Being up north last week gave me the opportunity to test out Clifton Bain’s The Ancient Pinewoods of Scotland: A Companion Guide, by visiting one of the most northerly of the pinewoods in Glen Alladale.
You can read about this estate, which belongs to the enterprising and controversial Paul Lister in this article by Cameron MacNeish. My main aim was to test Clifton’s book, newly published in pocket format, and to enjoy exploring one of my favourite habitats, ancient pinewood.
I’m increasingly of the view that one should explore Scottish habitats according to the weather:
If it’s a sunny, blustery day, go to see the peat bogs sparkle.
If it’s cool with high cloud, hike up the Munros to see the alpines.
If it’s hot and sultry, go to a white-sand beach for a swim.
And if it’s rainy, go to the forest, which will shelter you and also looks its best in the rain. Just one excellent reason Scotland’s forests should be restored to a much larger extent.
Caledonian pine forests feel biodiverse. They buzz and flutter with things, and there’s always the hope of Red squirrels and Crossbills: I had an unconfirmed glimpse of the latter, a departing flash of crimson.
The book was all a companion guide should be: properly pocket-sized with a shower-proof cover doubling as a marker, with easily followed directions (designed so you can explore by public transport – but we didn’t), and a clear description. Ideally one would have the delicious coffee-table edition waiting back home, with the full text on the cultural heritage of these pine forests: the pocket version merely hints at a ‘sad tale of the Clearances’.
So begins the challenge of Bain Bagging: visiting all the ancient woods of Scotland. There are 38 pine forest to collect, and then there is the companion volume of the Atlantic Rainforests, which are all over Britain and Ireland.
I’m looking forward to collecting more, if I’m lucky enough to get wet days…