Forest fungi

Out for a walk yesterday afternoon in the woods and came across lots of lovely growths of fungi. Since I am no mycologist, I shall not attempt to identify them incorrectly, but here are some pictures of the more photogenic groups.

Some of the images taken in poorer light under trees were taken using the night exposure mode on my Nikon D80 with a slow flash. This seems to have worked reasonably well, although pushing the sensor speed has resulted in a slightly soft, grainy feel to some images.

A walk from Bellanoch

With Daisy and my grandson visiting, I finally managed to grab a day off work today. With the afternoon not quite threatening rain, we went to the Crinan Canal at Bellanoch for a walk along the towpath to Crinan Bridge and back.

Not much good stuff from playing with the camera, but here’s my favourite of the day:

Cogs getting it together

Cogs getting it together

A Flickr set for the Isle of Scarba

Further to the post on the Isle of Scarba, I’ve added a set to Flickr with my pictures from that trip. There’s also a Flickr Group for the island in case anyone else has pictures they wish to add.

Some good toggies

Driving to Ardfern today in the last of the winter day’s light and as the tide was rising on the flood, gave me a fantastic opportunity to play with the camera on the foreshore. Very pleased with the results, so here are some of them.

More can be found on Flickr.

Sundews in the hills

We’ve had three weeks and possibly more without any significant rain here in Argyll. There are a number of obvious consequences, including the fact that I should be out watering the garden, but if I do, I’ll only be eaten alive by the McNasties, which are out in force at the moment. Keeps the swallows in business, mind you, so that’s no bad thing.

Another consequence is that the water levels in the lochs and rivers are falling dramatically. Loch Awe has fallen at least a foot and a beach is beginning to appear around its shore. The crannogs are emerging above the water line again, many having been lost when the level of the loch was increased as part of the Cruachan hydroelectric scheme way back in the fifties.

I’ve been back in my square-bagging habits today, and wrestling with blood sugar levels as a result. The GP made some suggestions when I saw him yesterday about reducing the basal insulin to minimise the risk of hypos when out in the hills, but absolutely no change today; hypo within an hour of starting walking and the usual all hell’s delight in getting sugars back up to a sensible reading. Lots of data from the meter, so I’ll email the GP with that lot and get his comments.

My walk today was up into the hills north of Loch Caolisport – wild, remote country characterised by glaciated rocks, bogs, moor and lochs. Lots of signs of deer, but didn’t see any until I was walking out along the track when I startled the life out of one that looked up and saw me only 30 feet from it. The bracken is well out of the ground now and will soon become a serious obstacle. Lots of small flowers in the grass and the bogs, particularly the small, delicate purple nodding heads of the butterwort. Best snap of the day has to be a sundew, included below for your delectation and delight.

Steaming on Loch Fyne

After a long drive into Glasgow yesterday, a short trip to Tarbert was the plan to catch the Waverley on one of her summer Clyde cruises. In the season, she calls into Tarbert on Tuesdays and takes a short turn up Loch Fyne before returning to the Clyde. We made it to Tarbert in good time for her 1445 sailing, only to find that she’d never yet docked at the East Pier before 1505 – apparently due to a conflict over berthing at Rothesay with the CalMac ferry.
It was blowing half a gale when she eventually appeared in sight, making the pier only ten minutes after coming into view. Although we’d seen her sailing down the Clyde the previous day en route to the Burrell Collection, seeing her coming up Loch Fyne was like standing back one hundred years to the hey-day of the Clyde steamers. She was a visual anachronism, moving at a speed that would shame a modern ferry.

We all stood back as the Harbour Master and his son took the lines ashore and made her fast.

One more from the detail of the funnel:

Because she was late and the trip up Loch Fyne was truncated, we paid a lesser fare than advertised, so I spent the savings in the bar.
The Waverley is a fantastic survivor, even if only 60 years old, she represents an older age and one deep-rooted in the traditions and folk-memories of the Glaswegians. And it’s no struggle to see why: this vessel is a constant visual delight and very comfortable. With her wide beam to accommodate the paddles she is very stable even in a gale. It’s possible to walk right around the huge cranks of the engines as they drive the shaft – she can go as fast astern as she can forward – and small viewports permit a glimpse of the paddles through the frothing water.

