Saturday, 28 May 2016

Loch Ard. Water World. Lords of the Reedy River.

                                              ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
I've always enjoyed a wide range of outdoor sports and will have a go at most things to see if I like it as that's just the way I'm made. ( As highlighted in my comedy novel Autohighography)
Although I enjoy hill walking and I'm very lucky to have a group of friends to go out with nearly every weekend I sometimes get frustrated by the seeming unwillingness of everyone around me to embrace the same kaleidoscopic approach to the outdoors -for a large section of the outdoor fraternity over the last 40 years it has to be hill walking every week and nothing else but hill walking. I also enjoy cycling, rural rambles, beach walks, caving, island bagging (just for the sake of it and not to capture a high point as the prime motive :o) urban city explorations, flower photography, wildlife, sex with penguins, day's out with furry triangular aliens, and anything else that comes to mind.
Most folk are not like that and tend to stick to one hobby at a time so years can go by before I meet someone like Alan, seen above, who is willing to try out other pursuits if you suggest them instead of the usual "but this is a hill walking club!?!!!" and " Why would we do anything else?!!!". People like him are surprisingly few in number so when he expressed an interest in kayaking, and already liked cycling and any kind of walk as long as it was interesting, I knew I had found a like minded person like myself. Ben Lomond looking huge and impressive seen from Loch Ard.
I used to go kayaking many years ago with various friends, mainly around interesting inland lochs, quiet rivers without rapids, or easy coastal areas with islands and  really enjoyed the freedom it offered to go anywhere on the water.
Loch Ard was a highlight then and still is; a small lesser known Scottish loch on the edge of The Trossachs district with a few scattered islands, a crannog, and great views towards Ben Lomond, 974 metres, Scotland's most southerly Munro. All the views around the 5 km long Loch Ard are delightful but the best features are its sheltered nature, its beautiful ever changing scenery and its necklace of watery attractions. This is Alan heading for a small island with a ruined castle on it.
Passing over a sunken tree. Kayaking is great fun but there are obvious dangers, including drowning, freezing to death from exposure, and getting hit by other faster moving craft or capsizing in their wake. Obviously, we are both wearing appropriate buoyancy jackets here,(or life jackets if you have them instead) we have picked a calm day and we are within swimming distance of the shoreline. I used to kayak alone sometimes (due to a lack of partners) but this is never a good idea in case anything happens. These £60 each inflatable kayaks are very stable and fairly sturdy but obviously they should only be used on calm inland waters, easy rivers without strong currents, or placid close to shore coastal trips to visit nearby offshore islands without a strong tidal flow. Being open plan they would be hard to Eskimo roll successfully without a sudden intake of water but as long as you accept their limitations they are fine for the money for folk on a budget using outdoor learned common sense.
As we were informed by a family we met on the loch it was £60 pounds to hire Canadian canoes for an overnight camping trip so it works out good value for money and I prefer these for stability and comfort in bad conditions, having tried both types. These have two separate inflatable chambers and additional flotation bags inside plus a webbing mesh to carry some additional gear on board within limits.(ie a small rucksack.) A sealed waterproof box ( cheap £2 plastic freezer containers that clip shut are fine) to hold essentials like a wallet, car keys, mobile phone. and camera.) You could pack in more luggage in the space behind the seat as long as you watched overall weight limits.
At the top end of the loch it is more open and this is where they hire out canoes and run a small water sports business for tourists. A safety boat and canoe instruction seems to be going on here with this large group of youngsters exploring the loch which is wide and open at this point.
There were a few other kayakers paddling around Loch Ard in more conventional type craft but I always found the main problem with the rigid models, like these, I had years ago, was one of storage and transportation, which could be a problem. Both inflatable kayaks and gear fit into the boot or the back seat of a car without requiring a roof rack which is handy nowadays and only take 10 mins to pump up. They are not as fast through the water for long distance work or serious camping/coastal expeditions but better than you might think in calm conditions for day trips.
A small hut in the woods somewhere.
Castle Island.
The real jewel of Loch Ard however is travelling along the small river system which connects the more open upper half of Loch Ard to its mostly hidden lower section. Being sheltered, in good calm weather, this is a complete joy as you glide along, barely paddling, with sparkling reflections everywhere and visible pools of liquid euphoria below the boat 10 foot down.
It does feel completely magical but paradise is so easily spoiled by others actions so if you come here please don't enter the reed plantations, or paddle through the lily beds and respect any wildlife you see and it might still be here for future visitors to enjoy.
Drifting gently downstream without a ripple we were able to get good views of the local wildlife without disturbing them too much. A Red Breasted Merganser and Chick.
Make that two chicks. One getting a ride on mum's back. Female Mergangers and close relative female Goosanders are almost identical to an untrained eye but I think this is a merganser mum due to its more prominent neck feathers sticking out. One of the few ducks to have tiny teeth to enable it to hold onto slippery eels and wriggling fish, hence its label/tag of Sawbill Ducks. A beautiful creature and very elegant.
This is a spectacular section of river/loch and leads into a sizable bottom pool which is also remarkable for its calm reflective beauty. A small loch but one with many faces. A water Kaleidoscope that changes around every new corner.
In a few places it looks like a dead end and conjures up disappointment for first  time visitors.
And then you squeeze through into this and feel like kings on earth for a modest £59:99. The bottom section of Loch Ard.
The Lords of the Reedy River indeed. A truly magical day out. Thanks to Alan for sharing the ability to embrace new ideas and sports. A rare gift it seems.
I've also added a link to a different Loch Ard in Victoria. Australia. Another beautiful waterfront location connected by a fatal shipwreck there. (See comments)

