Writing the book on mountain rescue

Cover of Braemar MRT 50th anniversary book, Mostly Happy Returns

Mostly Happy Returns, by Braemar Mountain Rescue Association

There’s a perhaps morbid fascination among hill walkers and climbers with tales of when it all goes wrong. I’ve long ago given up trying to figure whether it’s for education or voyeurism and just read the tales anyway. Sod the philosophy.

So when I heard there was a new book out celebrating 50 years of the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team there was no hesitation about getting a hold of a copy and no time wasted getting stuck into it when I had it in my hands: Mostly Happy Returns.

After starting with a foreword by John Duff, the Braemar bobby who was in at the start of the team in 1965, it opens with a very appropriate chapter contrasting the very different fates of two accident victims, one from the 1930s and one from 2014, showing the crucial differences made by technology and the existence of a dedicated and trained mountain rescue team, with the body of the first victim not recovered until  several days after the accident, while the 2014 victim was not only found, but being treated in hospital within just a few hours.

Mostly Happy Returns bills itself as a celebration of the team’s achievements and characters “with assorted misremembered tales of derring-do, wild haverings, and the dottled recollections of bygone days when storms were stormier, snow was snowier, and tweed, tackety beets and a muckle Thermos kept the elements at bay.”

And that’s pretty much what it is. Those looking for a sober history will be disappointed, as will those looking for a blow by blow account of all the major rescues, although many are here. I could be critical and say some tighter editorial control could have resulted in fewer multiple references to the same rescues, albeit often seen from different perspectives, and a wider net being cast over the treasure trove of stories a mountain rescue team must accrue.

But to hell with the critic’s hat. This is a thoroughly readable book as it is, un-put-downable with stories of rescues told by the people who have left their families and warm homes to go out in often appalling weather to do their utmost to save lives, not to mention all the training between times, to ensure they have the techniques to match the dedication. Some great pictures too, both current and vintage, and interesting info about how the team works. And it’s all set in an arena which will be familiar to all with a love of the Cairngorms, giving the inside story on incidents most of us will have heard about but only superficially in the papers.

So grab yourself a copy; it’s a great read and sold in a great cause, to provide funds for the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team to keep on doing what they do so well – ensuring that, when it all goes wrong, we all have Mostly Happy Returns.


How to get a copy of the book
Each book costs £10.00 and Braemar Mountain Rescue Association can post it to any UK address by Royal Mail 2nd Class delivery for the small additional charge of £2.00. A cheque for £12.00 should be made payable to Braemar Mountain Rescue Association and sent to:
Braemar Mountain Rescue Association
23 Albert Road
AB35 5QL

If you wish to pay by bank transfer, the Association will send bank details if you e-mail
treasurer@braemarmountainrescue.org.uk  Remember to include the name and address – including postcode – you want the book sent to.

Alternatively, the book can be obtained from the following outlets:

Braemar Mountain Sports, Invercauld Road, Braemar.
Braemar Caravan Park, Glenshee Road, Braemar.
Braemar Pharmacy, Mar Road, Braemar.
Wild Thistle, Invercauld Road, Braemar.
Braemar Service Station, Braemar.
Mar Lodge, National Trust, Mar Lodge Estate, Braemar.

Brown Sugar Café, 8 Bridge St. Ballater.
Deeside Books, 18-20 Bridge St. Ballater.
HM Sheridan, Butchers, 11 Bridge Street, Ballater.
Outdoor Shop/The Bothy Café, 43 Bridge Street, Ballater.

Hilltrek Out Door Clothing, Ballater Road, Aboyne.

Out There Active Wear Ltd, 3 Dee Street, Banchory.

Craigdon Mountain Sports, 51 High Street, Inverurie.

Castleton Farm Shop, Fourdon, Laurencekirk.

Tarland Post Office, Melgum Road, Tarland


Posted in History, Misadventures, News | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Callater completed

Callater Lodge and Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

A welcome and homely sight on return from the hills – Callater Bothy, with the Lodge behind

At the start of September the Eastern Highlands MBA crew descended mob handed on a spartan Callater Bothy and brought light and an element of cosiness.

Lightwells built from the roof through the ceiling brought light into the formerly gloomy longhouse, and a dividing wall created separate bedroom and living areas, making it easier – in theory at least – to raise the temperature in the living/kitchen area.

Interior of Callater Bothy, Glen Callater, Cairngorms

A painfully obvious lack of trim and a saggy ceiling betrayed a job unfinished

But the rough edges were still on display, and two bunk beds were without platforms. Time simply caught up on us.

