The Other Side of the Raiders Road

9.67 miles 4h 25m (no breaks!) ascent 242m

midges, milkwort, scent of pine, the ford, red pine, forestry in all stages, deep sphagnum, bluebells in the open, trees standing, felled, fallen, fallen and cut, eared? willow aplenty, rain but warm, sound of the otter pool, goat bought rig, no sight of orchars, wondering what pullaugh means, the dam, galloway bamboo, the search for seats.

The Raiders Road runs beside the Black Water of Dee, but across the valley on the opposite side of the river there is another route, a forestry track. Like the Raiders Road it begins close to the bridge on the Queens Way and rejoins the Raiders Road at the Gairloch Ford.

We started at the Raiders Road car park, crossed the Dee and headed onto the forestry track. The gate has been closed but was open today, indeed it looks broken, perhaps clipped by a logging lorry. The track shows all stages of forestry, fallow after harvesting long ago, recent felling looking like a WW1 battlefield (and stacked logs), new plantations, and trees of all ages some little taller than me, others towering high. There are a great number of self seeded spruce and pines and willows (eared willow I think), some shrub like, others taking on trees.

I was surprised how many stands of bluebells we saw and wondered if these had survived from the days when deciduous trees had grown here. Forestry always looks a little devoid of diversity but it it there when you look. The track looks to have been resurfaced in the last few years and the drainage ditches beside it have been dug afresh. But flowers have already taken hold in the disturbed ground. Like the Raiders road there are are long stretches of coltsfoot beside the track, though most of the flowers have now gone.

The route crosses several named burns: Pullaugh Burn (the largest, which drains Loch Grannoch), Green Burn, White Burn, Nick Burn). I was pretty sure that the pullaugh Burn was a LOT fuller when we walked back then when we were setting out, but I didn’t take any photos so I couldn’t be sure. It had only rained heavily for a few minutes during the day so it seems strange to have made such a difference.

My wildflower identification skills still need honing. We spotted some bright blue flowers that i didn’t immediately recognise. “Milkwort is what springs to mind” I said, “but these are too big.” Well it was milkwort though Audrey and I couldn’t agree whether they were the common or heath variety. When one of us changed their mind, so did the other. At the last discussion I was for heath, and she for common, and this despite us using the same books.

This route seems higher than the Raiders Road so gives different views of the surrounding hills. We looked out for things marked on the map, but the ruins (if they still exist) at Orchars couldn’t be seen from the track and the terrain between us and it didn’t look very inviting with fallen trees, deep sphagnum mounds and standing water. The old maps show a footpath running from Orchars to Laggan Pool, but there was no sign of it we could see. The Otter Pool was audible and we could just see the roof of the ‘conveniences’ building there.

I had wondered if the ford would allow us to cross, and return along the Raiders Road, but the river bed was invisible beneath the black water so we decided to return the way we had come.

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