Revisiting old haunts
I feel I've been almost in hibernation for over a week now - too obsessed with what was going in inside my mouth to think about where we went for a walk. Today, the weather man on the radio suggested we make the most of today because it was going to rain, again. (Can we not have our April-May weather back, please?) And because my pal had been exploring down the south of the peninsula, where we tend to walk more often than her, I had a notion to revisit the Inverchaolain end of the Coffin Trail.
Even the name gives an insight into the importance of faith and tradition in past times; I believe there are several such tracks in the country but for our area this is the only one. It leads all the way from Glen Kin, accessed by the road north out of Dunoon and the branch road to Colintraive; there is a steep, tussocky, midge-infested climb to the saddle at the head of the Glen, followed by a long, winding track down to the little Inverchaolain Church and its graveyard, on the shore of Loch Striven.
It must be 15 years or so since I was last there, though I've lost count of the number of times we've passed the church on a walk along the loch. My last visit was with a party of school pupils during the activities week at the end of the summer term, when I'd given up leading the French Exchange, half killed myself leading a music trip to Venice (two coaches all the way from Dunoon!) and decided walking the local hills might be gentler on the nerves. On that occasion we walked the whole trail, marvelling at the effort it must have taken to carry a laden coffin all the way from Glen Kin to the committal at Inverchaolain Church. Today, we merely walked up from the church to the small lochan in sight of the saddle, having been delayed by the sudden refusal of our car to remain stationary when parked on a hill. (It rolled gently backwards. We had to park on the level elsewhere. Back to the garage ...)
It was incredibly lonely. The farm that was still being worked the last time I was there is now a holiday rental, I've been told, and was deserted. There was no sign of the shooting that used to take place - we used to find whole piles of spent cartridges. Instead, there were the unmistakable signs that the area is going to be used for commercial forestry - bags of baby spruces, bundles of mini-stakes, soil stabilisers, fertiliser pellets. It will never look the same again. But two buzzards wheeled overhead, squeaking to each other, and I was reminded of a guide in Madeira who once told a woman who asked what buzzards ate: tired tourists... We saw a heron flapping wearily down the glen, though perhaps that's just the way they roll.
Blipping the tiny loch at our turning point, so full of reeds and grass that you might have been tempted to walk on it. We walked back down to the church, into the south wind, into the threat of rain, with the hills of Arran cloud-topped in the distance.
And a procession of black-suited ghosts walked with us.