I said "OK" with a heavy heart, knowing it was a long walk in from Ballachulish up Gleann an Fhiodh over terrain that is as awkward to negotiate as Gaelic names are to pronounce.
He must have heard my lack of enthusiasm mixed in with dutiful obligation plod mode on the phone because he then said....
"Ah, but I've found a better way up that's half the distance of the normal route up. And it cuts out all the pine forest trudge you hate."
As it was a fine forecast I agreed.
First thing I noticed driving up to Tyndrum in the car was the new set of flying swans on the Balloch roundabout. It's OK but I still think they could do better with splashes of bold primary colours here and a flower or heather display around the base. Tourists love flowers and heather. Ironically, there is a perfect example in Balloch itself, not far away.(I know that one has turned into an unintended wildlife haven but you could keep any vegetation low level and bunny free up here.) Most garden displays are more inviting than this roundabout :o) Enough said.
Both of us remarked on the drive up past Tyndrum on how rarely we travel beyond this point anymore. Although close to Oban this hill would cost us £15 each in petrol. To fill an average petrol tank full is £60 now and one return trip past Fort William will account for that easily. It's an expensive business now collecting hills and no longer an "open to everyone" pastime unless you hitch hike everywhere. The back edge of Glen Lochy just past Tyndrum itself.
Lovely carved wooden board catching the morning sunshine outside the Church at Connel. We stopped here in the village for breakfast around 8:30 am. A beautiful windless day.
Loch Etive. Although it looks tranquil here this spot is a favourite place for kayakers and divers as the tidal race through the narrows of the Falls of Lora under the nearby bridge at Connel in prime conditions gives a white water adrenalin rush for those bold and skilled enough to attempt it. Intense and short lived but good fun.
Never spotted a pine marten as they are mainly nocturnal but the difference between the green desert that is regimented pine plantation so evident nearby and this natural mixed forest and mountain meadow environment is always noticeable. Abundant birdsong, the screech of jays overhead, woodpeckers hammering everywhere, the first early cuckoo. Nature by the truckload. In the middle of a pine plantation- complete silence and very little wildlife except near the margins.
It's very easy to do. All you need is a shovel, a waterproof liner that you can buy from any garden centre and an 18 inches deep by three or four foot long hole. Clear your hole of any sharp rocks or obstructions, spread in a bag of B&Q £3 builders sand to make a smooth bed for your liner to sit on then put in water. If you cant manage a sunken pond then you can get a plastic container moulded pond or cheap tub and simply build a rock or earth ramp up to that. As long as its easy enough for frogs to crawl in and out of then they will find it. You can hide the edges of an elevated tub or raised pond with flowerpots. I've got a ring of empty plastic bird ball tubs and B&Q orange buckets filled with flowers around mine. Ultra cheap yet effective and you can always paint them green (outside parts only of course as any paint in the pond will kill the pond life) if you want.
Being a wildlife pond it's low maintenance and you do not require a fountain, bubbles or pump of any kind. Keep a filled bucket of tap water handy outside*( needs 3 days standing open to get rid of any chlorine before you pour it into the pond.) The water plants and aquatic weeds do the rest by providing oxygen and filtering out toxins and all you need is a bucket top up now and again if it doesn't rain much. It's that easy.
Video this week is an outdoor garden pond. Most of the other videos I looked at were far too ambitious, involving major money outlay, mechanical diggers, and pumps whereas this guy is basic, cheap and cheerful. It shouldn't cost money other than a waterproof liner and a bit of canny invention. He's just a beginner of course, and prefers fish, but he's got enthusiasm and the right attitude which is all you need to start. Everyone thinks ponds are expensive but you can get an idea from this as to how basic and cheap it can actually be. All you need is a little wooden ramp on one side of this tub and a brick shelf under the water at one end to let the frogs in and out easily enough and give the tadpoles a shallow space to rest and climb out once they are baby frogs - no fish of course - and you have a wildlife pond. For 8 dollars. Simple! Hours of summer fun.
for the slightly more ambitious however this video below gives you an idea of what a moulded or sunken waterproof liner pond would look like. Modest size but perfect for frogs once you toss out any fish. Don't need a pump or running water either for frogs and the tadpoles eat any mosquito larvae. A nice video below.