Sunday, 30 January 2011

The Boat of Bardmony to Balbrogie

Bardmony is a farm on the banks of the River Isla. The Ordnance Survey's map shows the crossing place under the name 'Boat of Bardmony', which indicates that a ferry took travellers across at least into the Middle of the nineteenth century, and possibly up to a century later. Louise and I left our car near the bridge and took the path along the flood defence (or levée?) that runs south of the river.

The floods have long since subsided and left behind a mixed detritus of coarse woody debris and an amazing jetsam of plastic bottles, balls, containers of mineral licks for farm stock.

Raising our eyes from the rubbish, we looked downstream, along this bank, bare of undergrowth in the winter, with groups of willow that are supplying the beavers with sustenance.

When we walked along this bank before Christmas there was a lodge here. The floods have washed the superstructure of branches away and the beavers have not returned.

Balbrogie was a grange of the nearby abbey of Coupar Angus. The Cistercian abbey was founded by King Malcolm IV in 1164 and has left its imprint on the history of the surrounding countryside. 

The name Balbrogie comes from the Gaelic Baile Brogain: 'Brogan's township'.

This island, just south of the confluence of the Rivers Ericht and Isla was the subject of an extraordinarily misleading news item on BBC Radio Scotland a couple of days ago.

A fishing ghillie, John Muller, described the destructive activities of the beavers and how they had killed the willows on the island. Where there were many willows, there were now only a few, he declared.

Looking at the island from all sides it was hard for us to see the justification for Mr Muller's claims. There were signs of fresh activity, but nothing dramatic. Any cutting will be more than made good by the pulse of new shoots when the spring comes. The bare, exposed banks of the Isla have resulted more from grazing by livestock over the centuries than any recent cutting by beavers.

This is the north end of the little island by Balbrogie, looking up the Ericht. The Isla flows away to the east. You can make out a recent blow out of the bank that must have resulted from the recent floods.

We walked back up the path, marvelling at the imaginative capacities of the ghillie. What could he have been talking about? His description of the beaver he had seen, with its fierce orange teeth, would have done Little Red Ridinghood proud!

By this time the silver light of the overcast day had given way to brilliant sunshine.

A management plan for the riparian Isla should be prepared. Litter should be removed and a programme of planting of willow arranged. Interestingly the farm leases of the Abbey of Coupar Angus nearly always included the requirement for the tenant to plant willow (as well as to drain the land).

Some years ago the WWF ran a Wild Rivers' project to restore Scotland's canalised rivers. There should be a revival of this project.


  1. Yet another illustration of how much people are misled by the over dramatisation of one persons bigoted point of view. I'm afraid we live in an age of misinformation.

    It's strange that someone such as a fishing ghillie should vilify Beavers when he could be enjoying the extra diversity they bring to his environment.

    What he should be doing is planting willows and suggesting other ways of enriching the habitat, which would benefit himself, the fishing and help to protect against flood damage.

    From what you say above, it would seem he could also usefully spend some time organising the clearing of litter.

  2. "Yet another illustration of how much people are misled by the over dramatisation of one persons bigoted point of view." Says another bigoted one sided point of view written by someone who has not witnessed the destruction beavers has caused on the river isla and surrounding rivers. If look at the picture you will see one section of the island in which one part is bare and the other has two trees on it. Before any beavers were seen in the river just over 1 year ago this island was packed with willow which I have witnessed first hand walking the banks watching this island's trees diminish. Also you seem to insult Mr muller saying "What could he have been talking about?" he said "Where there were many willows, there were now only a few" from your picture this quote is verified and from seeing this island first hand this is completely true. Also how have these beavers entered the river system?? The nearest owner of beavers are at Bamff estate. In 2002 you bought 2 beavers then another 2 then a number of (bavarian lets say 4) beavers. Being that a normal family group 6 or less and litter size is 3-4 kits at least and your beavers have been breeding since 2005 this works out at 96 kits. Where have these young beavers gone?? I have walked around your beaver enclosures each taking about 45 minutes. You are trying to tell me at least 104 beavers live in your enclosures thats about 18 families. And that a number of beavers have magically appeared in the isla. The main area at the bridge at meigle has a large car park area??? Please respond to this I would like to see what your answer is .

  3. just had a day out fishing for grayling from crathie bridge to approx. one mile down river, what a state the banks are in with debris of all kinds human and natures. don't know why I bought a permit to fish here I couldn't get near the river for jungle. I did notice a large number of what I would call trees had been felled, shear vandalism by beavers if you ask me.

  4. I've fished the water above & below crathie bridge since the 1970's as a schoolboy & although it was alive with trout, parr, salmon & grayling back then as well as having plenty of accessible spots for bank fishing, it is now the complete opposite on every one of these points which is a shame because it has the natural ability with a little manual help to once again be a very good fishing destination.