Last weekend, though, some of us went back to get the job finished.

These work parties aren’t without their dangers though. We gathered on Friday evening and very quickly fell prey to an implausible amount of alcohol which had somehow found its way into the supplies. Bill from Callater Lodge was invited over and there followed a night of song and story that’ll live long in memory – even if memory often seemed a bit cloudy on the Saturday morning! One indelible memory, though, was the unforgivable treatment of John Gifford, who had gone to the trouble of memorising a new song for the occasion, lauding the joys of working in the mountains. Unfortunately, John, with his English background, failed to realise – or to appreciate once it was explained to him – that Scots are congenitally unable to hear the line in the chorus which mentioned “the wind in the tussocks” without breaking into giggles, titters and, ultimately, uncontrollable falling-on-the-floor laughter. So,  sorry John, we couldn’t help ourselves.

Come morning, though, the laughter was over. Some of us visibly struggling through the hangovers (and one, who shall remain nameless, having to retire early) we set to with a will.

Some of the major sags in the ceiling were remedied, and copious measuring and cutting saw the trim prepared and affixed around the light wells, and skirting board fitted on the new dividing wall. The doorframe was finished, and suitably trimmed, and the bunks were finished, with platforms built in with tongue and groove boarding, and the finished articles fitted with ladders and fixed to the walls for extra stability. All looking very neat.

At work on renovations at Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Alex at work on the saw table, better known as the sleeping platform

Working on renovations inside Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Bill pictured fixing trim around the light well

New bunks in Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

The completed bunks. Kenny measured, Alex and Bill cut, and I fitted the platforms – real teamwork.

Callater Bothy Maintenance Organiset John Gifford at a work party at the bothy, in the Cairngorms

It wasn’t as dark as this photo makes it look like, but the light was definitely going as MO John Gifford completed the paperwork at the end of the job.

Work eventually ground to a halt as darkness was approaching and it was a weary crew who set off down the road to their various homes… apart from me. I had planned to stay up for another night and grab a walk on what looked like being a good day on the Sunday.

I enjoyed a quiet night in with a good book (and no alcohol), with the only disturbance an occasional rattle at the door – not a ghost, just a Highland garron who seemed to have a notion I might let him into the bothy!

Two highland garrons, or ponies, at Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

The two garrons who were occasionally interested observers to the work party. I’m pretty sure it was the nearer one which was the nocturnal snorter and door rattler.

Sunday did dawn fair, and I set off up the Carn an t’Sagairt Mor path, following that top with Carn an t’Sagairt Beag and Carn a’ Choire Bhoidheach, taking a side trip out to the headland of Creag a’ Ghlas Uillt, before a late lunch on top of Lochnagar, enjoying views down towards Aberdeen and back into the central Cairngorms, as well as across the dramatic cliffs of Lochnagar itself.

Loch Callater, Cairngorms

The path up Carn an t’Sagairt Mor slants easily upward along the side of Loch Callater

Lochnagar and The Stuic Buttress, Cairngorms

Lochnagar in the distance behind The Stuic, an excellent buttress I’ve climbed in winter but never yet in summer

Glen Clova from the White Mounth, Cairngorms

A hazy view through to the upper reaches of Glen Clova

View from the Black Spout of Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Looking across the coire of Lochnagar from the top of the Black Spout

Lochnagar cliffs, Cairngorms

The mighty cliffs of Lochnagar

The cloud remained high and sparse all day and I returned via the old stalking path which avoids the tops and winds around them instead, enjoying the feeling of space on the plateau and the unseasonal warmth of the sun now that I was off the tops.

Sun reflected on Loch Callater, Cairngorms

Afternoon sun reflects on the waters of Loch Callater

I was wearied enough by the time I got back to Callater, but if the day had taken its toll on a slightly unfit body, it had been real medicine for a troubled mind, and after packing up, I cycled down the road to my car and home with a far lighter heart than I had left Fife some days before. Sometimes it’s not just the bothies that get renovated on these trips.

Posted in Bothies, Stravaiging | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

A make-over for Callater Bothy

Callater Bothy and Callater Lodge, in the Cairngorms

Callater Bothy is the building on the right, with the Lodge at the rear.

It’s been said – and with some cause – that a bothy without a fire is just a shed.

Well Callater Bothy may not have a fire yet, but it’s looking considerably more welcoming after this weekend.

