Hill Tracks

Making tracks

What a difference a decade makes. Today, I hiked up the Firmounth Road from Tarfside in Glen Esk en route to the summit of Hill of Cat. I did a similar walk in 2002 and, as I set out from the car park, I had happy memories of walking the old road all those years ago.

However, above the renovated lodge at Shinfur, I quickly discovered that over recent years the original hill track – a long established right of way linking Tarfside in Angus with Dinnet in Deeside – has been replaced by a much more robust estate road, one of many on the Millden Estate constructed to service numerous lines of grouse butts.

Grouse butt building

It wasn’t particularly pleasant underfoot, but did make short work of the ascent to the top of Tampie where, as part of the estate’s ongoing drive to upgrade its grouse moors, a line of butts was in the process of being rebuilt.

The ‘upgraded’ Firmounth Road lifted me up and over Tampie and as I progressed towards the next peak, Gannoch, it became apparent that the redevelopment was not yet complete. Ahead of me, at the end of the newest section of track, sat a mechanical excavator – poised to carve up even more of the original route.

It is a great pity that the old Firmounth has been bulldozed out in such a fashion. Gone is a wonderful old hill track. In its original state, it was an integral part of the landscape. Weathered and overgrown, the heathery highway lay hidden amongst the hills. Now, sadly, it is an all too obvious scar of grit and gravel.

For more on the Firmounth Road, visit Heritage Paths.

Caught in a Trap

Stoat in a fen trap

As a follow up to an earlier post (scroll down to find it!) about animal traps in the Scottish countryside, I came across three traps containing dead animals on my wanderings in the Angus hills today.

The first contained a freshly snared stoat, killed as it scampered through a fen trap slung over a stream close to the Firmounth/Fungle Road in Glen Esk, on the Millden Estate. It is one of the few occasions I have spotted a stoat in the great outdoors – just a pity it was in such circumstances.

Rat in a trap

The second was a rat, again captured in a fen trap, this one positioned over the Burn of Cat, across the valley.

The use of these fen traps is legal as a means of controlling vermin, including both rats and stoats.

The third trapped creature was a very dead (skeletal in fact) bird lying in the base of what appeared to be a disused Larsen trap, again located close to the Burn of Cat.

Bird skeleton in Larsen trap

For more on animal and bird traps used in the countryside, visit Onekind’s excellent walkers’ guide.

Update Another day on the hills and another grim find in a fen trap, this time a stoat caught in a stream gully between Dog Hillock and Hill of Glansie.

 

Trapped stoat