I also try and match any selected videos to correspond with the posts and they always have great vivid imagery in them.( to my way of thinking anyway)
Another Stunning Water World Within. The Ocean Deeps. Best watched full screen.


Linda said...

Very nice video and your photos are beautiful! I also love the reflections!

Linda W. said...

I kayaked a couple of times many years ago, and really like it. With scenery and lovely flat water like you have I'd love to try it again. Fabulous photos!

Ian Johnston said...

Absolutely great stuff Bob!

Loch Ard isn't somewhere I've kayaked, but your post has shown yet another little gem just waiting to be you say, being an all-rounder rather than a specialist brings so many more opportunities


Carol said...

That looks great - I wish my inflatable rowing boat was so well equipped, mesh nets for luggage and suchlike - I've got nothing - just an open boat.

Love the duckling hitching a ride!

Robert Craig said...

Whoah - I want a wee boat like that, one that will fit in the shed/car boot!! Just been walking in Fisherfield and couldn't help thinking a boat to get across Loch Maree would have been a massive help.

In fact I want something that will fit in a rucksack for short river and loch crossings whilst on long distance walks...

blueskyscotland said...

Thanks Linda.
Can't beat a nice mirror reflection.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
Yes, it's good fun in gentle conditions- but fairly serious in choppy seas. Not too keen on that side of it so we pick our days.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ian,
I think you and Douglas would like it for a half day shot as that river section is delightful and you could combine it with Loch Lomond or Loch Tay etc in the afternoon to make it a full outing.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Carol,
When you finish your Munro tops kayaking might just suit your legs and back. Very relaxing, good fun,and no strain at all on the lower body. Opens up brand new adventures and areas and Richard might enjoy it as well. We had six hours solid paddling on Sunday and didn't feel too bad afterwards....Not as painful as the average hill day.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Craig,
Can,t think of anything like that being lightweight enough to pack and carry over any distance. Our kayaks are suitcase sized, plus pumps,paddles, life jackets etc... it all mounts up and I would not like to carry mine longer than 100 yards.
I've used the old orange bivi bag with my gear inside it to cross deep rivers in the past but I wouldn't fancy swimming across a loch with it.
Loch Maree is made for kayaking around, exploring the islands in the middle.

Carol said...

I have to say I row rather than paddle as I think paddling wouldn't be quite so good for the back as you're pushing rather than pulling the boat somehow. With rowing, you lean right back into the oars and use your whole bodyweight to propel the boat which I think is more efficient. But the inflatable rowing boats are nothing like as good as the inflatable kayaks I have to admit.

Richard won't get in the inflatable I don't think - and that's after him saying he would when I bought it! He might if it's extremely shallow water and very near the shore but my boat trip across Loch Quoich absolutely horrified him! (and a few others ;-) )

Rain-in-the-Face said...

How lovely to see Loch Ard! Have you heard that on the Shipwreck
Coast of southern Victoria (Australia), there is Loch Ard Gorge
named after the 1878 vessel that wrecked there. The cargo included
the beautiful sculpture, the Loch Ard Peacock, that survived intact.
Worth a google!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi, Rain-in-the-Face.
Impressive gorge and lovely beaches in Victoria. I've now added a link to that other Loch Ard. Thanks for the new info.