Callater Bothy, sitting beside Callater Lodge beside the loch of the same name in Glen – you’ve guessed it – Callater, was subjected to an MBA Eastern Highlands makeover, with about 15 or more volunteers taking it apart and putting it together again.

Led by Maintenance Organiser John Gifford, with Kenny Freeman project managing, the volunteers replaced two old roofing panels and removed three panels at the front, replacing them with perspex and cutting light wells through roof and ceiling, bringing lots more light into what was once a very dark bothy. There’s also a roan pipe along the front of the bothy.

Inside, the sleeping platform was removed and a new wall built to split the one long room into two, one of which will have bunk beds (currently half built), with the other a living area which is smaller and easier to get warmer.

In the long term everyone is still hoping to persuade the estate to allow a stove or fireplace to be put in, but in the meantime the bothy is at least lighter and more welcoming.

Even with people working beside, through and over each other, though, there wasn’t time to complete all the work in the two days available, and it still remains to complete the bunks in the sleeping room, fit facings round the light wells, and, eventually, build an internal storm porch to keep more of the draughts out. As with all these jobs, completion will depend on availability of volunteers and weather but in John Gifford the bothy has a very keen MO with lots of drive, so I don’t think it should be too long before the work can be done.

I’ve included some photos of the work but, with a fading camera battery, I only managed to get the early stages of the work before it went dead on me. Other photos may be added later if anyone takes pity and sends me some on.

Volunteers working on the roof of Callater Bothy, Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms

Opening up the roof of the bothy to cut the three light wells

Volunteers at Callater Bothy, Invercauld Estate, eastern Cairngorms

Tea break time. At the back of the picture are Marlene and Eleanor, who kept the workers fed and watered over the weekend. Beside them is MO John Gifford and in the foreground are Allan ‘Sinbad’ Moore, Kenny Ferguson and Derek Stewart

MBA volunteers working on Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

One perspex panel in place and sealed, two still being installed.

MBA volunteer Kenny Freeman working on Callater Bothy, Cairngorms

Kenny Freeman at work in the loft space, cutting through floor and ceiling to make the light wells, which were then lined in plywood with the ‘help’ of yours truly

View of Loch Callater hills from Callater Bothy, Invercauld Estate, Cairngorms

And lest we forget why we go to these places at all… this is a view of the sun catching the hills at the side of Loch Callater. This is indeed a special place.

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Anticipation v realisation: the bothy book

Cover of The Book of the Bothy, by Phoebe SmithOne of the more anticipated new books this summer was the Cicerone guide The Book of the Bothy, by Phoebe Smith. As soon as it was announced the old guard bothy ‘guardians’ were up in arms: not only was this going to be a book about bothies – and probably giving their locations – but, perhaps even a worse sin, it was being written by someone who was not one of us.

On that basis alone I was inclined to stick up for Ms Smith. I’ve always been of the view that we look after bothies for everyone, and not just a small clique of those deemed worthy.

But, sad to say, despite being a book whose time had come, despite being well produced and published by one of the most respected guide book publishers, this is not the success it should have been.

Given that this blog is about the Cairngorms, I’m going to restrict my comments to the Cairngorm bothies included in the book but, sadly, here alone there are too many points where proper checking and proofing have been lacking, resulting in a number of inaccuracies.

Page from The Book of the Bothy wrongly titled Glendar Shiel

The wrongly named Gelder Shiel bothy

Some are glaring but relatively harmless, such as referring to the Gelder Shiel as Glendar Shiel, Derry Cairngorm as Derry Hill, and Loch Avon as Loch A’an. There’s an unfortunate piece of timing, with Gelder Shiel (or Glendar?) being referred to as a bit of a cold hole: the gap between writing and printing has meant that the book does not take account of the substantial renovation that took place earlier this year.

However it’s a bit concerning that the author actively encourages people visiting Bob Scott’s Bothy to go out and cut up deadwood for the stove. As explained elsewhere on this site and in a notice within the bothy, Mar Lodge Estate, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, has specifically asked people NOT to burn deadwood, which is a valuable habitat for insects and birds. The message should be to carry in coal – don’t burn wood. Encouraging people to do exactly what the estate has asked them not to is hardly responsible and could lead to trouble for the future of the bothy.

There are a a fair few more errors in the Cairngorm chapters, leading one to assume that entries for other bothies are similarly fallible, which does rather damage any authority the book may wish to claim.

