“The Field” Kinlochard
“The Field” isn’t really a field. It’s doubtful anyone in Kinlochard actually thinks of it as that. It was once “John Anderson’s Field”, before it became “Ron Stewart’s Field” ( and the Duke of Montrose’s before both) but the area of land shown in the map below – bordered by the Water of Chon to the North, the yellow (tar) Lochard Cottages road to the East and the lilac Forestry line, South and West – is probably too large, too rough, too varied and too wild to be properly considered a field, whatever the names pencilled on its title.
It is designated “improved grassland” (James Hutton Institute, Macaulay Grade 5.2 & 5.3 – plenty names there) and has been grazed, and managed, in the past. An old sheep fank (remembered in Ian MacDonald’s Memories of Kinlochard ) – and more besides – can be made out beneath the bracken and on late 19th Century maps.
Also visible on the ground are the remains of the water supply system for the 24 Forestry Commission Cottages to the East – whose first inhabitants preceded, by quite some time, the arrival of both electricity and mains water to their homes.
Although only a small part of the human traffic that “The Field” has known over the years is recorded here, a measure of the longevity of that most fundamental of relationships – between place and people – is suggested through reference to historic usage, artefacts found and oral histories noted; something of its depth too can be grasped in each of the testimonies that follow.
Names can be given, changed, disputed, taken or lost like anything else – anonymity alone is timeless, change inevitable – in the best of circumstance what we choose to call a place grows, like maps, from the place itself and the conversation it gives rise to.
Perhaps “The Field” awaits its proper name like the folk waited for power and water. In the meantime, it remains just “The Field” – in the same way that ours is just “The Planet”.
What would the world be, once bereft Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left, O let them be left, wildness and wet; Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
From “Inversnaid” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
If you’d like to contribute your memories of “The Field” to this page, they would be very welcome. As would any information on its previous names.
Our Own Way Home
I have the pleasure of calling Kinlochard my childhood home, and it’s now the place where we are bringing up our own children.
I remember well using the field and its woods to play in after school – my two brothers, sister and I all went to Kinlochard Primary School.
My mother used to allow us to make our own way home via the land on either side of the Chon – it was a magical play area for all us kids. It felt as though we were alone on the planet, big and fearless adventurers, when we played. I’m sure that the beady eyes of the village were on us so we were never that alone.
As we grew older the field and woods never lost any importance to us. As teenagers we had a lot of fun mucking about in the woods and swimming in the river. It was a vital piece of wilderness so close to our village. For those with smaller gardens it has been a really important piece of public space for many years.
And more recently – when my ten year old children were just beginning their walking we used to go up there with a flask of hot chocolate on an “expedition”.
Today we still use the field and woods to explore in, and use it as a joined up walk with the forest road above it to make a big walk up to Loch Dhu.
The Heart of Kinlochard
When I first came to look at my house in Kinlochard, I was blown away by the feeling of raw nature and seclusion. This begins at the very land that is now threatened with development. While most of the lochside land is given up to agriculture and private gardens/business, and the forests to tree farming by Forestry and Land Scotland, the land in question is a rare jewel in unspoilt, undeveloped natural beauty. I defy anyone to stand at the top of the forestry cottages, stare to the hills in the north-west and not feel a deep sense of connection to nature, to Scotland.
In the past 8 years, I’ve enjoyed the land in many different ways. My daughter, only two years old when we moved to the village, and I often enjoyed hikes across the land to visit the connection that takes us up to the forestry track and beyond. A particularly quiet walk when faced with summer tourism. Our walks have differed over the years, from me carrying her, to adventurous hikes as she got older, to her dragging me up the hill (and inevitably her carrying me in a few years, I hope!). Together we’ve searched for (and found) snakes, climbed the hill at the back to watch the sunrise in Winter and sledged back down when the snow had fallen.
