Saturday, 26 September 2009

Coille Bharr Walk Closed by Beavers

Visitors to Loch Coille Bharr have been disappointed to find the very popular walk around the loch has been closed. The signs give no reason for the closure but a short walk along the path beyond the fishing jetty answers the mystery. This walk, newly transformed into a Beaver Detective Trail complete with faux beaver nibbled signposts has been closed by the very animals it intends to celebrate. The path has been flooded for a stretch of about a hundred metres between the Dubh Loch and Loch Coille Bharr. A detour to the right of the path, through the scrub towards Coille Bharr will take you to the cause of the flooding - a fairly impressive dam which has stopped the water from the Dubh Loch draining into Loch Coille Bharr. The beavers are enjoying the rich feeding on the Dubh Loch and prefer to travel by water so their engineering skills have been employed to flood the area enabling easy access from Coille Bharr to the Dubh Loch. The Dubh Loch is part of a Special Area of Conservation which means it is strictly protected and raising the level of the loch could cause problems for some of the aquatic vegetation in the loch. The Coille Bharr walk is a waymarked path, well used by locals and visitors to the area. The 'solution' to the problem is to put a pipe into the dam to let the water flow into Coille Bharr but if it has been installed, it isn't working as the water is level with the top of the dam. The positioning of the dam, blocking gaps in the rocky ridge allows for a substantial construction and there is plenty of scope for the beavers to raise the dam and water level by another metre.

What is the answer? The dam could be removed but I would expect the beavers would immediately get to work to reinstate it. The Forestry Commission could re-route the path along the side of the Loch. The beavers could be relocated to another site (if there is another suitable site) but given the problems the trial has experienced to date there would be a reluctance to disrupt a settled family. Somehow I don't think the walk is going to be open any day soon.

The photos. The first photo shows the path which was above the level of the Dubh Loch, flooded to a depth of 18 inches for a length of 100 metres. The second photo shows the back of the dam with a newly formed body of water behind it. The third photo shows the way the beavers support the back of the dam with sticks placed at an angle to hold it in place against the pressure of water. The fourth photo is the sign advising that the walk is closed without any explanation of the cause of closure.

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