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Published: February 8th 2020
Water is a defining element of Perthshire and its winter monsoons define its rivers and lochs. The next section of the Perthshire A to Z , while yielding only a single letter, would keep water in the forefront of my mind. The rain of the previous week had eased but continued to fall. Nonetheless, after a gap of a few weeks it was good to get back This section eased me back in with ten miles – 60% of which were off road – between Old Blair and Port na Craig. Easy was the theme of the day as I had plenty time leaving Blair Atholl with a generous 2 and ½ hours to make the returning train from Pitlochry station. My fitness had been a bit up and down since the previous leg in mid November however the mojo had recently returned and I was pleased to be back with this short stage being ideal prep for future rigours.
The weather this January had been memorable – and not for good reasons. The mild weather had brought a succession of storms with monsoon style rain and high winds . The weeks of settled frosty weather of my youth had
disappeared over the past decade. At times I yearn for real cold . This run was following the line of the River Gary from its intersection with the Tilt down to where it merges with the Tummel to become Loch Faskally at the Power Station Dam and Pitlochry . I was looking forward to seeing the impact that the winter rains had on water levels .
You will have spotted a number of potential Ps already – I can add the Pheasant I stopped to photograph in the empty chalet park in Blair Atholl . The whole village was closed and the bird life were enjoying the peace . Also , the three miles along the road to Killiecrankie were also more pleasant than on previous visits with traffic minimal and local making me feel less vulnerable . I was pleased I was on this section of road for the last time. The lack of pavement set me on edge during each run.
Killiecrankie was the first point I noticed the water was fiercer than during the autumn with the squall below soldiers leap churned up into white rapids. After trotting down the hill to the river edge
– the water had calmed to black depths. I stopped at this section for the first time and noticed a plaque to the impressive railway arch from the 19th
century. A wonderful feat of engineering now dwarfed by the A9 road that is above. The road is also due for further expansion and the Battle Of Killiecrankie site is under threat as the relentless desire of the Government to expand roads goes on unabated. We are a nation that doesn’t seem to value its battle sites as a reminder and a warning of troubling times. Equally the remorseless investing in roads sees the Government bury its head in the sand regarding climate change.
The increasing frequency of storms makes the impact very clear. Despite further climate targets being set , there is the equivalent of a long stare at the shoes by our country's government and corporates. This site epitomises the challenge. At peak times, thousands of petrol and diesel cars will use the road whilst a couple of hundred passengers will use the few trains a day that run up the line to Inverness. Even worse I can count on one hand the walkers I met below the
road and the viaduct.
I also stopped where a couple of small burns joined the river . It was a day where ditches had become streams and streams had become rivers . The variety of configurations gave the river a variety of colours and pace as it meandered south. The autumn light festival in Faskally forest had also closed and I had the area to myself aside from a single group of elderly walkers. The path was muddy – The sky was grey and the water rolled on. I had missed the dam sluice gates being open by a couple of days although the water was still higher than I have ever seen. Despite being in place for 60 years the power station still looks incongruous spanning a part of the river that offers excellent fishing – a pastime that takes cold and wet far beyond the boundaries of distance running. The adjoining salmon ladder – a series of concrete pens allowing the fish access to the freshwater of Faskally Loch- looks equally incongruous but keeps an important breeding ground available. Compared to swimming up a wild river this must be the salmon equivalent of going to the gym.
I had finished at Port Na Craig – an ancient hamlet and river crossing that was replaced by the Iron bridge visited a few letter back in the alphabet. The restaurant of the same name was closed – as were many – taking advantage of the lull in tourism following Xmas.
The waters that define this part of Perthshire had given a good theme for the day and many decent pictures. The ten miles had been negotiated safely and pain free and I now need to work on my fitness to pick off Q & R on the next leg heading west to another favourite water based location. I was back in the game and the words of one of my favourite comedians and poets Rob Auton came to mind ( doffing his cap to Edwin Starr) :
Wa-ter ! What is it good for ?
Absolutely lots of stuff .
Then I went for a pint.
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