More recently, in the last couple of years, I have used the clean, clear waters of the Chon to practise cold water swimming for greater control of my mental health, at least five times per week. These are often either started or finished with a chat with other local residents, a catch-up on recent events and going-ons.
For me, the land is more than just a piece of undeveloped real estate, it is the very character of Kinlochard. It is the essence from which Kinlochard draws its raw natural feel, it is the area which people pass through to start their journey into nature, and it sets the very welcome that stands Kinlochard apart from other areas. For this land to be developed would be to remove the heart from Kinlochard and replace it with just another development.
I have walked this field time after time, its boundaries: the Chon rotting into itself. I have shot this field with a bow – and missed, watched adders coil around my arrow. I have flown down it, skimming deep snow on a borrowed surfboard. I have collected this field, the things which wash up in it: black buckets, tadpoles and shoes. I have scoured this field for evening sunlight, constellations and sanity. It swore red lines on my shins as I charged manically through it and lent me questions as I walked.
Walking The Secret Garden
We’ve been using the area regularly since we first moved here in Feb 2016. It’s a safe space for Eve to explore the outdoors. We’re always finding new things – be that plants or insects etc. It was always a quiet place away from noise and people which Eve never liked.
We’ve done everything from bug hunts to fungi and tree identification. We’ve found the usual insects from beetles to millipedes. Eve loves to watch the birds too and has seen many a robin, her favourite bird.
Eve loves looking for fungi as it’s all so different and visual. She also likes leaves and the different shapes and patterns. We’re always taking home leaves to identify in our books.
Eve also loves the river. In the summer we have paddled across in bare feet. We’ve tried to spot fish too. Eve likes looking at how the river changes over time and with rainfall. I suppose that’s what comes of having a geography teacher for a mother! Lol.
Eve says “ I like walking through the secret garden”. That’s what we call it. She says she wants to “explore more of the river”.
Sarah & Eve Alderman
A Good, An Important Place
My first memories up the back are of sledging and snow. It was the snake field in summer, but in winter when we could be surer the adders were resting, we would come with sledges and boogie boards, finding the hills in among the heather to career down – an easier task when all of us were wee (now it’s just me). Later, and in warmer days, I took friends up next to the burn, so we could pop in for a swim in the pool higher up. Most recently, I’d trudge through on lockdown walks and short-runs – an easy space to suddenly be above the village, and out of my head, for a wee bit. The field at the back is a good, an important, place.
The Land of Oak, Birch and Bog Myrtle
by Janine Finlay
“Does it have a view of nature? And, does it have a wild place we can walk Catty?”
Taking a cat for a walk may seem low on the list of priorities when buying a house, but it was one of ‘the’ most important factors when we were on the hunt for a home in 2016. I suspect schools, shops and public transport are the things most people look for. However, here in Kinlochard none of the aforementioned exist – what is plentiful though, is nature. Jamie and I moved to Scotland in 2011; living as close to nature as possible was something we both valued deeply and was the motivation behind our move from London.
When we first moved to a rental property in rural Scotland, our cat Catty Kizn (dragged kicking and meowing from the big city of London), discovered the joyful art of running across wide open fields. So, it was essential she could do the same from our forever home. We could not deny her this pleasure, or there most certainly would be trouble. A happy household is one with a contented cat, (or so she would have us believe).
Jamie (his father being a Scot), already knew a lot about Scotland’s wild landscape, a landscape I didn’t encounter until the noughties – on a mountain walking holiday, a work filming trip around the highlands, and during a wedding on the Isle of Gigha. During these visits, I made the exciting discovery that whilst Scotland has many remote and gorgeous wild places, some of them (like Kinlochard) are close enough to civilisation to earn a decent living. This, I would later find out, is a closely guarded secret!
Nature has been an essential part of my life – having grown up in New Zealand where wild camping, wild swimming, and ‘tramping’ (that is, walking in the wilds, often with the unwelcome company of sandflies, a beefed-up version of Scottish midges) were all second nature. Had I not gotten into The New Zealand Broadcasting School, my back up plan was to study forestry at Canterbury University, so it was no surprise I ended up working as a science and nature documentary director living in a place next to a forest. Many people live here for the same reasons – they love nature, and want to live in it, but need to be within commutable distance to work opportunities.
