life

The Herald Magazine - - Guts & glamour - GREG McHUGH, AC­TOR

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

Se­cret be­hind Jess Glynne’s chart-top­ping suc­cess

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