This has been a winter of extreme winds and it is estimated that Scotland has lost 8 million trees since November. The eastern side of Scotland has suffered the worst damage but there could be recently windblown trees on any route especially those that go through commercial forestry plantations. It is likely that tracks used by forestry vehicles and those on recognised frequently used rights of way will be prioritised for clearance, but lesser-used paths may be blocked well beyond May.
Forest and Land Scotland warns:
“Windblow is inherently dangerous with huge tensions and forces both in individual trees as well as in jammed stems and root plates. Unstable trees, parts of trees, root plates and stones can suddenly topple, tip over, fall or roll away without any visible reason even days, weeks or months after a storm. Therefore, avoid walking through windblown areas and find routes to walk around them. If you can’t find a route around stop and return back along route already used.
We also ask please that all forest users are aware of biosecurity. Tree diseases and pests are posing an increasing threat to our forests and can be spread very quickly from forest to forest on muddy tyres, boots or paws. We believe everyone who loves spending time in the forest will want to help if they can to reduce the risk of spread of disease. For some simple ways everyone can help follow the link to find out more click here.”
We explored the Fetteresso Forest ourselves in early March and can report the following:
—- Routes walked by Co-ordinators with only minor obstructions
In a few places single trees are across the track but are easily circumnavigated. The eastern half of the path connecting North Dennetys and Hill of Roughbank has been clear felled in recent years so previous fallen trees have been removed. It is worth noting the track along the edge of the forest from Glenskinnan (NO 707 888) has been obstructed by longstanding fallen trees once it re-enters the forest for many years and remains so.
—- Routes not walked but appear passable
Windfarm Access track: This was used by several vehicles whilst we were in the area, so we presume it is clear all the way to the main exit at NO 791 893. We did not have time to explore the smaller tracks via Stonehouse and Tillybreak to Mergie. The clearing regularly used for camping at NO 765 874 was accessible and free of windblown trees.
Builg Road Right of Way: The path from NO 683 867 has been clear felled as far as the Builg Burn and its course from there did not appear to have any large section of windblown trees affecting it. Should it be blocked, there would be access to the windfarm via a firebreak or by following the Builg Burn.
—- Routes walked and passable with care
The descent NE from Kerloch has several trees across its path but branches have been cut to allow passage underneath them . The track continues to deteriorate and is very eroded with loose stones. It is not in a state to be used by forestry vehicles so is not likely to be a priority to be fully cleared.
The Hill of Quithel exit (NO 774 855) is severely affected by windblown trees and the main track is completely blocked. Forest and Land Scotland warn this area is dangerous. However, a path over fallen branches has been forged along the western side which we found to be passable with care.
The information below is based on reports and maps provided by the excellent Glen Doll Ranger Service. There are plans for the clear up to start in early April so it is highly likely there will be forestry operations underway during the Challenge.
….. Routes impassable
Jock’s Road is the worst affected route with hundreds of windblown trees across it. It will take many months to clear it and it certainly will not be passable by May. Please do not try to descend Jock’s Road into Glen Doll as there is no feasible way to bypass these blockages or walk around the forest.
Dounalt Way: This is the track on the south side of the White Water which is blocked but has been prioritised for clearance though this is also not likely to be completed by May.
—- Routes passable with care
Corrie Fee Path: There are fallen trees affecting the path near the forest edge but it is possible to bypass them with care.
Kilbo Path: There are fallen trees across the path at the forest edge around NO 266 749 which can be bypassed by diverting onto the open hillside.
—- Routes reported to be unobstructed
Glittering Skellies – Bachnagairn – Moulzie: This is the only realistic route into Glen Clova from the top of Jock’s Road. The start of the path off Jock’s Road may require careful navigation as it has not been clear on the ground in the past. Although the path along the west bank of the South Esk is blocked the track on the east has been cleared so you will need to use the bridge at NO 277 789 to access this.
The Rangers report that all main tracks are passable on foot though in places you may have to divert around fallen trees.
A temporary route has been created from the summit of Bennachie to the Visitors Centre. However, routes to Oxen Craig and Mither Tap from the Back o’Bennachie carpark at NJ 662 245 are currently closed and it is not clear when they will reopen.