Saturday 4 January 2014

New Year 2013/14 Inversnaid. Rain, rain, walking, rain, sketching, rain.

HaPpY nEw YeAr!!!

Loch Lomond dusk, pencil & watercolour

Every New Year a big group of us go away. Friends and friends of friends. (See our NY 2012/13, Kingussie, here) For the 2013/14 switchover we were in Inversnaid Bunkhouse, a mile east of the east shore of Loch Lomond. Some of the land here is owned as the RSPB's Inversnaid Reserve - see

These New Years are never full sketching trips for me but I usually manage to get a good amount done, often going out alone before others are up, or making quick drawings on group walks then adding watercolour in the evenings. Almost always we've had some snow but this time it was wet. Every day. For a lot of every day. It didn't stop us but it did make us all a bit less keen, and my paintings a bit more soggy.

Inversnaid Bunkhouse

Day 1
Sunday 29th December 2013

Afternoon walk in the hour before dusk. The Arklet Water in absolute tumult. The falls by Inversnaid Hotel a torrent of white. A rope swing dangled over the tallest fastest fall, suicide for sure.

There were tits and chaffinches and two roe deer which spooked away from me then stood to watch from a respectable distance. A collection of ruins, more moss and winter bracken than stone, marked where families once made their lives. A board told that they were deserted in the late 1700's. It also showed a short section of 'hollow way', but try as I might I couldn't find it. If you read Robert Macfarlane's Holloway, as I recently have, you too will be eager to experience them.

rope swing is at top left of this section of the falls

spot the roe deer. (hint - white bottom)

old bottle found in the leaf litter - "PROPERTY OF CANTRELL & COCHRANE LTD. NOT TO BE REFILLED"

Day 2
Monday 30th December 2013

With Jennifer and Andy, a mile north along Loch Lomond shore to Rob Roy's Cave. One of his caves. The biggest spiders I've ever seen in the UK are there in the dark. Their egg cases beautiful silken teardrops that hang by thread from the walls. The largest egg cases are nearly three centimetres tall. The empty cases become shriveled husks.

We walked another mile to a point where the woods briefly cleared and a ruined homestead was by the shore. Old oaks grew from the stones.

A dipper flew from stone to stone along the water edge, always a step ahead of us, always moving on at our approach. Siskins were flocking through the trees, probably a hundred or more, mixing with all the common tits - blue, great, coal and long-tailed. A treecreeper was with them.

Feral goats browse the woods around Inversnaid, and have done for a hundred years or more. They have black-brown coats and long and curving (not fully curling) dark horns. You sometimes smell them before you see them, not an unpleasant aroma, remarkably like goats' cheese, which I suppose makes sense. Recently a decision has been taken to reduce their numbers due to finding that the condition of the site (a SSSI) was deteriorating and rare flora were at risk. So far the population control has been in the form of culling but discussions are underway aimed at relocation instead.

around Rob Roy's Cave

near Rob Roy's Cave, trees and bracken full of siskins

Loch Lomond

spot the spider

silken spider cases in Rob Roy's Cave

spider egg case

spirit of the forest

possibly Peltigera polydactyla... ? Confirmation welcome.

 a Cladonia species, maybe C. coniocraea... ?  Confirmation welcome.

smell the goat

Day 3
Tuesday 31st December 2013

A gentle walk with Jennifer and Sam. The length of Loch Arklet on track then returning by road as dusk was falling. Me stopping to sketch then running/fast-walking to catch up.

At the far side of the loch were six swans a-swimming, joined soon by a seventh to complete the carol. They were yellow-beaked Whooper swans and we could hear their gentle trumpeting when we stood still still and silent. On our way back their numbers had swelled to fourteen, singing the song twice.

The 'aqueduct intake' at Loch Arklet's east end is a fascinating structure. A steep-sided reduced-size colosseum, filled with water. I did a sketch and added watercolour later. Near to the intake a stonechat pair perched on fenceposts, the male smart with his mahogany brown head, white collar, rufous breast. The female overall browner, but still beautiful to see. Delicate little birds.

lunch and sketch spot, over Loch Arklet

Loch Arklet watercolour

(Whooper) swans a-swimming, Loch Arklet


the fortress

the fortress

miniature colosseum? / prow of a ship?

pencil & watercolour

Day 4
Wednesday 1st January 2014

People who aren't obsessed with bi... I mean aren't overly interested and involved with birds, won't know that some of us keep a list of the number of species we see each year. A 'year list'. I suppose it's a bit like collecting. It's interesting to compare year-to-year results and fun try to beat last year's record.

It's nice also to take note of the first bird seen on New Year's Day. My first for 2014 was bullfinch - a pair, one male, one female, feeding on seedheads outside the bunkhouse. Second was a robin. Both the bullfinches and a robin were been there each of our four Inversnaid mornings.

After breakfast (bran flakes and sunflower seeds) I took my provisions and walked a short distance into the hills along the RSPB Garrison track then doubled back to spend the remaining daylight hours walking the perimeter of Loch Arklet. Total distance to circumnavigate is about 9km. The road to Inversnaid runs beside the north shore of the loch, and a good new path runs beside that. The remaining two-thirds of the loch is unpathed, a combination of shingle, peat, bog, moor, a little slope-scrambling and a little stream crossing. You come to mini sandy beaches that seem like they should be joined to a Hebridean sea. The wind was blowing at me my whole way along the southern shore and the rain was blowing at me for half. Birdlife was fairly sparse, probably partly the weather.

These are all the birds I saw, mostly around the wooded bunkhouse area and on the RSPB reserve:

Great tit
Hooded crow
Coal tit
Blue tit
Cormorant x 1
Heron x 1
Canada goose x 2
Goldeneye x 1
Snipe x 1

21 species

Mr bullfinch

spot the hooded crow

holes on RSPB reserve, dug to aid tree-planting?

fur by fence - predated animal or snagged on fence as creature crossed over?

this is cracking peat

Loch Arklet

deer print in peat, Loch Arklet

Hebridean beach?

pencil sketch, rain not allowing me to add watercolour

Day 5
Thursday 2nd January 2014

On the final morning I went for an hour out into the rain. I found the Clach Buidhe hollow way from day one - only a very shallow, one-sided pathway. I sat with my watercolours and tried to capture the view to Bens Vorlich and Vane across Loch Lomond. The rain was trying too, trying to remove pigment from paper. The rain won.

rain painting

rain painting, Loch Lomond

No comments:

Post a Comment