Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Cookston to Crathie Bridge

A kind friend suggested a paddle down the Dean to start my canoeing season. We set off from Cookston Farm, not far from Eassie, famous for its Pictish carved stone.

Evidence of the presence of beavers was with us almost immediately in the form of freshly gnawed willow.

These two photographs show an interesting pollarded regrowth. You can see that the water level has fallen back from high points through the winter, but the pollard shoots have risen abundantly out of the gnawed stubs left by the beavers last year.

As I have said, the presence of beavers was clear from Cookston until just short of the mixed woodland that surrounds the settlement of the mill and the weir at Cardean.

The Dean Water there is embanked in the run up to the weir and, in fact, throughout the area that has become a kind of policy woodland. The trees are mostly sycamore, beech and common alder near the water, I think. This gives the area a really heavy shade. It is easy to see why the combination of the embanked stream, the weirs and the dark shady trees would keep the beavers away.

We chose the left channel just by the mill lade and descended it successfully, though we stuck on the next shallow stretch after the weir, and Eddie Palmer, wearing his waterproof canoeing shoes, alighted and pulled us free. The route was the same, though in higher water, as the passage I took the time I followed a pair of mute swans in my first descent of the Dean Water in May 2008.

Once downstream of Cardean we began to see signs of beavers again, and so it continued as we negotiated the bog of Meigle and the confluence with the Isla.

As we carried our kit to the car a few drops of rain fell before setting in for the afternoon.

I saw my first swallow of the year as we paddled along and was pleased to see some reed buntings.

Morgan, of course, saw swallows at Bamff yesterday.

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