Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Knapdale Coastal Camp

I managed to get away for a nice break last week with the usual motley crew, I was supposed to be working in Motherwell originally but that got canned, we’d already made a rough plan so the trip went ahead anyway. We headed for a favourite area we’ve visited in the past with lots of scope for projects and exploring, the forecast was for strong westerlies and having been in a pickle here a few years ago we decided early to leave the boats at home.

Thursday 18th April

After racing home from work and getting my stuff together, Pete showed up on time and after a quick brew we loaded up my motor and set off north. We made good time arriving at Ibrox to collect Josh just after nine o’clock, it was another couple of hours on empty easy roads before we reached our destination. It was a quiet calm night and the half moon gave good light in the forestry car park, we got loaded up with as much as we could carry, both Pete and I deciding to leave some food in the car for a return trip the day after.

The track was easy to follow without headtorches most of the time, occasionally turning them on for the trickier parts. Progress was good and we reached the half way point in short order, we off loaded the packs and rested by the beaver loch for five minutes. After a short breather we pressed on, coming out of the forestry we got our first look at the sea, lit up by the moon. We followed the track down the hill towards our camp, coming across a number of trees which had blown down and blocked the way, we think this probably happened in the big storms after our last visit.

We reached the area we’d be camping in but things looked a bit different to usual, the site we used the first time we ever visited was a mess of fallen trees, flotsam and detritus , thick knee length grasses and piles of seaweed. The other area we’ve camped in before was also different now, the ground was more rocky but covered in tufty straw like grasses, we backtracked slightly and eventually found a decent looking camp amongst an area of fairly spindly looking Alder. A couple were already blown down and a few were leaning, but it was about as good as we’d find in torch light so we setup. It was late and we’d all had a long day, Pete and I had a quick brew on my meths stove and called it a night.

Friday 19th April

I woke up expecting to hear howling winds and torrential rain on the tarp, but instead it was quiet calm and the sun was shining. I instantly thought midges but they were not to be seen, just as well as I’d slept with the bug net unzipped on my hammock all night.

First job was to decide where to put the fire and setup a base, we salvaged some washed up polystyrene blocks for seats and Pete knocked a tripod for the fire.

View south west from camp

After some breakfast Pete and I took the walk back to the cars to pick up the food bags, everybody had brought too much food as usual but my food bag alone must have weighed nearly 10kg. The walk back was beautiful in the sun, life just stirring in the forest right now.

We expected to meet Stephen on the trip but we never saw him, we got back to camp and chilled out for a few hours before he showed up. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent around the fire having a good catch up.

Saturday 20th April

Saturday was another bright and dry day, the wind had picked up a notch overnight but we were all secure in our various setups. During the morning I went for a wander up the hill to explore the old forest further down the point, lots of old chestnut and oak trees amongst the interesting rock formations. After a couple of hours I was back at camp, feeling peckish I knocked up a batch of drop scones over the fire which I thought were very tasty.

Pete making stir fry

Josh crafting a bush

The afternoon was spent gathering up firewood and generally exploring the woods and seashore around camp, the occasional light shower came through now and then so we decided to put up the big tarp for a group shelter. In the last few hours of daylight we decided to take a walk up to the beaver loch to see if we could spot any, there was plenty of sign about, much more than last time we visited but still not a glimpse of the goofy furry dudes. The water level looked to be higher in the small loch and building works were continuing on the dam and lodge, there were lots more signs of nibbled and downed trees with various beavery trails disappearing into the undergrowth.

Sunday 21st  April

Saturday night was a bit wild, the skinny Alders we’d pitched up in were clattering their top branches against each other, I was also getting bounced in the hammock as my two trees swayed apart occasionally. I laid there listening to the winds coming up the loch and then blowing through the tree tops on the rocky bluff above us, the winds were swirling around and coming from all directions at one point. Rain showers came and went, some more persistent than others.
Waking up Sunday morning it felt like the temperature had dropped slightly, the westerly winds had once again picked up but we were fairly sheltered at our camp. Out on the loch the wind was whipping up white horses, I was glad we’d left the boats at home.

A view of the beach where we’d camped on a previous visit, slimey and not inviting now.

Looking south west down the loch, Eilean Loain and the southern tip of Islay on the horizon.

In the morning Pete and I went off to explore the area a little more, we headed over the fallen forestry remains until we reached the untouched native woodland. I really like the vibe of this place and I hope to come and camp here one day.

After following the faint deer trails around the peninsular we eventually came out into the Faery Isles

There was a pair of Ospreys nesting opposite to where we emerged from the woods, I tried to get a decent picture but they wouldn’t cooperate.

The Faery Isles are normally a good place to catch a sight of otters and seals but the wind and waves meant that they were all tucked up somewhere cosy, we saw plenty of Canadian geese and Oyster Catchers doing their low level high speed acrobatics.

As there wasn’t much about we climbed back into the woodland and carried on along the point, the deer tracks were becoming fainter now.

I noticed these strange cut marks on the base of a handful of fir trees, not sure what they’re for if anyone could enlighten me. Chats amongst friends suggest it's for seasoning the timber with a view to harvesting in the future. That would seem to make sense but the location of the trees was right out on the peninsular and would often get battered by the westerly storms.

Otter feeding station

After standing around in the strong headwind and intermittent showers for ten minutes we turned around and headed back into the woods, we sought some shelter back at the Osprey bay and tried to get some better pictures.

I was messing about with my camera at one point and came across a button I hadn’t really used before, just as I zoomed into the nest tree one of the birds came back into shot, although not great hand held with 18x zoom I managed to grab this one.

We continued back along the trail until we got back to the camp site, dodging more showers along the way.

Looking back down to camp

Sunday evening I took the 2.5Km walk back up to the beaver loch, I found out the day before that the beaver dam was the nearest place to camp where I could get any mobile signal. I checked in with Carol and caught up on the gossip from home, still not a sighting of the beavers, again.

Sunday evening was spent around the fire as usual, all of us pretty knackered so nobody made it past midnight before retiring.

During the night we had a lot of rain, it was still showery when I woke up on Monday morning. We tidied up camp, cleared away the fire remains, stacked up the left over fire wood and made our way back to the cars.

Tick Count = 2

1 comment:

  1. Nice one Rich. I've grown to love the Loch Sween area after visiting a few times (partly inspired by your antics there). It's cool that I can recognise where most of your piccies were taken. That shot of the osprey landing is fantastic!