Walking the woods in Raasay
Nick Fairweather alerts walkers to the effects of the felling of larches on the Isle of Raasay.
As someone who occasionally finds his way in the hills using an Ordnance Survey map with a scarlet cover - priced eight shillings in old money - I am accustomed to noticing changes taking place in the landscape. Woods have moved, not only at Birnam, as trees have been planted or felled. And I won’t even start on about railway closures and wind farms. So I knew that my route descriptions in Exploring Raasay might need updating over time and I did check with local organisations about any plans in the near future. What I didn’t expect, at the launch of the book in July 2015, was that the “near future“, in the case of forestry, was going to be a mere six months away. So if you go down to the woods today near Raasay’s Home Loch you will find that a large area of trees has been felled and rhododendron’s cleared. This sudden change is due to Forest Enterprise’s efforts to control the spread of Larch Disease (Phytopthera Ramoram) which had been detected in the woods near the loch.
Three of the walks in the book are affected: a section of ‘Temptation Hill’ (Walk 2), the woods in ‘Churchton Bay and Raasay Woods’ (Walk 4) and the first part of the footpath to ‘Dun Caan: from ferry terminal’ (Walk 5). All have lost some of their wooded charm. The footpaths through this felled area are now all passable, with care, but the signposts and way markers are in need of updating so I suggest that you take your copy of the book with you.
Hopefully, with time, the beauty of the area around Loch a’ Mhuilinn will return. Meantime turn your head to the path as the foresters pass by. You will soon return to a beautiful landscape and, of course, there are seventeen walks in other parts of the island described in Exploring Raasay, unscathed by this arboreal surgery.