The pocket of land that faces the 24 ex-Forestry Commission cottages in which some of our little community live, seems (and feels) very wild and untamed. It most definitely cannot be called a ‘field’! For the purposes of this piece of life writing, I will call it “The Land of Oak, Birch & Bog Myrtle” or LOBB for short. LOBB has not been used for many years, except by the locals – who know where to seek out the meandering little tracks amongst the bracken and heather, with their dogs, (and cats as the case may be)! It is an endearing place – on the one hand, the low heather and bracken mean you can see up and down the valley for miles if doing the breath-taking circular walk up to the Forestry Labour Road – whilst at the same time, it has lots of hidden spots, little hillocks, knolls, dips and troughs, with various habitats. There are hundreds of intriguing little animal trails, and plants and insects are plentiful – there are even some wild orchids. Various stands of birch and grassy clearings give way to some of the most magnificent oaks in the village.
There’s an extremely peaceful and pretty river on the border of LOBB – a great place to sit and meditate. And there’s absolutely tons of bog myrtle – giving the landscape a rusty red tinge, as if someone has flicked a coat of paint across it – a colour I’ve not really seen in a natural setting before. In fact, my literacy for bog myrtle only began when I moved to Kinlochard. We had never been introduced, but its smell means you cannot miss it when you brush past – it’s intoxicating! On every walk through LOBB, I rub the little catkins between my fingers, and breathe in the delicious vapours, which I guess you could say are quite citrusy. A good few of my neighbours have informed this particular non-native
(well, semi non-native, as my grandfather was a Scot), that bog myrtle repels midges – a welcome ally when the midges outnumber our community in the summer (by the trillions apparently)!
Despite being anti-midge, bog myrtle (I found out) remarkedly supports almost 70 species of other insects and provides something to chew on for some mammals too, including feral goats, which have been known to roam round here. It is in fact the only bog myrtle I’ve ever come across in Scotland (and I have been up to my waist in bog on many a mountain walk) and is the only swathe of it I’ve seen in and around the village. Environmental organisation ‘Trees for Life’ report that in the Central Belt and Borders of Scotland, there are only scattered populations of bog myrtle, due to the lack of wet bog. And wet bog in and of itself is an extremely important type of habitat, locking up carbon.
Even though LOBB is a small pocket of land in the big wide world, seemingly insignificant to a passer-by, it is most certainly worth a great deal to many of the residents in our community. When I left the film unit at the World Wildlife Fund, my colleagues gifted me a book called ‘Britain and Ireland’s Best Wild Places’ by Christopher Somerville. What struck me about the book, is that you don’t need to travel to Alaska, the Amazon, or Antarctica to ‘go wild’. We have wild places too, right here in Britain. They are often small and perhaps overlooked if you consider ‘wild’ on a grandiose scale. But they are just as important. And even more so as we lose some of our bigger, more monumental natural habitats, those that support diversity, and natural systems of the Earth, such as the aforementioned Amazon. Of course, Christopher Somerville didn’t write about ‘LOBB’ in his book, but if it was up to our community, I don’t doubt it would be worthy of a small mention. Indeed, during the Community Life Plan consultations, our community designated LOBB as one of our special places and a sensitive zone on a map of our village.
As far as community is concerned, I consider the bog myrtle, the birch, the oak, the badgers, the slowworms (which I’ve witnessed on LOBB with Catty on a sunny day) to be as big a part of the community as ‘us’ humans. This is perhaps, for some, too animist a view. However, increasingly science and psychology are finding ways to explain this human-nature connection, in disciplines such as Ecopsychology, Goethean science, Shamanic Practice, Forest Bathing, Mindfulness in Nature, Wilderness Therapy, Deep Ecology, Wild Crafting and Foraging (to name just a few). Over the years I have trained in some of these modalities because of my love for nature.
