Monday 18 March 2024

Uath Lochans, winter storms, climate crisis

Uath Lochans & the Glen Feshie hills

On recent trips to Glen Feshie I’d been shocked by the storm damage in the lower glen, where great swathes of forest had been flattened by very strong winds earlier this year. I also heard that the area around the lovely Uath Lochans had been affected and the paths there closed whilst windblown trees were cleared. These have recently opened, unlike those at Feshiebridge which are still shut, as are the car parks.

Wanting to see how much damage had been done I recently visited the Uath Lochans and went for a walk in the woods around them. From the car park I made my way up Creag Far-leitire, with its splendid view over the three lochans to the Glen Feshie hills. Snow capped the tops and the forest and water shone in the sunshine. I was pleased to see there was no sign of destruction and the scene was as peaceful and beautiful as ever. However on my way up the crag I’d passed many fallen trees and in many places the path was lined with cut logs. I could see why the paths had been closed.

Uath Lochan & Glen Feshie hills

From Creag Far-leitire I followed paths and tracks, mostly signed as the Badenoch Way, down to Loch Insh, and then back to the lochans via another route, waymarked as the Speyside Way. There were many large areas of fallen trees. Lining these flattened areas were tall, thin, tightly packed pines. Most of this forest is a plantation, pine not spruce so perhaps more natural looking but a plantation none the less. The trees are planted close together in straight lines. With no space to grow outwards they grow upwards, reaching for the light. Even sized and in symmetrical blocks it’s easy to see how one falling can cause a domino effect. And in last winter’s storms many fell.

Storm damage

The climate crisis means storms are predicted to be more frequent and more powerful so more forest destruction is likely. This is especially so in plantations. Nick Kempe wrote an excellent piece that's well-worth reading about this on Parkswatch Scotland in which he argues that climate change makes plantation forestry unsustainable and that windblown areas should be left to regenerate naturally and not replanted. It seems storm damage is less severe in forests with a variety of randomly spaced  trees of different ages and sizes growing where they can expand outwards as well as upwards, a real forest not a plantation in fact.

Whilst slowing and limiting climate change is essential the effects are not going to just stop, whatever we do, so mitigation is also necessary. Allowing natural forests to grow via regeneration is part of this. 

Loch Insh & Geal-charn Mor

Approaching Loch Insh I could see Geal-charn Mor and the Kinrara Estate, the site of Brew Dog’s “Lost Forest”, where extensive planting is taking place. How will that stand up to future storms I wondered.


  1. I was at the Lochans about a month ago - the popular short walks had already been cleared then. However the tracks to the south over towards Corarnstilbeg in the Badan Dubh were still badly affected and impassable in at least a couple of directions I tried to take on my bike. I had to return to the Lochans. I’m not sure if this is still the case?

    1. I didn't go south of the lochans so I don't know what's happening there I'm afraid.