­len Watt

SPRING has well and truly sprung. The gorse is in bloom, there are daf­fodils grow­ing in ev­ery road­side nook and cranny, there’s a green tinge to the trees and prim­roses car­pet the for­est floor. It’s a great time to be out in the woods.

You might then ask why Forestry Com­mis­sion Scot­land (FCS) has cho­sen this time to restrict ac­cess to Beinn Lora. Forests are ideal places for folk to walk, cy­cle and ride but they are also work­places. Forestry is an im­por­tant part of the ru­ral econ­omy so we need to bal­ance pub­lic ac­cess with the need for peo­ple’s safety dur­ing for­est op­er­a­tions.

We try to do this with min­i­mal dis­rup­tion by care­fully plan­ning our op­er­a­tions and by telling peo­ple what we’re do­ing, why we’re do­ing it and when we’ll be fin­ished. A cru­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity of the pub­lic is to not hin­der this work and, by law, FCS must take rea­son­ably prac­ti­ca­ble steps to en­sure that the pub­lic is not put at risk by our work. FCS’s re­spon­si­bil­ity is to un­der­take our op­er­a­tions in a way that takes ac­count of ac­cess rights and min­imises the time and area af­fected by any nec­es­sary re­stric­tion.

We’re do­ing our best to keep that time to as short a pe­riod as pos­si­ble and we’re well on course to fin­ish within the six­month timescale we orig­i­nally said we would take.

If you would like to see the kind of work that’s hap­pen­ing at Beinn Lora, take a look at our ‘Forestry Works and Your Safety’ page on the FCS web­site (http://scot­land.forestry.gov.uk/ ac­tiv­i­ties/ trees/ forestry- workssafety).

This fea­tures in­for­ma­tion about for­est machin­ery and a video which gives an up- close view of the scale and speed of for­est op­er­a­tions.

When we take the trees out, we’ll be re­plant­ing them with broadleaves. This means that fu­ture tree-felling op­er­a­tions will be kept to a min­i­mum and the woods will be full of hun­dreds of tiny species that will ben­e­fit from the light, open en- vi­ron­ment that you don’t al­ways get un­der a conifer canopy. You can still reach the sum­mit of Beinn Lora by com­ing in through the for­est from Bar­cal­dine.

Be­cause the for­est es­tate is a na­tional as­set that be­longs to the peo­ple of Scot­land, you can have a say about the way it is man­aged. That could in­clude telling us what you think about forestry plans in your area, or con­tribut­ing to our poli­cies and strate­gies.

If you would like to get in­volved in the fu­ture of Bar­cal­dine For­est (in­clud­ing Beinn Lora and Suther­land’s Grove), FCS is hold­ing an open con­sul­ta­tion on Tues­day April 25 from 2pm un­til 7pm in the Vic­tory Hall in Ben­der­loch.

While there’s cur­rently no ac­cess at Beinn Lora, why not travel a few miles fur­ther north to Suther­land’s Grove? Route 78 of the na­tional cy­cle net­work will take you right there.

At Suther­land’s Grove, you can mar­vel at the mighty and ma­jes­tic fir trees, the old­est of which were planted in 1870. More were planted in 1921 to com­mem­o­rate Lord John Don­ald Suther­land, one of the founders of the Forestry Com­mis­sion and a part­ner in an Oban-based firm of so­lic­i­tors which are still in prac­tice to­day (Hos­sack and Suther­land). Some of the trees tower 53 me­tres high (that’s more than five dou­ble- decker buses stacked on top of each other).

If you’re feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous, you can search for the troll, hid­den on one of the trails up the gorge of the Ab­hainn Teithil burn whose cu­ri­ously-sculpted rocks cre­ate en­tranc­ing wa­ter­falls. Or you can me­an­der through the grove it­self which, at this time of the year, is car­peted with emerg­ing blue­bells and wild gar­lic.

I headed up the gorge on my search for the elu­sive troll. I even­tu­ally found him while I was stand­ing on the bridge, the river thun­der­ing by be­neath my feet. He wasn’t too scary so I stood there for a while, en­joy­ing the sight of the rocks and the trees, the sounds of the river and the birds and the smells of the plants and fresh air all around me. I knew the air was clean and fresh be­cause of the abun­dance of hairy-look­ing lichens on the trees.

Ev­ery spring my grandad used to say: ‘Oak be­fore ash, in for a splash, ash be­fore oak, in for a soak.’ This spring, I’ll be watch­ing those two trees in par­tic­u­lar with a keen in­ter­est – I’m hop­ing for a dry sum­mer.

He­len found the troll while stand­ing on the bridge, the river thun­der­ing be­neath.

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