It is through these practices I have been able to build relationship with an old majestic oak growing on LOBB. It sits within a grassy clearing, its double trunk and branches reaching towards the heavens, but it is curiously hidden from view, due to its position in a secret little hollow in the land. One of my teacher trainers had asked me to find a tree near my home, I could spend time with for a whole year. The rustling sound of my jacket, alerted Catty Kizn to the fact I was going for a walk to find my tree.
Rex the dog tagged along too. But it was Catty that led the way – and there it was, in a magical fairy-like clearing, next to a huge old boulder rooted in the landscape, surrounded on all sides by a circle of birch. Clever Catty!
The old oak tree has become quite an important part of my life. I visit it on a regular basis for quiet contemplation and meditation, and I suppose a little bit of sanctuary. Throughout the seasons, I’ve noted the changes in leaf cover, the grass height, the insects living in its bark, and the wide variety of chirping birds. I’ve also clocked that someone else in the village likes the trees on LOBB as much as me – recently noticing a small bottle of herbs placed inside a hollow within a different oak.
I have also recently discovered the myriad of badger tracks across LOBB. At the end of the winter / beginning of spring, it’s possible to see their narrow tracks meandering down to the little streams, across grassy ridges, and in and around bordering fence lines. And I’ve spotted more than just badgers. Last year, I came across a study about waxcaps (a type of mushroom) that grow in grassland habitat. It was only a few days later when I happened
across my first ever find of scarlet waxcaps – on LOBB! I am a devoted amateur mushroom forager, but I had never found scarlet waxcaps. According to the environmental charity ‘Plantlife’ the UK has some of the most important waxcap grasslands in the world … “with Wales and Scotland supporting over half of all waxcap fungi in the UK.”
Apparently waxcaps can only grow where there have been no artificial fertilisers, or ploughing, leaving the soil with a higher amount of nutrients. Although more ecological expertise is warranted, ‘LOBB’ could be a very precious landscape indeed. And, situated next to a commercial forest, LOBB is probably one of the only diverse habitats we have here in the village that supports such a wide variety of life. You can see so much (other-than-monetary) value in the landscape when you spend time in it.
Joanna Macy PhD, the David Attenborough of the Ecopsychology world, (and one of my all-time heroes), believes we need to be looking at our world (landscape and natural places), from the perspective of ‘deep time’ – that is, how we want it to be in seven generations, roughly two centuries from now. This is perhaps a useful way for me to look at LOBB, to consider … what’s in store for our LOBB in the years to come? Would future generations be happy with a sustainable hydro on the river, providing clean, cost-free energy to the community? A forest garden feeding the neighbourhood? A haven for nature to continue to thrive and be enjoyed by all? A fundament of ecopsychology is a belief that looking after and caring for the outer ‘non-human’ world (species, diversity, landscape, natural systems) also benefits the inner ‘human’ world, in a kind of mutual reciprocity.
There’s also a movement in ecopsychology called ‘The Great Turning’ – an essential adventure of our time, to transition away from the narratives of industrial growth to a life sustaining civilisation. And I guess LOBB is as good a place to start as any. LOBB is a living breathing system, who has improved my lived experience – I personally see LOBB as an intrinsic part of this community. I have even heard one person mention LOBB as the ‘character’ of the village. And I dearly hope in many generations to come, the land can be enjoyed and treasured by many more – humans and cats alike!
The Field Over The Back
‘The field over the back’ has featured to varying degrees in my life since early 1994 when I moved to Kinlochard. A bit of a treasure really, and all the more as it – and we – face potential changes ahead, both in terms of ownership and possibly literally its nature and function as an informal but important place for several members of our community.