And the winner is …

My hobby website/activity, Geograph, runs a weekly competition for the “best” image submitted in the previous week. This week, much to my astonishment, my picture of two beasts pictured on my recent trip to Scarba, actually won the weekly contest. And here it is:

The Geograph of the Week competition is for fun, and the standard of entries is generally very high. A shortlist is compiled by a volunteer and the winner is chosen by the last week’s winner, so I shall have to do duty next week, in between coming back from two days on Jura and Islay and going down to Somerset to see how that daughter of mine is getting on with the prosepects of teen maternity.
Oh, by the way, you have to register with Geograph to read the bulletin boards and see the GotY competitions, but everyone is welcome to get involved, no matter where you live in the world.

A trip to Scarba

The Isle of Scarba is an uninhabited island off the west coast of Argyll. It lies to the north of the Isle of Jura and is separated from it by the notorious Gulf of Corryvreckan. North of Scarba lies the island of Lunga, which is separated from Scarba by the Bealach a’ Choin Ghlais, or the “Grey Dogs” as it is locally known.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

The opportunity to visit the island came about when I came across a message on a ramblers’ bulletin board (I hasten to add that I am not a rambler) advertising the trip and offering spaces to any comers with some walking experience. I contacted AndrĂ©, who was the mover and shaker behind the expedition, and managed to snaffle a place. We also managed to snaffle places for The Bikers, our illustrious neighbours, at the last minute. The last member of the party that assembled to board the Farsain, the charter boat from Craobh Haven, was a chap called Peter.

The forecast for the day was, frankly, crummy, and I’d prepared for a long day out in the wet with no shelter. There were showers as we crossed to Scarba, but it wasn’t raining when we landed. One delight on the crossing was my first ever sighting of puffins, two of whom were fishing on the water off the Scarba coast.
The intention was that we would make our way to the summit of the island, Cruach Scarba, and the route selected was following the pony track that ran southward through the centre of the island.

The next landmark we came across was Loch Airigh a’Chruidh. Unfortunately, where the map indicated a footbridge to cross the burn that fed the loch, this had completely disappeared into a deep gully in the peat; this was just about jumpable.

This picture shows the pony track itself as it skirts around some of the crags on the southern side of the island:

The views south over the Gulf of Corryvreckan and to the Isle of Jura were spectacular as the path itself was about 800′ in altitude at this point.

The climb to the summit involved an easy ascent for about one kilometre up grassy slopes. Towards the top, there was much gnashing of maps by the ramblers who set off in an oblique direction, while I used the basic Argyll technique of looking at the land and heading off towards the summit. This method secured me a quiet ten minutes at least at the summit before everyone else arrived.

The trig pillar at the top of Cruach Scarba is one of the “Vanessa” types, a concrete cylinder instead of the tapering square pillar more commonly found.
Lunch over, the party divided, with the rambling portion returning the way they came. The Bikers and I decided that it would be a shame not to try to attempt a different route back and we crossed north-east until we came to a burn that ran northwards, intending to follow it down until we came to the pony track that ran around the north side of the island.

The walking down this valley was fantastic; good going underfoot and primroses, violets and daisies in profusion. Deer watched us from the heights of the crags. The views forward over the islands to the north of Scarba were superb, for by this time the sun had come out and we were able to shed all the wet-weather gear.
We came down quite quickly to the pony track and, with plenty of time in hand, followed it around to the north-west corner of the island and drank in the views. We could see as far as Ardnave Point on Islay, the Isle of Colonsay, the Gavallechs, Ben More on Mull as the cloud finally began to lift from its summit and all the small islands to the north, including the closest, Lunga.

We made a leisurely trek back to the quay to await the Farsain, which arrived punctually to take us off the island. An excellent day out, and there are more photos on Flickr for those who’ve managed to read this far.

A spring sunset

The last week has been balmy weather for spring – post-equinoctal stuff, I’m sure, but warm, sunny days and shirt-sleeve weather are to be celebrated in this part of the world, whenever they occur.
Mrs PtC and I managed to get out and grab a sunset from Loch Beag a few days ago – all right, it might well have been a week ago, and the sight of the sun setting behind Jura was fabulous, even if the air became very cold very quickly.

Signs of spring

Spring flowers are at last starting to make their presence known in this part of the country, with snowdrops being the most prominent. This view was taken at the head of Loch Craignish beside the road to Ardfern – BondBloke’s holiday territory.

I went down Loch Fyne a little way to bash a few squares and this was the pick of the crop:

Back up the road and found these early coltsfoot flowers beside the loch but dangerously close to a place were fishermen park their vans – let’s hope they survive!

And, just to round off this quick photo tour, here’s a nice view of the loch itself: