The Ben Shee Loop and the Re-wilding of the Ochil Hills

Sometimes the interesting walks are not the day walks or the overnight backpacking trips. A short walk of a couple of hours can have as much, if not more interest, particularly for those with an interest in wildlife.

I’ve been particularly interested in certain parts of the Ochil hills over the past couple of years. Most notably the Glen Quey and Glen Sherup areas, which are now owned by the Woodland Trust. These areas have been quite extensively planted with a range of native tree species.

The hope is that the trees will establish themselves and a thriving woodland community will return to the area. For me, the chance to watch this happen, as it’s actually happening is a great opportunity, and with it being so close to home, I can pop along at any time, really!

Incidentally, the other site where the Woodland Trust are doing this work that I’ve been to is Glen Finglas, where Janie and I walked the Mell Circuit last year – that one is a full day’s walk, and  good fun, too!

Anyway, since taking over the land, the Woodland Trust have been quite keen to promote access to the area, so have created a few walks in the area of varying length, from the 1.25 mile Castlehill Loop to the 9 mile Reservoirs Trail and have released a leaflet with the walks on.

Last weekend I decided to head along and take a walk around the Ben Shee Loop – a reasonably good walk of 6 miles, taking in some of the quieter parts of the Ochils, and some of the main Woodland Trust plantation.

I’m not going to go into a blow by blow account of the walk, as, well, frankly there really wasn’t much to see.

One thing to definitely bear in mind, though, if you’d consider walking in this area is that it is VERY boggy! You’re pretty much going to get wet feet, unless, like me, you go when it’s cold enough to freeze and hold your weight!

In the spring and summer it’ll be a bit of a nightmare, though. In saying that, it’s probably what makes the area so quiet, with so few other walkers, so I’ll happily consider it a bonus, if it gives me (and the wildlife) a bit of peace and quiet.

In terms of actual wildlife, there wasn’t that much to be seen, but being December and with a dusting of the white stuff, that’s to be expected. A single Raven, Buzzard and Kestrel were seen, along with the usual Robin and Wren to be found in the area. There was also plenty of fox scat to be found, to show that there is still some mammal life about. I suspect that as the area is not being kept artificially short by sheep and deer (it’s all fenced off, to allow the trees a fighting chance to grow), there will be significantly more mice, vole and shrew activity than in the surrounding areas, too!

Anyway, a couple of photos can be seen below from the walk. By the end of the month I’ll have a new Compact System Camera, so hopefully the picture quality will improve as I get to grips with the camera and use it a bit!

Glen Sherup Reservoir
Glen Sherup Reservoir
Looking back to Glen Sherup from the slopes of Ben Shee
Looking back to Glen Sherup from the slopes of Ben Shee
The Ochil Hills from the high point of the walk
The Ochil Hills from the high point of the walk
Planted trees on the slopes of Ben Shee
Planted trees on the slopes of Ben Shee
Lower Glen Devon Reservoir in the distance, from more new growth trees
Lower Glen Devon Reservoir in the distance, from more new growth trees

I’m hoping to make this walk a bit of a recurring theme, so that people can see the changes, not just year on year, but in seasons, too. As I mentioned earlier, I’m getting a new camera in a couple of weeks, and I’d love to use this simple walk (took about 2 and a half hours, yes, there’s a fair bit of uphill and downhill, but nothing that can’t be managed – the boggy ground is the bigger issue!) as a regular playground to test the camera, and to showcase the wildlife that comes in, etc.

Apparently, this area has seen Black Grouse and Red Deer in recent years, and if true (I saw no signs of either, including no signs of prints or droppings), would be a great thing to capture. I have, however, seen plenty of sign of other species in the spring/summer, such as Wheatear, various warblers, there’s apparently Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary butterflies to be found in the area, too. It could be a great place to explore the changing wildlife, as the place gets ‘Re-wilded’

I’m looking forward to it!

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