13 Apr 2016

the tallest tree in britain

It's April, which means it's basically summer, which means we can go camping again without people giving us looks of horror. Mostly. I have to admit that the camping aspect of the weekend wasn't the most comfortable. For a start, we'd decided to leave after work on Friday night, to get the most out of the weekend, you see? So we drove for two hours into the middle of nowhere, pulled into a lay-by, and pitched the tent in the dark and the rain. I woke up at 7:20, cold and unable to get back to sleep. So I woke James up as well. Considering we had no real concept of where we were at the time, I was pleasantly surprised to find we were, in fact, on the edge of a forest, surrounded by dramatic mountainous landscape. We had a breakfast of porridge pots as we watched a trail of cloud sneak around the base of a hill.
 By half eight we were at Castle Carrick, on the banks of Loch Goil, which I'm sure is always very lovely but looked particularly wonderful in the early morning light with cloud toppings slowly drifting away like something very big and gentle was wiping sleep from its eyes. As we pulled into a quiet hotel car park opposite the castle a bus pulled in after us. It was empty. A few minutes later it left again, as empty as it had arrived.

 Puck's Glen is just a short distance away from Benmore Botanic Gardens and is a real life fairy glen. The information board described the walk as 'magical' and it was extremely justified. The place was trickling over with green, so much green. And there was water coming out from everywhere, everything from gushing waterfalls to dripping mossy banks. As we walked along the upper glen there was a quick hail storm and we just stood there laughing, in this weird beautiful place.

As with so many really wonderful places, the photos don't even come close to doing it justice (which didn't stop me taking nearly a hundred of them, but I'll spare you.) In the upper glen there were all these fallen trees crossing the river that had baby trees growing on them, and at the top of the hill there was this high waterfall that I can only describe as a flume. There's something about waterfalls: you know how falling water negatively charges ions which produce serotonin in us when they get to our bloodstream? Walking through Puck's Glen you can feel yourself getting a bit of a waterfall high, which is probably why it has that magical feel.

That's it for this edition of mystical science corner.

 Speaking of extremely beautiful places, we also went to find a beach known as Ostell which is a white sand bay that looks directly north to Arran. It was worth squelching across a saturated heather field to get to, because it was lovely and secluded and the sun was out and we both got slightly sunburnt noses from lying there, which was also worth it.

We camped at a spot further around the coast, on the edge of some woodland again but this time right next to the beach, looking across at Bute. The second night was colder than the first, but I gallantly waited until eight to wake James up on Sunday morning. We packed up and headed north to see a tree.

The tallest tree in Britain lives in Ardkinglas Woodland Garden, but we'll get to that. First I want to tell you a story about an old mill. In the late 1600s there was a man, Sir James Campbell of Ardkinglas, who had eight daughters. A young man, John MacNaughton of Dunderave, was in love with his second daughter, Jean, and wanted to marry her. But it simply wasn't done for the younger daughters to marry before the eldest, and so Sir James resisted. Eventually he gave in and allowed them to marry, but to John's horror on the morning after his heavily drink-fuelled nuptuals he woke to find the woman next to him was not his beloved Jean but her older sister. (I have some issues with how he had managed to get through the entire wedding, reception, and wedding night without realising he'd married the wrong Miss Campbell, but apparently she was 'heavily veiled'.) Being an honest Christian man (and probably feeling a bit guilty that he'd consummated the wrong marriage) he continued to live with the older sister, but Jean often visited the house and when she fell pregnant John was thrown into prison. Luckily for him, Jean roped in a local fisherman and they broke him free, at which point the lovers fled to Ireland. Sir James pursued them but was ultimately wounded in a scuffle and left them to it. After a while Jean and John left Ireland and went to Holland where their own daughter, Jean again, was born. They then, for whatever reason, shipped the young child back to Scotland to her grandfather. She was known there as S├Čne Dhuidseach (Dutch Jean) and she grew up and married Duncan of Achacharn. Her grandfather initially gave them a lease of Ardnomhar that would last, rather poetically, "as long as the woods grew and the water flowed". That turned out not to be true when he later tore up the lease and threw them out (who knows why, I can't find anything about it). But he did at least give them the mill so they could earn a living, which was better than nothing I suppose.

This soap opera yarn brought to you courtesy of the leaflet about the old mill at Ardkinglas (embellishments by me.)

The water of the river Kinglas is the cleanest, clearest water I've seen in a long time. It's sad that clean river water is rare enough to be a notable sight, because it's a beautiful thing.

The tallest tree in Britain is a mighty tall tree. It's a champion tree, which is a mystery in itself as the plant folk (botanists, I should say) don't know how the first champion tree seed found its way to the British Isles way back when. Ardkinglas is also home to the widest tree in Britain, and to be honest neither of them look completely out of place alongside all the other monster trees in the area. I don't know what they're doing up there. Maybe it's something in the water.

No comments:

Post a Comment