On a typical hill day we may think a lot about distant views, but are we as attentive to the environment around us? On just one walk from road to summit you might pass through ten or more different habitats, each with their own distinctive plants and animals. Sarah Ryan stops to take a closer look.
An excellent introduction to the subject. In my view, taking time to take in the environment and understand it is such an important part of being out in the hills. I used to despair of one of my regular walking companions who treated every walk as a route march and didn't seem to have any appreciation of the environment. She would regularly express astonishment when I mentioned the birds and plants we had passed - she just didn't notice them.
I must confess I don't really understand how it is possible to spend time in the outdoors without making such observations. It would seem to me to be a thoroughly diminished experience.
Thanks for that, I'm often amazed at how little interest some hillwalkers & climbers take in the landscape & wildlife. I guess you were limited to what you could include but surprised you didn't include upland grasslands & mountain burns/rivers.
Although I wouldn't consider conifer plantations as particularly interesting, they can be very rich in fungi, particularly late summer/autumn.
Fascinating stuff, Sarah. Thanks for sharing. One thing I've been noticing more and more in the Coulin and Applecross hills is how rich the flora is at height, with orchid and sea-pink making a go of it above 750m, for example. Am I getting better with age at noticing (marrying a gardener may have helped!) or is there a measurable rise in the altitude envelope of such species due to climate change?
Sea pink (Armeria maritima) is common by the sea (as suggested by its Latin name) but also frequently occurs at altitude - I can remember recording it on Ben Lawers & elsewhere at >1000m when I worked as a botanical surveyor in the 1980s & 90s and the new BSBI plant atlas gives the highest known site as 1,290 m on Cairntoul (https://plantatlas2020.org/atlas/2cd4p9h.8b8 ).
Some orchids may have expanded their range with changing climate but some (its a large group of plants) have always occured at altitude, both in the UK & elsewhere.
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