I also wonder at the absence of Corrour Bothy from these pages. Given the importance, position and popularity of Corrour, I would have thought it would be a definite inclusion. To be fair, Phoebe Smith does say her choice is a personal one but, as the book is presented in a guidebook format rather than as a personal memoir, I think more should be expected than just a personal hodge podge. Perhaps including the full complement of MBA bothies (all the bothies included here are MBA apart from Scottie’s) is a bit much to ask but surely more effort should have been made to include the principal bothies.

So far so unremittingly negative.

Diary style pages in The Book of the Bothy, by Phoebe Smith

‘Diary’-style inserts add a personal flavour to the guide.

As I said, I was looking forward to this book and have no argument with its existence or with an ‘outsider’ writing it. So it’s only fair to say there’s also a lot to like about The Book of the Bothy. The format is a good one, with each bothy having a main piece of text complemented by bite-sized snippets and information panels. Each bothy also has a ‘diary entry’ section too, where the author records her own memories of finding and or staying in the bothy, which adds a personal touch. The photos are good too, and the whole spirit of the book is good: this is a book written by someone who, if not as experienced as some, has enjoyed her bothy nights and understands and supports what bothies are about.

But the devil is in the detail – guidebooks are built on attention detail – and it’s just such a damned shame that she didn’t do more checking and get her book more rigorously proofed.

So to buy or not to buy? A difficult one for, as I say, it’s a likable book, and maybe many of the errors I’ve spotted aren’t major but… on the whole I’d probably hang fire until the revised edition.

Since posting this and sending a full list of suggested amendments to Cicerone, I’ve been contacted by the author, Phoebe Smith, who contests some of my points – fair enough, we’ll just have to disagree – but does sound genuinely contrite about suggesting people collect wood at Bob Scott’s, underlining a commitment to make appropriate changes for the next print run of the book.

She also made the point that she did inform the MBA of her intentions and received no objection, although, in a way, I’d hold that immaterial. The MBA has no monopoly or veto on people writing about bothies and, in any case, some foreign guide books already mention bothies and their locations. From the comments below there still seem to be plenty who don’t believe the book should have been written or – if it must – that it should have been written by the MBA rather than an ‘outsider’ – a view I find totally insupportable. This is a book with good intention and, as I said above, good spirit – and, as with bothy users, who also may never have hammered a nail, that’s what counts.

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Ice cream and nailguns on Lochnagar

Buulding work during refurbishment of Gelder Shiel Bothy by the Ballater Chiels

Installing one of the roof windows during a major refurbishment of the Gelder Shiel Bothy

That ol’ Cairngorm magic has done its stuff again and another cold bothy has been given the five star treatment.

Only it’s not the usual suspects who can claim the credit this time – they (and I count myself in there) did little other than stuff their faces.

The Gelder Sheil was the bothy in question, a building which, notwithstanding the addition of wooden bunk beds many years past, did little to disguise its former life as a stable for the royal picnic cottage next door, on the rising moorland north of Lochnagar.

For many years the fact of that next-door neighbour meant any improvements were a ticklish subject to raise with the estate. There was no overriding obligation for the estate to allow the use of the bothy at all, and in the face of reluctance to allow any substantive changes, no-one liked to push their luck.

But local contacts eventually resulted in discussions, interest from Prince Charles and the involvement of local charitable group the Ballater Chiels. The end result was that the MBA drew up plans for the bothy which the Chiels, all local businessmen and tradesmen, would both finance and carry out.

A number of Eastern Area MBA volunteers pitched up for the first of two planned work parties at the start of May, ready to act as labourers and gofers for the Chiels but very quickly realised that these guys needed no help and probably got on quicker without us in the road.

Vans and other vehicles outside the Gelder Shiel Bothy on Lochnagar, Cairngorms

Builders’ v ans and a catering trailer outside the bothy

I arrived early Saturday morning to see a large collection of works vans and 4x4s around the bothy, a small marquee set up as a sawyard, and even a trailer and gazebo set up for catering.

Saw yard at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Cairngorms

The marquee being used for a sawyard, with the wood and saws safe from the threatening showers

Before I’d even counted the vans I was directed to the trailer for a cup of tea and a cake donated by the Ballater bakery, and before another hour was past the call went up for bacon rolls and sausages being served.

Lunch was thick scotch broth and copious sandwiches, with mince pie, roast pork, mashed potatoes, peas and gravy for dinner (not forgetting ice cream and warm apple pie for desert. Ice cream? In a bothy?)

