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Strathyre Forest: Forest Ranger’s Watch

This site is nestled in a sheltered valley on the banks of Loch Lubnaig held by the Strathyre forest. Ben Ledi and the surrounding hills provide a dramatic backdrop steeped in history and mythology. It’s the stunning views that set Strathyre apart as well as the interesting and diverse local and natural history.

The site is overlooked by Ben Ledi an imposing mountain standing close to 3,000ft, well known for featuring in Walter Scot’s poem ‘Lady of the Lake’. Loch lubnaig and the surrounding Strathyre forest is home to a variety of wildlife including red squirrels, pine martins and red deer. The loch itself can be glassy still and whether for herons, osprey, or even guests, it is an excellent place for fishing. Soaring high, there have been rare sightings of golden eagles near the sight. This area also has a lot of local history attached to it including the ‘secret commonwealth’ of elves, fauns and fairies described by author Robert Kirk and the exploits of Rob Roy MacGregor, the Scottish folk hero and outlaw.

Canopy

The cabins are set in deciduous trees of aspin, ash, oak, silver birch, hawthorn, rowan and alder, with a backdrop of evergreen Sitka spruce and scots pine.

Flora

Some interesting edible plants can be found including Common sorrel, broom and gorse flowers (not the pea shells), wild strawberry and raspberry, rosehip, plus the usual dandelion, daisy, blackberry and nettle.

Along the trackside some orchids can be seen including northern marsh orchids and the common spotted orchid. Some wildflowers of interest are tufted loosestrife, sneezewort and eyebright as well as more commonly lady’s mantle, devil’s bit scabious, knapweed and yarrow. Some beautiful globe flowers can be seen near the Loch in early autumn.

Marsh Marigold - Strathyre

Fauna

Strathyre is extremely lucky in having pine marten and they can often be seen visiting the cabins for a bite to eat. Their favourite foods are ‘crunchy nut’ peanut butter, grapes and eggs. Cabin 27 had a family with at least two young pine marten nesting in the roof in 2011 and the surrounding area enjoys the most sightings. During mid-summer, pine marten can be more easily seen due to the longer day light hours but they especially like cabins 5, 7 and 9 in the summer.

Red squirrel are often sighted here too due the hazel and spruce trees and our own feeders when their stash gets low! We are monitoring the sightings to help the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Most are seen around cabins 1 and 2 and the back forest line of the site.

Roe deer can be seen anytime but particularly in the trees behind the back line of the cabins.  They are also often spotted in the field next to cabins 1 and 2 and in front of cabin 17, 18 and 20 in the small forest near the loch.

Red deer are seen less on site, but are also less shy. A stag is often seen between the fields approaching the cabin site and the site’s play park and on the green forest walk, but numerous amounts of hinds can be seen on the hills opposite the cabins, especially during the rutting season in October.  You will need binoculars for more detail, but you can hear the stags roaring from the site during this time.

There are also lots of other mammals, including moles, voles, foxes, rabbits, otters and weasels although these are seen less. Bats are very active between spring and autumn and can be seen most nights eating all those midges!

Not forgetting the smaller ones, toads, lizards, insects and birds enjoy the forest here too, the birds being particularly popular with the guests.

White wave moth - Strathyre

Birdsong

During the summer months, you can add osprey, house martin and swallow to the usual list of blue, great, coal and long tailed tits, chaffinch, robin, siskin, dunnock and pheasant, as well as cormorant, swans, dippers and ducks, including the merganser - a carnivorous duck seen on the loch occasionally. In the autumn, large flocks of redwings and fieldfare can be seen stripping the rowan of its berries.

Forest Floor

There are plenty of mushrooms in the autumn, some edible, including: boletes, ink caps and russulas, but best left to enhance and enrich the forest as there are many similarities, some being deadly poisonous! There are many toadstools, including those from the aminita family; death cap, panther cap and the ever popular, fly agaric. Good spots on site are around cabins 10, 12, 29’s bank, 32’s forest and the shore line but many more can be found in the surrounding forest.

“As a new member of the forest team what amazes me is the changes in the season and the constant learning curve that each new season brings. Some of my best moments have been in the early morning travelling through the forest on my bike on the way to work.”

Skullcap - Strathyre

Did You Know?

Like a finger print, individual pine martins are recognisable by distinctive chest patterns in their fur.

Although red squirrels are famous for their red coat in Great Britain, in Europe and Asia they can quite commonly, within a population, have a number of variations in coat colour, much like human hair colour.

Lubnaig marshes is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for rare water beetles.

Strange But True!

Unknown Mausoleum in Stank Glen 1907.

This tomb was brought to our attention by a local hiker, Mr. Lindsay Wilson. According to Lindsay, there is no indication of a name for who is buried in the tomb. The tomb bears the following inscription:

Grey recumbent tombs of the dead in desert places,

Standing stones on the vacant wine-red moor,

Hills of sheep, and the howes of the silent vanished races,

And winds, austere and pure:

This be the verse you 'grave for me:

Here he lies where he long'd to be;

Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.

(Robert Louis Stevenson)

Wilson estimates the date of the tomb to be late 19th century given the date of the photo and the fact that it contained verses from Robert Louis Stevenson. And we would add to that the fact that the verses are in English rather than Gaelic would suggest mid-19th century at the earliest.

The Wild Wood

“We had a fascinating otter encounter here lately when the Ranger from Deer Park visited. I was walking along the cycle track less than quarter of a mile from the site when I saw bubbles coming up from the loch bottom 20 metres out. I waited and watched - more bubbles - then up popped a dog Otter (Lutra lutra)! I waved to a customer coming the other way but it had gone by then – it happens so quickly, so you have to be alert!”

GTM-NDN4LMN