Ownership has often been a factor for me in how at ease I have been in using the field. The tracks were there before me and will hopefully be there well after me. Many generations before me walked and toiled in the field. The holding tank up towards the top has always represented an important viewing point for the Forestry Houses and for Loch Ard. One of my favourite walks with whichever dog we had at the time, would be a hike up from home at Mill of Chon, up the track by the brick-built barn, up towards the top to the holding tank and then across to the turning circle. Done umpteen times and only off limits if the bracken was too high or a rather assertive owner was in the vicinity. It’s just a magical circuit that gives me a bit of everything – including ticks and midges!
Ownership has an impact on my usage and also on how the field has been managed over the years. When we first came here, there wasn’t a brick barn. It emerged following the re-build of some ‘redundant’ farm buildings in front of Mill of Chon by John A. Where the broken-down “stable” is now was the obvious remnants of a quarry from where, our assumption is, the stones that built Mill of Chon (circa 1750) were mined.
When Ron S took on the ownership the issue of its future escalated in our consciousness and the fragility of all that we liked about the field was brought into sharp relief with the cutting down of several substantial oak trees. That was especially distressing.
Being able to take friends and visitors across the field has been a wonderful experience. As the field has been given less attention in the past years it has enjoyed a regeneration. Wildlife is at ease there – as are us humans. It feels like a very settled place, with the wonderful Water of Chon being an important boundary set by nature. What’s interesting is that when I am out there I rarely meet anyone – it’s a magical, large and open space.
So for me it represents a place of peace, at one with nature and sometimes with myself.
We moved to Kinlochard in 1999. Keen on outdoor activities it seemed like an ideal place to live where we could commute to work but be able to walk, cycle, canoe and sail in beautiful surroundings without having to use a car. In our first couple of years here we explored extensively and The Field became a regular route to access the forest tracks as well as our favourite way to wander and explore the Water of Chon.
When our children came along The Field became a favourite walk – it saved us having to walk along the road and, unlike many of the tracks and paths around here, we weren’t surrounded by tall conifers.
There are several bits of The Field that have special memories. There’s a place in the river with stepping stones and a wee island where we’ve gone regularly over the years to paddle and guddle. As the girls got older they went with their friends in the village – playing without adult supervision was a real luxury.
The water tank has always been a ‘go to’ place for me. When we got our first dog I went up there every day and sat on the edge of the water tank admiring the view while Jess ran around sniffing where the deer had lain, bounding over the heather. When life gets too busy or complicated I go up there and sit and always return home a bit lighter. Our latest dog Fern absolutely loves The Field – the sense of joy she has as she races up and down the hillside can’t help but make me smile.
One year when the girls were younger we had a really heavy snowfall and they soon got bored of sledging down the wee grassy hill at the Cottages. We went into The Field and found a steep slope with not too much heather and bracken – it was perfect as it had a natural barrier at the bottom to slow them down – what a brilliant afternoon the village children had. I can remember their joy when one of them flew over the ‘safety barrier’ at the bottom for the first time and landed in one piece on the other side!
A really hot day one Summer, with some friends in the village, we started a journey at the road bridge over the Chon and walked up the riverbed until we reached a brilliant pool for swimming. We’d taken a picnic but the midges forced us out of the river and on to the hillside in The Field to eat our lunch. Sitting there at the top of the hill, looking down on the village, with our friends, discussing the next stage of our adventure is such a happy memory.
As a family we’ve always picked brambles. I remember picking them with my Mum and Granny and my children will too. The Field is one of our favourite picking spots – and when the picking is not great there, we go through the field, over the stile and up onto the track where we always find loads.
On a walk in The Field one day we went up to the water tank and cut across the hill to go down towards the car park. Heather, our eldest daughter was about 11 at the time and she ventured on to a mossy, boggy area close to a little stream. Her foot sank in over her wellies and as she pulled her foot out she left her welly in the ground. Her other welly came off as she tried to get out and our dog ran off with it! Heather was stuck in a wet mossy hole with very wet feet and I had to stick my hand in the hole to pull her boot out. We got her out and retrieved her other welly from the dog but there was a water filled hole where she’d been – it’s still there now ten years on. This walk is now referred to as Heather’s Hole!