Work? Well, we did a bit. Kenny Freeman helped with some joinery work inside the bothy, and Ian Shand and I acted as gofers for the roofer as he fixed tiles and installed two velux windows and a flue pipe, but in the main we wandered about feeling guilty about eating so much and doing so little!

Stove being fitted in Gelder Shiel Bothy, Lochnagar

Wood-lining fitted and stove being installed

New internal porch at Gelder Shiel Bothy, Lochnagar

The front doors now lead into an internal porch

There was a huge amount of work done though. Over the weekend the bothy was totally transformed.

A wooden floor was overlaid on the stone cobbles, the walls were insulated and lined, the roof similarly insulated and lined, a wood-burning stove was installed and two windows installed in the roof to increase the amount of light inside. On top of that an internal porch was built, solving the problem of drafts. And drainage ditches were dug around the bothy outside, hopefully putting an end to the occasional burn which used to run through the bothy in wet weather.

So much work was done, in fact, that there remained little to be done this weekend just past, other than treating the woodwork with a fire retardant.

Long term, the roof needs a lot of work done to replace slates which are ready to drop but, as a result of sterling work by the Ballater Chiels, the Gelder Shiel is a hundred times the bothy it once was and now worthy of its wonderful situation.

Gelder Shiel Bothy after refurbishment, Lochnagar, Cairngorms

The bothy from the back, showing the new roof windows and stove flue

Posted in Bothies, News | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Work and wildlife in the Cairngorms

Work party at Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the Cairngorms

Great day for a work party (and picnic from the looks of things) at Allt Scheicheachan – not, you would think, ideal conditions for filming the wildlife.

When you walk in to the woods and sit with your back to a tree and don’t move for, oh, maybe half an hour or more… sometimes you still see nothing. The wildlife, as ever, runs to its own timetable. But you certainly won’t see anything by crashing about and making a din.


Last weekend I was up at Allt Scheicheachan, a bothy in the hills above Blair Atholl. It was a work party and also the area meeting, so there were a good few of us there, maybe about 20 or more by the Saturday afternoon. (And, yes, most of us were in tents; the bothy had plenty room for stray travellers.)

At one point there were four of us round the back of the bothy, engaged in the none too quiet occupation of digging a drainage ditch, when John Gifford said something about a weasel. I thought at first he was talking about something else, but then the two Kennys chipped in.

“Over there,” said Kenny Freeman.

“Out of that hole in the grass,” said Kenny Ferguson.

Just a couple of yards where the Kennys stood on the edge of the ditch there was a dead bird, already half eaten. About 10 feet further away there was a small round hole in the long grass – with a weasel sticking its nose out.

For the next few minutes we watched as it snaked through the grass to a thick clump of grass, paused, then sneaked across to the carcase to pull small fragments of flesh from it.

A first attempt to get photos failed when it scurried back to its hole but, while it was out of sight I moved closed and knelt down, camera poised, and didn’t move other than to press the button to take as many photos as I could; without my glasses on I couldn’t make out what I was seeing in the preview screen so was shooting in hope.

With a point and click camera the results aren’t quite Gordon Buchanan but, considering the circumstances, are not too bad either.

 Weasel at back of Allt Scheicheachan bothy in Cairngorms

Weasel at Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the CairngormsWeasel looking for food at back of Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the CairngormsWeasel eating a bird carcase in the CairngormsClose-up of weasel in CairngormsAnd just to finish, some photos from the work party, which was productive, the meeting, at which I fell asleep in the sun, and the ceilidh afterwards, which was a magic night in the best possible company.

Digging a drainage ditch at the back of Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the Cairngorms

Chow time for weasel was just a couple of yards from where the two Kennys were howking lumps out of the ground

Work party at Allt Scheicheachan

Even busier round the front. Norrie and Bob in boiler suits which remained surprisingly white since they’d just been up painting the roof black.

MBA meeting at Allt Scheicheachan bothy

Great weather and lots of folk made it easier to hold the MBA area meeting al fresco

Ian Shand playing the bagpipes at Allt Scheicheachan bothy, Cairngorms

Ian ‘Piper’ Shand playing a tune on the pipes to mark the end of the work day. He was being filmed for possible inclusion in a BBC documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the MBA

For anyone interested, by the way, the Saturday saw the roof being repainted, some work to seal the doorframe, and drainage ditches and drainpipes dug in to two sides of the bothy. Saturday night saw lots of songs sung (including a new, personalised version of ‘Aitken’s Morning Rolls’), tunes played and stories told – maybe a small libation too. Not sure if any more work was done on Sunday because I was up early and went off to climb Ben Ghlas and Ben Lawers, making the most of some brilliant weather.

