Fifteen walkers assembled on the platform of the Keith Dufftown Railway Station on a fine spring morning at about 10.30am. Some took advantage of the excellent coffee and home bakes in the railway carriage cafe, before setting off on a leisurely walk down the old railway line to Craigellachie, about 4 miles.There were plenty of stops to look at flowers and trees and listen to birdsong.
Leaving Dufftown, we passed the Balvenie distillery and noted the blackened trunks and branches of the trees which have been subjected to a sooty fungus related to the distilling process.
There were plenty of spring and early summer flowers in bloom, including wood anemone, celandine, wood sorrel, golden saxifrage, stitchwort, sweet cicely, forget-me-not and the occasional bluebell. Amanda McAlister kept an exhaustive list of all botanical species which she has submitted for the log book. Birds were more evident by their song, though a grey wagtail and a dipper were spotted in the River Fiddich. Ian Suttie noted the birds he heard and saw, which has also been passed to the log book. Many thanks to Amanda and Ian.
For most of the walk the River Fiddich was in view and there were also traces along the way of the old railway line. We stopped for a picnic lunch where the line crosses the Fiddich with fine views of the river on both sides. A little further along, on the left hand side of the path, Mike Grant pointed out the remains of an old sawmill/cooperage which had closed as late as 1971, and which is now completely submerged in moss and undergrowth. This was the first business to have electric light in Moray.
We reached Craigellachie at about 2pm.
Bird Notes by Ian Suttie
The wooded bankings along the sides of the former railway track provided a pleasing variety of bird life, identified by their calls and spring-time songs. Blackbirds and Woodpigeons were in song near the Dufftown station where the party set off and a pair of Jackdaws flew overhead. Blue Tits and Great Tits were feeding in the trees near the distillery, where a noisy Starling was feeding young, and the fairy bell notes of a Goldfinch came from a track-side tree A Garden Warbler poured out its “babbling brook”song from thick cover near a field edge then the first of many Willlow Warblers was heard from birches on the left of the track. Other trees included bird cherry, gean and hazel, ideal habitat for Blackcaps – a warbler with a loud and melodious song, usually produced from cover, a total of 10 being heard in the whole walk. Also widespread were Chaffinches, singing cheerily in the open tree canopy, but only one Chiffchaff was heard – in trees near the River Fiddich. A Dipper was bobbing on a riverside stone and a pair of Mallards fed in the clear Fiddich water as the party crossed the bridge. Both Song Thrush and Missel Thrush were seen on the last part of the walk and a Wren sang boldly from cover on a banking as the party completed an enjoyable walk at the Craigellachie car park.