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The Natural Environment of Kingussie

View from Craig Dhu

View from Creag Dhu. credits S.Cook

Situated in a central position of North Scotland, Kingussie is in a perfect location for exploring the special habitats of the Highlands. In the rain shadow of the Monadliadh Mountains the rainfall is relatively low and the area's climate is closer to that of the continental climate of parts of Scandinavia.

The whole of the valley from Laggan to Aviemore is flanked by ancient Birch forest and overlooks the largest flood plain nature reserve in the U.K. noted for its population of breeding wading birds. The relict ancient Caledonian Pine forest is to the South and we know from the very name of the town this forest extended as far as Kingussie. Remnants remain in Inshriach Forest by Insh and at Balavil and Kinrara estates. The mountain slopes are mostly clad with acidic soils but the large alluvial flood plain and raised beaches possess soils more productive of an interesting and varied flora. Aspen is a scarce tree in other parts of the U.K. but has its stronghold here because it is one of the first colonisers of retreating glaciers.  The Cairngorm plateau to the South includes the last fragment of Arctic/Alpine habitat in the U.K. 

Clean fast flowing rivers run into the Spey from both sides of the valley bringing highly oxygenated water for healthy fish populations and interesting invertebrates. In the relict patches of native pine forests and conifer plantations here you will find interesting plants and fungi that are absent or rare in other parts of the U.K. A number of fungus species not recorded from Britain before, have been recorded in recent years.

The smaller Lochans in forests and on the mountains often have interesting Dragonflies and Damselflies. One can commonly find plants such as Chickweed Wintergreen and Creeping Lady’s Tresses, perhaps even Intermediate Wintergreen and Twinflower. These species are rare or absent further south. The dominant plants under the trees are Bilberry and Crowberry mixed with Ling and two species of Heather, Cross Leaved Heath in damper spots and Bell Heather in more open areas.

The green-ness of the ground flora always surprises the visitor, as does the presence of large patches of delicate lichens. Such areas of lichen heath are also typical of Scandinavian Pine Forests. The extensive cover of lichens on the trees is a strong indicator of the really clean air found in the Kingussie area.

New Articles

Autumn Colours

It is time to catch those lovely colours of autumn leaves; take your camera on a day with some sun and catch a group of trees lit up by the sun with their varied colours.

Kingussie Fungus weekend

Kingussie’s Fungus event at the weekend was a resounding success with a healthy attendance at both the Friday evening talk and on the Saturday “fungal foray”.

Our local mycologist Ern Emmett, a leading member of the British Mycological Society, gave an interesting talk on his experiences of field trips in Scandinavia and across Europe. He explained the background to what makes the study of fungi so fascinating and described their vital role for trees and the environment.

Did you know ?

The Birch Fly

In this area one of the insects favouring super clean fast rivers like the Tromie and Feshie is locally known as the Birch Fly since it emerges from the rivers at about the time the Birch comes into leaf. It is one of a family of flies called Simuliidae, these are known as Black Flies in Canada. Their "bite" is followed by application of an anticoagulant so they can obtain blood. The wound is easily infected so has to be cleaned with antiseptic.

Scots Pine

In Arctic latitudes Scots Pine can grow for four hundred years, die and stand for another 400 years then after falling take 400 years to decay. Standing dead trees are called Kelo Trees. The bark is lost and the standing bole becomes a silver grey colour. This material is very dense and highly prized for log buildings.

Aspens

When you look at a group of Aspens they may all be the same tree. It forms new shoots from its roots and these can grow into large apparently separate trees. In fact they are the same plant, only when seed is produced are new plants formed. For this reason it is not possible to measure the age of Aspens, only the age of any particular "tree" attached to the root system. Some clones may be many thousand years old and some local clones spread over many hectares.

Red squirrels

red squirrel

Red squirrel. credits E.Emmett

Red squirrels are still common and can frequently be seen scrambling among the pine trees, feeding on the cones and visiting gardens in Kingussie, often coming to bird tables along with breeding Siskins and other garden birds to forage for nuts. Pine Martens are also occasional visitors to some favoured gardens! Roe Deer are a common sight and Red Deer come to lower altitudes here in winter months.