Searching for Marsh saxifrage (pt 2)

Davie Black

Davie Black

Conservation Coordinator

10th October 2017


Surveyors at Loch Ruard

First weekend in August has in the past proved a good time to seek out Marsh Saxifrage in Caithness, so this time the Caithness Biodiversity Group were keen to have a go at surveying the recently discovered colonies at Loch Ruard, on the west of the A9, south of Thurso. Curiously this spot is almost exactly opposite the existing site at our reserve on Munsary.

The weather forecast was touch-and-go whether we would survive the attempt dry, or whether the heavy rain would arrive when we were way out on the bog. As it happened, it rained the day before, and there was a torrential downpour very early on, but cleared up after breakfast – fantastic!

I met up with David, Phyllida and Francis at the track end right on the A9, which is a very fast road at that point. So we quickly got off the road and got ready for the fairly level but long trek around Loch Ruard to reach the Marsh Saxifrage colonies on the far side of the loch.

The sun shone as we stepped out down the clear track that would take us to the lochside – the going was easy for a change.

Until we reached the first burn we had to cross, marked on the map as a ford. Due to the persistent and torrential rain there was earlier, the burn was in spate and the track dipped into the rushing brown water, emerging some 3m away on the other side. Even the boulders on the stream bed that could be used as stepping stones were completely covered in fast-flowing water.

A quick consultation of the map showed a footbridge upstream a bit, so we set off enjoying the bright sun and hopping over the tussocks and squelchy bits of moss. This again proved something of a disappointment as the bridge consisted of two reddish girders set at a jaunty angle into the bankside, with the boards completely missing.

The "footbridge"

At that point we had to abandon out attempt as there was just too much water flowing down the burn to safely cross. So instead we decided that since we were out we would head off our separate ways and go and enjoy the sunshine while we could, and try again next year. I decided that a visit to the Plantlife Reserve at Munsary, just the other side of the A9 would be a useful way to spend the afternoon in the company of Phyllida who sits on our Munsary Management Group, to explore the dubh lochs and discuss the management and history of Munsary.

Better luck next time...