Posted in Bothies, Nature, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

New bridge imminent at Derry Burn

Pylons for replacement footbridge at Derry Lodge, Cairngorms

Waiting to go into place – the pylons for the temporary Derry Burn footbridge

Stop Press: First picture of the new bridge going up comes from Bob Scott’s Bothy caretaker and my fellow Corrour MO, Neil Findlay – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=967223033296185&set=a.207699109248585.52869.100000254925069&type=1&theater


With spring making inroads and people’s summer plans getting firmed up, there’s been increasing interest these last few weeks in the state of the bridge at Derry Lodge.

The good news is that a the materials are now on-site for a temporary footbridge to be built on the site of the former  footbridge lost in the August flood. Since then people have had to wade the Derry Burn at shallows above or below the bridge site, or use a tree about 2-300 metres upstream.

Materials for temporary footbridge across Derry Burn, Cairngorms, with explanatory note

Please don’t chop this wood up for your campfire! The Estate explains its plans

And an appeal has been launched to build a permanent replacement in a location which in the long term will probably do away with the boggy passage across the Derry Flats.

The temporary bridge was offered by ScotWays – the Scottish Rights of Way Society – which has also launched the appeal to raise funds for the permanent replacement, which will be in memory of Donald Bennet, a prominent member of the Scottish Mountaineering Club, founding member of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland and, at various times, Director, Chairman and Honorary President of ScotWays. He will be best known to most readers, though, as author of numerous books, including the SMC’s definitive Munro and Corbett guides. He died in 2013, aged 84.

ScotWays sees the rebuilt Derry Bridge as being a fitting tribute to their late president, sitting as it does on a right of way described in the Scottish Hill Tracks book which he edited.

I’m not sure exactly how the temporary bridge will look – the metal pylons which, presumably, will form the span, started life as a radio mast – but it is hoped it will only sit there for about a year, with funds raised for the permanent bridge in time to start work next spring.

The temporary bridge, according to the estate, should be in place by the end of April. The continuing erosion of the west bank at the current site means any crossing here will be vulnerable to further flooding damage, and the estate has already said it sees any long term solution involving a different site – although it has recognised the importance of the crossing, which is an essential link in the classic Lairig Ghru crossing of the Cairngorms, and voiced a commitment to seeking a permanent solution.

Possibilities include the site of the old bridge which stood in the ‘60s at about 039 933, providing part of the vehicle access to Luibeg Cottage. The river runs across shingle here, but the ground is flatter and any flood is likely to spread out rather than cut away at banks.

Another possibility is at about 041 932, where a bridge was built on more solid banks in the ‘80s, until it was destroyed in an accident with a mechanical digger. The second option, however,  would require a second bridge back across the Lui above the junction with the Derry Burn. I’ve since heard through a conversation reported by Neil Findlay that this second option is what the estate is going for.

Both these sites would allow the Lairig Ghru-bound path to be diverted away from its present course across the middle of the Derry Flats. That will be good news for walkers, as the old, slightly longer, track followed closer to the river and was on harder standing; it’ll also be good news for the black grouse in the area, which have a preference for lekking on the flats near to the edge of the Derry Woods, and will be less often disturbed by ‘early bird’ walkers.

Last August’s flood did a lot of damage not just to the bridges (another bridge, over the Quoich, was also destroyed) but also to vehicle track and footpaths.

Flood damage to track in Glen Quoich, Cairngorms

Mar Lodge Estate’s photo of the track up the west bank of the Quoich – totally removed by the flood

The estate has launched an appeal for funds to help address some of this work, with the most dramatic example of damage being where the Quoich changed its course and simply removed a whole section of the landy track up the glen.

There was also substantial damage to the footpath up the east side of Glen Derry, with streams cutting deeply through the track in several places and, in another, burying a 15-metre section under tons of sand and gravel.

The Mar Lodge storm damage appeal can be accessed here – https://www.nts.org.uk/Donation/Desktop/Appeal/Once/Mar-lodge-storm-damage-appeal-urgent-appeal/

Donations to the Donald Bennet Memorial Appeal can be made by sending a cheque payable to ScotWays, to the office at 24 Annandale Street, Edinburgh, EH7 4AN, marking the envelope Donald Bennet Memorial Fund. You can also pay by card via the website at http://www.scotways.com/

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