Friday, 22 June 2012

River Avon Heritage Trail


Of all the places to go in Central Scotland, if you are interested in wild spaces then the River Avon Heritage Trail is definitely for you. FET Fielded and application from Central Scotland Forest Trust for the development of the path system in 2004 for the June Board meeting. The FET Board quickly voted in favour of an award. Funding was matched by SNH, Falkirk Council, SFGS and a generous private sponsorship.

A previous project, finished and opened in 2002, which involved a huge set of wooden steps leading up to the canal towpath, linking the then fledgling heritage trail to the much longer and establised Forth and Clyde / Union canal towpath.

The Trail (at the time of the 2004 project completion) began/ended further downstream at  Linlithgow Bridge, and ran mostly parrallel to the river up to the canal viaduct as described above. At this point the trail enters Muiravonside Country Park, which is where this photo blog picks up. The trail continues on up river to the village of Avonbridge. It is envisioned that future sections will run all the way up to Slamannan.


signposting

. You can pick up the Heritage Trail at the western side of the visitors centre / tea room by following the stone steps down onto a large lawned area. Here you will see the sign posting shown above

Along the Valley
The path runs along the Avons Valley Wall, dropping in altitude relative to the river itself. If you look to the left you will see a stand of Japanese knotweed that needs to be dealt with - Applications please!




The River

The path drops to river level, and runs parallel to it for a a fair distance. This is the easiest place to access the river itself for wildlife, photography etc. The river is a known haunt for species such as kingfishers and otters.




Rosebay Willow herb meadow
As you exit the muiravonside park at its western extremity, you enter a river plateau covered in meadow grasses and Rosebay Willow Herb - perhaps another project to enhance the biodiversity of this area would be possible?



The Gate

At the farend of the meadow area is a gate thatbounds the newly planted  forest, which is really rather large. My understanding is that the land belongs to a local farmer


Himalyan Balsam

The area is not without it's share of invasive species, with Japanese knotweed, Himalyan Balsam and American Mink all known to be present. FET has been working with Falkirk Council and TCV Scotland to eradicate Rhododendron Ponticum from the country park for several years. We look forward to continuing this effort with the newly formed Falkirk Community Trust, and other partners in the field of invasives.



View of the traill ooking East

Once through the gate the path climbs again, skirting the edge of the avon Gorge - A SSSI and ancient woodland site. The trail passes through a very large area of recently planted forest, the land being owned by an ecologically minded local farmer. The phot doesnt do justice to the scale of the planting project, which must run to tens of thousands of new native broad leaf and coniferous saplings.

Into the Gorge

The path now enters the gorge itself, via a very steep set of stone steps. Thank goodness for the handrail, as it's a bit scary!


Halfway down



At the Bottom

When you finally do reach the bottom you find yourself in a completely different habitat - Whereas above was the brightly lit grass land / baby forest, you are now in an ancient riparian woodland - cool, dark and moist.

An unexpected wetland

About halfway along this section the canopy opens out and you are crossing yet another habitat - this time amarshy wetland bursting with plant, insect and bird life

A glimpse of the Carriber Bridge

At the end of this section the trail crosses over to the West Lothian side at the Carriber Bridge, a beautiful arching structure that was custom built, and all it's components moved in manually - What a job!



The Bridge
Unfortunately at this point I ran out of both time and jurisdiction, and had to turn back the way I came. The heritage trail continues over the bridge on up the Avon Gorge, crossing back over further up stream and finishing at Avon Bridge.

A Calm Pool

But before I did I came across this strtch of calm water about a 100 meters below the bridge, which I thought was worth including here.

Over all the trail is truly worth the effort, although it isnt great for less able walkersdue to the steep steps and it's general length of the path.

For Further information about the River Avon Heritage Trail click this link Which takes you to the Long Distance Walkers Association pages