The field has changed a lot in the last 20 years. It has not been grazed so it’s become a really diverse natural habitat. When we’re surrounded by coniferous woodland it is so nice to have a place to walk among deciduous trees and heather. It’s also a place where you can go to avoid our busy tracks and lochside. It’s a special place – treasured by my family for so many reasons.
As you grow older you realise how important belonging is, I’m lucky, I’ve always felt I belonged, A strong family, growing up in one house, in one place. By the time my parents moved, I belonged somewhere else, I had been to new places with new communities to which I connected, I always had my parents to return to – connected to them, not the place. I love this place – Kinlochard – my home for over 20 years, I love my community, I love this PLACE – I belong here, And one of my treasured places is The Field. A wild place, a beautiful place, a peaceful place, A place where I go and look down on our village, our loch, our river and feel so lucky, I feel so lucky to belong here. My children who we’ve chosen to bring up here, Have a real connection to this place, They belong here too. The Field is an important part of Our Place, We’ve walked, sledged, guddled, wandered, gazed, paddled, laughed, cried and argued in that field, It’s important to us, it’s part of what we belong to.
A Favourite Patch on The Planet
The land opposite The Cottages has become one of my favourite patches on the planet.
Over 5-or-so years of leisurely exploration with the cat and the dog, I have come to know most of its nooks and crannies. And there are many! Wee burns and bogs, patches of oak with some big old trees, birch copses, hillocks of tussock grass and heather.
Its wet woodlands and thatches of bog myrtle – which sparkle after a shower and fill the air with their perfume – are locally uncommon and therefore all the more precious.
The section by the Water of Chon is spectacular, with its series of waterfalls and plunge pools set in a steep-sided gorge cloaked in fragrant oakwood filled with bracken and blaeberry.
The high grassy ground near the Cottages’ old water tank has stunning vistas of the Loch and the surrounding hills, and provides the best view of my home nestling within all the loveliness. This view also serves to highlight how unique this area is: an island of native habitat within an ocean of commercial forestry. I wonder sometimes if it became some kind of fabled promised land for non-human refugees displaced by the planting, because it is unusually rich in wildlife. I’ve seen and heard many bird species, including woodpeckers and owls. I’ve watched deer grazing peacefully on many occasions. On a recent walk there with someone with ecological expertise, she identified the signs of badgers and considered the stretch of river well-suited to water voles and otters, which are sighted locally.
Perhaps most famously, the land is known for its abundant reptile population, such that it was once given the name “Adder Park” by village children. There are old sheets of corrugated iron which, if carefully lifted on spring and summer mornings, reveal a society of slow worms or adders warming their blood beneath. One time, I discovered an albino slow worm under one, which looked like a creature from another world.
It has also been drawn to my attention that the ecology may need a helping hand in places, for example, small patches of dying heather are appearing which may indicate a fungal infection. For me, this is the most important reason why the land should be under the mindful stewardship of the community. If we cannot relearn to see the real world on our doorsteps, and take responsibility for its health – particularly, the spots which provide a launchpad for biodiversity- then we should abandon hope!
The second reason is the sense of peace the place affords, a peace which still feels like it belongs to the community alone, and which is a glorious relief during the sunny months when our village is inundated and occupied by tourists. It seems extraordinary and wrong to me that this land could still have agricultural designation, it having been upwards of 50 years since it was last grazed. Surely, this length of time should be sufficient to grant a native ecosystem, doing its own thing undisturbed for so long, squatters’ rights? Certainly for me, now I am beginning to get to know it, it can only be considered a wild place.
