Here is a walk that Ewan took through the forest before our season began at Abernethy. I hope his words remind us of what is still out there, waiting for us to appreciate it again.

Although it began with a wintry shower, the sun soon came out on a bright spring day over Abernethy. With visitor operations suspended here at Loch Garten and across the RSPB, the 2020 Nature Team face some of the uncertainty that many will be feeling, but we hope to find new ways to bring the magic of the reserve to you this year since you are unable to come to us.

 

Under wide blue skies, I went out onto the reserve to have an immersive educational experience and get to know our forest a little better. As I walked among the pines I observed the sunlight falling through the branches to the forest floor and the difference in the field layer (the plants growing closest to the ground) between closed-canopy and more open forest. There was enough warmth in the dappled sunlight to bring some sluggish wood ants out onto their nest beneath the spreading boughs of a mature pine. Coal tits were energetically singing and flitting to and fro in the high branches.

 

At Rynettin, the land rolled out before me to a breath-taking view of the Cairngorms. The high arctic-alpine plateau that covers a third of the reserve area is still deep in the grip of winter, the peaks of Bynack More and Cairngorm itself standing white against the dazzling sky. The mountains are huge and ancient, beyond the human realm, and even current events seem smaller and more distant here. The lower slopes and foothills, that the forest will reclaim as trees start to slowly return, are a reminder of the 200-year vision for the reserve. This is a landscape looking back deep time.

 Heading downhill, through more green and ancient wood, I reached a place where the river Nethy twists and turns through a narrow valley. The waters rush over rocks and under fallen trees, and I found myself in a perfect suntrap at the bottom of a steep south-facing slope. Hidden here by the river's edge, out of the wind, with the sun warming the earth, looking up through the branches of pines high above us to the deep blue sky, I could have had the world all to myself.

 

Following the river down and back to Forest Lodge, the forest gave me crested tits calling from the treetops unseen, and a group of crossbill flying overhead. In the middle of the track, the most exciting find of the day (this is the sort of thing that excites RSPB staff) - capercaillie poo.

 

Spending time in the forest is always deeply enjoyable and rewarding for me, at once calming and energising. Whatever comes to pass, this will still be here: these rocks, this earth; the tallest trees and the tiny mosses; all of the creatures that walk and fly and crawl and hunt and sing and fight and live; as long as we look after this place, they will still be here. At this time more than ever, I find that a comforting thought. So get outside, if and where you safely can spend some time with nature; be grateful for that gentle reminder that life goes on and this, too, shall pass; and if you can't, take comfort knowing that nature will still be here, doing what it does, after all this is over.

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