David Adam Gallery
During August the moors of Glen Mark are dyed purple with the flowers of Ling heather and the unrelenting hum of busy honey bees fills the air. This year's show of heather colour seems to be the very best, as far as my memory recalls, and every footstep through the heather releases a cloud of pollen dust. Nevertheless, the healthy heather seems to betray the welfare of its main resident, the Red Grouse, and today very few birds flush at my feet.
My middle of nowhere destination is Naked Hill with its ancient, ruinous bothy and then finally Braid Cairn, the bulky, domed neighbour of Mount Keen. Fog cements the higher moors in a disorientating grey murk that hides my line of sight to the bothy and a wait for an hour in dew filled cloud and biting midgies drew my patience out to the limit of endurance until, finally, the occluded sun-god accompanied by a light wind burned the fog off to reveal acres of bog entrenched purple and the tiny granite bigging a mile or so away; a wet slog ensued.
Miles from anywhere, this bothy is hewn from the land. The roof, long since absorbed by nature, would have been log joisted and covered in heather turfs. The door aperture is small but the lintel is still standing and the only evidence of what it was used for is drilled into a granite wall block ..... an iron ring cleat for tying a pony or dog to. Stalking comes to mind first of all, but then the extensive wrought iron fencing in the surrounding area may imply another use as a worker shelter, or maybe it was used for illicit whisky distilling but there is no ready water supply and the stonework finish too laboured.
Many of the granite blocks are dressed but no fireplace or chimney flue is now obvious. The blocks may have been brought in by pony sled or brought down from the rocky exposures on nearby Naked Hill then dressed on the spot. This bothy in the middle of boggy nowhere has always intrigued me and can be seen from the south, east and west on this open area of rough moorland for miles around, but this is my first visit. Two neuks are in the wall next to the door maybe for candlelight and a massive, door sized granite slab lies astride the door aperture outside, all strange and mysterious to me ..... what hermit had dominion here ..... I wouldn't mind, far from the madding glen crowds, and in for a bothy nicht.
Braid Cairn has several tops to its domed bulk and those tops are scoured flat like the granite boulders that deck the surface heath of Crowberry. Very healthy looking Mountain Hare love this hill that sits at just under Munro level and many of the tumbled slabs shelter the beasts from the foraging attention of the eagles that live nearby. The hill is an attractive stop-over for Wheatears and Golden Plovers during migration, and I have wondered if Dotterel also pay Braid Cairn a visit during arrival in May or departure in September. Ptarmigan have frequented Mount Keen but I have never seen them on Braid Cairn despite finding feathers here.
Well nothing was really interested in flying around today except a distant sighting of a Golden Eagle, an inquisitive Red Kite, a Kestrel, several Wheatears and Meadow Pipits plus one Kestrel sized falcon that looked like a slender Peregrine with long, narrow wings. I am convinced that I saw a Hobby in this glen a few years back, but my record was thrown out by the Angus rare birds panel. I think that the Hobby has bred further north so vagrant birds might appear in Angus and expert 'birders' have confirmed that with independent observations recently.
There are areas of moorland in Angus that just seem barren of life. If there are no Red Grouse or Mountain Hare present then foraging raptors are not present. This area east of Braid Cairn rarely sees a hunting eagle because there is nothing to hunt ..... why waste time. The Mountain Hare are atop Braid Cairn and the Red Grouse, to my ken, are just absent. Eagles are more likely to be seen where grouse populations are higher and I do know that resident eagles in this area frequent neighbouring 'grouse only' shooting estates, in fact the breeding eagles from a 'rewilding principled' Glen Tanar estate in Aberdeenshire pop over the boundary, more often than not, to cadge prey from a 'grouse only' estate in Angus.
The history of moorland is fascinating and how it changes at nature's and man's behest. Near our bothy lie the twisted bars of wrought iron fencing, some five feet high, that run for miles around various estate marches and the purpose was to keep deer out or, indeed, in. Many of the iron bars are drilled into large boulders then hot leaded into place, unfortunately the boulders have to be set on unstable peat foundations, so no matter how strongly built the iron work is, the fence continuity is fugitive when one boulder topples or sinks; a very time consuming and costly fence no doubt and presumably originating from the Victorian era. One disused deer jump allowed deer out, but not into a fenced off enclosure or estate, and I do get the impression that deer evacuation to protect grouse populations from disease vectoring Tick is nothing new ....