The heady combination of hills, lochs and ever-changing light make for some wonderful views on Ardnamurchan. This is obvious from some of the dawdling rubberneckers on the tortuous B8007. Far better to stop and take in the view properly than to drive with one eye on the scenery and one on the next blind corner.
And once you do stop it’s good to sit.
Relax. Why rush?
And the same applies when you reach the end of your journey.
Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits
Our plot is south-facing, partly wooded and heavily overgrown with rhododendron. However, between the trees and over the rhododendron there are some great views of Loch Sunart, the hills of Morvern and – looking north and west – the Ardnamurchan hinterland.
It’s good to sit and watch the world and the wildlife go by, to see the yachts and fishing boats on the loch and to listen to the birds and the wind in the trees and … little else.
You can sit and think things through, or just sit 1
But don’t rely on being able to sit on the ground. The climate in Ardnamurchan is mild and wet. At times very wet. The annual rainfall exceeds 1700mm and so the ground is often damp.
So you’ll need a chair, or a bench or a thoughtfully-placed log.
Having carried a collapsible chair around the plot a few times it was clear where the likely spots were to place a more permanent seat.
Now all I had to do was find some suitable wood.
Did I mention it can be wet in Ardnamurchan? Anything left out in all weathers needs to be rot proof. Teak is the obvious choice but I’d prefer not to contribute to the further destruction of Myanmar’s tropical forests.
Something closer to home was needed.
Aside from the ubiquitous birch, rowan, hazel and oak there are a number of larches around the site. One of these had been topped and limbed (albeit rather crudely).
It was a favourite spot for the greater spotted woodpecker but it was also a bit of an eyesore.
It intruded into some of the better views and looked like a totem pole. I even briefly considered tidying it up in situ and producing some chainsaw garden sculpture from it.
Instead, I felled it.
It was growing from a very steeply sloping bank and necessitated a rather precarious stance, but the combination of my Trusty Husky and a plaid shirt soon had it down.
Larch (Larix decidua) is a deciduous conifer introduced to the UK in the 17th Century 2. The needles turn a lovely yellow in autumn before being dropped and are then replaced with fresh, bright green growth the following spring.
There are two other notable things about larch. In my experience it generates some of the smallest and most irritating splinters when freshly cut. Gloves are essential. More importantly, it exhibits good resistant to rot, so was ideal for my purposes.
Ardnamurchan chainsaw massacre
The tree was about 35 years old and far too heavy to move without some more attention from the chainsaw. Having properly tidied the side branches protruding from the ~6-7 metre trunk I cut it into suitable sized logs. Then, using a combination of brute force and lashings of ignorance, I manhandled them to a flat area to construct some log benches.
You weren’t expecting fine furniture were you?
Having created a couple of notches in the trunk I rested it on two cut logs and then levelled the top off to create a flat area to sit on. The resulting bench was very sturdy, pretty stable and exceedingly heavy. It also left me with half a dozen infuriatingly small and itchy splinters …
Having made one I then made a second slightly smaller log bench with the ‘leftovers’.
Location, location, location
I made two log benches as I’d already identified two positions with contrasting and rewarding views.
The first was on a rocky outcrop backed with light woodland, which commanded good views to the north west. It’s relatively sheltered from the east and is in dappled shade until the afternoon.
I managed to carry the smaller bench up to the rocky outcrop unaided, with several rests to
breathe look at the view.
The larger bench was much too heavy to lift and was to be located further away and – critically – further up the hill. So, having chosen to install it on the warmest part of a sunny June day (D’oh!), I laboriously lifted it, end-over-end, up and up and up the hill.
About an hour and three pints of sweat later I’d got to the top having inadvertently discovered a wasps nest in the undergrowth. They didn’t take too kindly to me thudding past with my carefully handcrafted bench.
But it was worth it …
There are panoramic views over the islands (Risga, Oronsay and Carna) in Loch Sunart, the hills of Morvern to the south, and to Ben Hiant, Mull and Coll to the west.
Time for a rest …
The splinters that freshly-cut larch generates are very quickly rubbed away and the benches are perfectly safe to use without wearing gloves (or reinforced trousers).
A good guide to tree identification is Collins British Tree Guide (ISBN 978-0-00-745123-4) by Johnson and More. For more information on the propagation, growth, uses and lore of Scottish trees I recommend A handbook of Scotland’s trees (ISBN 978-190864382-7) edited by Fi Martynoga.
If you want to know what you can see from any point on earth I recommend the HeyWhatsThat horizon plotter website. Quoting directly from the site this “computes the horizon and mountain names and other related visualizations, including the surface of the Earth visible from where you’re standing (the visibility cloak or viewshed) and the line of sight profile between you and the distant peaks”.
For example, here’s the map of what’s visible from the top of Ben Hiant …
- The well-known quote Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits has been attributed to Winnie the Pooh (or, more correctly, A.A. Milne), Woodrow Wilson, Lucy Montgomery and others … actually it appears to originate from an anonymous old fisherman in 1905.
- Going by the appearance of the tree this could be a hybrid between the European larch (L. decidua) and Japanese larch (L. leptolepsis) which are often called Dunkeld larch (Larix x eurolepsis) and are much favoured for forestry.