It had started out a day for the tops. Beinn a Bhuird to be exact. But having emerged into Glen Quoich from Clais Fhearnaig and seen the south top with its head in the clouds, I decided to set my sights lower. After toying with various ploys, I decided to have a return to my childhood and follow a route I’d first done with my father as a bairn – and probably not done since.
I came down to the jeep track up Glen Quoich and crossed the Allt Clais Fhearnaig to take the path which just a few yards on leads diagonally through the woods and on over Creag Bhalg.
The woods, standard plantation fare, were quiet save for the odd bird, but there were tracks of a red deer which had recently wandered up the path ahead of me, prints still sharp in the wet ground. The woods ended suddenly, as is the way with traditional plantations, and there was a sudden feeling of release, with views across the wide glen of the Quoich and west into the main Cairngorms giving a sense of limitless space.
But it was good to swing round to the left and see the open woodland on the Glen Dee slopes of the hill. It looks like a natural tree line you see in the picture above, but the lack of growth on the moorland may just be because it is so wet, for as I climbed into drier ground nearer the summit I came among more young pine seedlings, now being given a chance to grow since the removal of the deer. In fact there were seedlings all the way to the summit at 668 metres.
The variety of shapes in Scots Pines is amazing
As I moved along into the more mixed woods above and north of the Black Bridge across the Lui, I began to get the full benefit of the bright autumn gold of the birch trees, standing out like beacons against the dark of the pines.
This final plantation, the one above the Derry Lodge track just before the Clash, is thickly planted and movement was awkward at times, but the joy of the colours and textures made it a fitting finale to a wander that had been nothing to do with tops and all to do with the pleasures of stravaiging and remaining open to sensation – on this day dominated by the glory of autumn trees.