Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe © 2006
The Forth in WinterThe Forth is in full flow today, the conduit of the Central Lowlands is brown with fresh run off laden with silt from the rich soils of the area. The high levels have released debris from the fields, dark logs lurk in the stream, the waterlogged wood is as dense as the transporting liquid and they rise and fall in the swirling eddies. They glide past furtively until they career into the bridge parapet to add to the mounting pile of branches already there.
The herons take command of the river bank – cautiously spaced according to territorial rules they stand as sentinel threats to small fish, though how they see them in the blind, brown murk is a mystery. Three Whooper swans complete a graceful ferryglide to the bank then in contrasting ungainliness they stomp around on the river bank jabbing at the grass for food.
Some would call this fresh water though it smells distinctively earthy today and far from fresh. But it not salty, the tongue of saline sea water that penetrates this far up river in Summer is easily repelled by the pressure of drainage in Winter.
At this point the Forth is in fact an amalgamation of three rivers – Forth, Teith & Allan Water. The Allan tends to rise quickly, collecting its waters from the rushing burns of Strathallan, including the hills where the debacle of Sherrifmuir was enacted, until it discharges them through the narrowing at Dunblane.
The Teith starts life in the Rob Roy’s Trossachs but gathers in the Lochs of Strathyre & the Vale of Teith to meet at Callander. Once full with late Autumn rain the multitude of lochs feed constantly into the river maintaining a steady stream for most of the winter months.
The lugubrious Forth drains from the infamous Flanders Moss, for centuries it was an impassable maze of bogs, streams & lochans that only few people could penetrate. For this reason it featured in many of the military campaigns in the history of Scotland being a key link in the gateway to the Highlands. The river slowy builds in intensity to become a wide meandering blue scribble on the map.
Blue it is not today, but a uniform, tawny hue that provides a suitably bland canvas for a splash of colour in the form of a Goosander. His bright red beak flashes as he dives and then the irridescent green head reappears as he shakes off the muddy water. His soft pink breast is natural but looks like a stain from the river today.
© Keith Ratcliffe 2006
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