Jamie McKenzie Hamilton
Shared Paths To The Peace of Wild Things
I walk through it most days and notice the changing of the days, weeks, seasons. I see precious and protected plant life and evidence of wildlife of all sorts, some ‘protected’, some not. I hear water and birds and wind and trees still and moving. I feel reeds and grasses and heather and mosses around and under my feet and legs. I smell earth and rain and flowers and honey in the pollen and on the bees. I sense the stress of the world falling away as I navigate along shared paths beaten down by the feet of friends and neighbours past and present. I dip deep into the woodland for privacy and peace and quiet… the peace of wild things where the wood drake lies… to paraphrase Wendell Berry’s beautifully crafted poem.
It is too distressing to think about it not being there or in a vastly different form. Perhaps nature will always win out over the ‘need’ for development. It has before and I hope it will do so again.
On Solid Ground
Over the course of the time – since 1998 – that we’ve been here, there’s been a reduction in places to walk in and around the village itself. I miss the lochside fields, as well as the paths taken out by wind-fell.
“The Field” is one of the few areas of (more or less) undeveloped land in Kinlochard where practical access and considerate usage has not been problematised. And it’s on our doorstep. In large part because of this, “The Field” has given me far more than Lomond, Venue or just about any of the land around. When I don’t have time, inclination or the legs for the Forest or Ledard – or, as is also increasingly the case, they’re teeming with visitors – I come here, daunder Chon-side and back by the water-tank or cross the boundary-fence to join the forest road. And return home, usually in better sorts.
It’s a surprisingly varied bit of land: open heath, native woodland, bog-marsh and river – a useful reminder of what was more widespread before the Cottages and the trees that the folk that came to live in them planted – and it supports a similarly rich and diverse range of life, including the human.
I, for one, owe it quite a bit:
A trout or two (the bairns’ first fishing); hammock-based nature-appreciation; camp-fire cooking on snowed-off school-days; hillock-sledging; river-bed-walking; a Royal Society’s worth of Splendid Adventure & Marvellous Expedition; magic-leaf-dancing; world-noticing; just walking; paddling & pluttering; solace, comfort & joy; simply being; a thousand conversations and connections; scratchings of poetry… and all this on top of the blaeberries, brambles, mushrooms, kindling, xmas-trees and hazel sticks, thank you very much.
Viewed from the old hill-top water-tank the Strathness of Strathard makes itself plain: East and West, Ard and Chon, river between. From here the lie of the land offers you the truth of its story – turns out it’s also our own. To treasure or trash.
To the South the slopes where adders and slow worms bask – and lizards and the wary keep an open eye. North – the wee gorge, fisherman’s path, the dens where village youngsters have played out their futures, the pools and falls where the water has recited their names since time began. Gravel beaches where bottles lie buried from long-forgotten riverside picnics of variously imagined kind. The outline of a building, felt through boot, beneath the bracken. The sheep fank – a sudden outrageous tumult amidst the tranquil. The boggy path main drag to Stronmacnair, Comer and Lomond beyond. The rise opposite the Cottages where, one might speculate, had a deer appeared one day and found itself in the kitchen of every house the next, no one – except perhaps the deer – would have been altogether surprised.
Stories, and sightings: the osprey returning, heron fishing, dipper dipping, the ragged black fox, the pine-marten with the gammy leg, assorted deer, sky-falls of bats, geese skeins, swallows; all manner of insects and beasties – most beyond my ken. Owl, cuckoo, wood-pecker and grasshopper-warbler making their presence known; otter, badger and squirrel leaving theirs. And that not the half of it.
It’s a remarkable wee place, immeasurably valuable, it would make an interesting case-study for thinking about some of the processes associated with partial or “managed” re-wilding. It could probably use a wee bit TLC too.
Above all else “The Field” has given me more than its share of the connections without which life would be meagre fare. Connection, first and foremost with the land itself and the life it supports, and through that with all the human lives – lived, living and yet to be – which have left their mark on it, or will, and which it too has a part in shaping. It helps me feel grounded enough to reach that bit beyond. It’s not too much to say that when I’m here – there – I’m in Kinlochard and everywhere, properly a part of this Earth.
