writhes with power. It is all heart. My fullest reach, both arms stretched, extends to less than a third of its circumference; an inconsequential hug leaving me in awe of its rigid grandeur.
“Its bark is deeply grooved with long vertical ripples of hardness like a throng of ribbed buttresses all heading upward, shoring up its might, shedding veils of green dust at my touch.
“The bark fissures draw in treecreepers: those tiny mouse-like birds that dash upwards in little jerky pulses, defying gravity. Then, giving in to the earth’s pull, they flick down again, back to start, like a game of snakes and ladders never won.
“I am enthralled by this tree, rapt. Every time I stand here, I shrink; it grows. I age; it shrugs off such foibles and just goes on expanding into a thousand shaded alleys. What is 10 minutes or a week when you are 300 years old?”
A TREE that I have always admired is a rowan that grows from a huge boulder. It is one that everyone will have seen as they are driving north up the A82 to Fort William.
Just as you get to Rannoch Moor and are climbing up above Loch Tulla, there on the left-hand side of the road is a massive boulder left over from the Ice Age.
There is a crack in it where, for many years, this amazing little rowan tree has been growing.
It has been blasted by the elements and can’t be getting many nutrients from the rock, so I don’t know how it survives.
There is something quite symbolic about it. I have filmed it several times for programmes over the years. It also appears in one of my favourite books, Mountaineering in Scotland by WH Murray. In fact, the first time I saw this rowan tree was in WH Murray’s book when I was 13 or 14.
I hitchhiked from Dunoon to Glencoe to go climbing and I remember seeing it in the flesh and thinking: “Oh, that’s the one in the book”.
That was exciting because I felt I was on the trail of real mountaineers. Any mountaineer who had been up to Glencoe going back decades will have seen that wee tree. How did it end up there? Perhaps a crow or a raven carried a berry, dropped it and it then got stuck in a crack where there was enough nutrients for roots to grow. It must be at least 100 years old.
BBC2 in 2019
I GREW up in Morningside in Edinburgh and at the bottom of the garden were steps down to a wood. There was a mud road with a wall and trees behind it. I loved spending time there.
All the kids in my street would go down and play. It was an incredible place. I know people think of Morningside as being posh, but this wasn’t a kept space. It was completely wild and overgrown. My mum would always shout as I went out the door: “Don’t go near the giant hogweed!”
It was this little hidden spot in the city. When I was in third year at school, I did a history project on it and learned that this was the old “poorhouse” road that had grown over.
To think of the families that would have walked up and down there, the trees have been witness to all of that.
We would gather conkers, climb and make rope swings among the trees and put old doors down over the stream. On fireworks night there would be a big bonfire and all the families in the street went along.
One of my brother’s mates stood on a wasp’s nest and was incredibly badly stung. Afterwards it gave spending time among the trees a new element of risk. The thing that sticks in my mind is that, while during the day it was our playground, we would never dare go down there at night.
The rowan growing out of a boulder on Rannoch Moor. Paul Murton, above, says: “I don’t know how it survives”. Right: Greg McHugh
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