The Natural Environment of Kingussie
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.