When we moved into Number 1 in 1998, the only tree opposite was the Big Oak. The barn wasn’t there – it was later that John Anderson had the diggers in to clear the area ready for the barn and putting in a septic-tank. When he decided to move into a caravan in the barn, somehow he managed to get the “street-light” power diverted to it.
After we’d moved in, Wilf at Number 2. had given me all the bulbs for the “street-light” across the road from us, announcing that I was younger than him and my steps were longer.
One of the many stories Wilf would tell was about how he and the other guys in the Forestry houses would regularly have to clear the filter at the pump-house on the Chon that supplied their water – especially in the Autumn and Winter with leaves and ice.
When Thomas was young we would have adventures in the field, and picnics sitting on the old water tank (or to him “the fort”)… and taking him to feed Kenny’s horses up on the little plateau next to the waterfall. There was at that time a stile opposite our house next to the Big Oak – it stopped you getting wet feet on the path next to the barn John built.
My name is Colin Kelly; I’m 72 years old and live in Kinlochard.
The countryside to the west of the village is the only area of open countryside which has natural regeneration within Kinlochard. It is a much valued oasis in our immediate countryside otherwise dominated by commercial forestry. This oasis over the years has developed naturally into habitats that have helped increase the biodiversity in the area. It supports adders, slow worms, badgers, water voles, frogs, newts, etc. It is a valuable hunting ground for short-ear owls and the tawny owls hunting the wooded boundary.
The river Chon on the north boundary of this land is frequented by otters. The otters have been filmed along with water voles visiting garden ponds etc surrounding the field.
I regularly walk over this area with my dogs between October and March enjoying the open expanse and views of the surrounding hills. However I do not walk over the area in the spring and summer months to help minimise disturbance to adders and nesting birds.
At night I like star-gazing and listening to owls hooting and screeching. The night sky is beautiful with abundant stars which are visible because we have virtually no light pollution. We also have next to no noise pollution which makes star-gazing a very enjoyable and calming experience.
The LLTNP Mission Statement below could have been written especially for this area and the expectation is that it will remain as an asset to the community for many years to come.
Our mission is to protect and enhance Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. The National Park covers an area of outstanding landscapes, habitats and communities – and it’s our job to protect it, and reduce the impact of visitor and recreational pressures.”
The Whole of Kinlochard, The Whole of My Life
I’ve lived in Kinlochard my whole life (almost 17 years) and my first memory of the field was when I was really little – catching my first fish in the Chon. It was a tiddler that we threw back and I’d love to say that I’m now an avid fisher, but no – I do believe that it was my first and last catch, but it will always be remembered as such.
I can’t reminisce of long summer days spent in the field either, because to be honest, I avoid it from March to October – the result of an encounter with some of its more slithery inhabitants during an archery practice when I was younger. But I do notice the loss of it in Summer. Last year, I spent more time in Kinlochard than I’d done since my fish-catching days, and I became particularly fond of my daily ‘wimpy walk’ across the field. I remember with particular sadness the day that the sun broke out in late March and I realised that the field season had ended. I took an apple, sat down by the river, and made my passage across the field and out at the top of the road.
I kept a diligent journal through 2020/21, documenting all the things that might change in the future so I don’t forget them. 26.02.21: “As I write this I’m sitting at the top of the snakey field looking over the loch. It’s cold (I was fooled by the sun so came out in a t-shirt) but I’m quite content – I do love Kinlochard when I see it like this.”
You can see the whole of Kinlochard from that mound at the top of the field where I sat (and worried about snakes hibernating underneath) and I watched over it regularly like my own little kingdom.
My whole life (almost 17 years) I’ve romanticised the idea of having a tree – a tree that I can climb up into and read in for hours on end. And last year, I found it. I only visited it a few times, in the winter months when it was too cold to linger – but it’s there nonetheless, my search has ended, and should I ever need it, I would like to think that my tree would be there.