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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2007

North Third

Though it is not the most beautiful place in Central Scotland, it is one of my favourite locations for a short walk. It is peaceful most of the time, it is 10 minutes from home and it is ‘My patch’. I learnt this concept from watching Bill Oddie on TV, “ Get to know a place well” he says,” Visit it regularly in different conditions and throughout the seasons – that way you anticipate opportunities for observing wildlife”. For Wildlife substitute landscape and there you have my mission.

North Third is a reservoir in the hills just west of Stirling. It was formed by damming the Bannock Burn, which of course goes on to flow past the site of Robert the Bruce’s emphatic repulse of the English in 1314, before joining the mud of the Forth estuary. The hand of man is everywhere, not just the dam, the trees are uniformly laid out and quick growing for economical harvest and evidence of that is widespread. Just how long does it take for the aftermath of forestry to decay and the land to recover? 

The name has human referencing in it though quite what it is a third of I have yet to establish. Lewis Hill, with its well kept Triangulation pillar, would be a better name for the area but everyone seems to know it better as North Third. It is popular for trout fishing with a small fleet of boats that are lined up on the west shore during the winter – white shapes like a proud anglers catch laid out for display. The laybys round here are popular with the beer and takeaway crowd. McDonalds compete with curry in the litter top ten, but it is not too despoiled.

Greathill farm

The first day of December was better than the last day of November in terms of weather and the burns testify to the amount of rain that fell in that month. Loch Carron is high with small trees up to their necks in water and the spillway off-white with peat laden rushing overflow. As I sit by the trig.point clear skies to the East are slowly being overrun by cloud from the South West but this creates patches of light on the scene that pick out the grain of the land and Townhead farm shines white in the sun. Behind me the line of forest breaks the airflow of a brisk wind and produces its distinctive sighing sound but apart from this and the occasional honking from the geese below it is silent and relaxing.

I leave feeling re-charged for the rest of the day and begin the walk back to the car. The calm is shattered however, as my presence lifts a female pheasant who clatters from the undergrowth. She calls cursingly as she flies off into the woodland to find new refuge from the clumsy intruder.

© Keith Ratcliffe

January 2007

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