Cairngorms National Park

Uath Lochans from Farleitter Crag, Kingussie

In the Park

29th August 2014

Author: Brian Wood

When I woke the other morning it was as if the world had changed overnight. It had been raining heavily at bedtime and clearly the rain had continued all night. By morning much of the landscape around Braemar was unrecognisable. The familiar meandering route of the River Dee from Mar Lodge to the village had vanished and the valley was filled with water from one side to the other. It was as if, overnight, some invisible force had replaced the river with a long broad loch and fallen tree trunks were rushing down the flow like grotesque, misshapen canoes. Looking downstream, Braemar Castle, usually seen on top of a high mound surrounded by tall larches, was now perched on an island almost completely encircled by a deep moat. A shepherd was desperately trying to free sheep that had become entangled in fences and was recuing others caught in the flood and encouraging them to join their companions on the higher ground.

I drove towards the Keiloch and met a car coming back up from Balmoral. The driver told me the water was rising across the road and he’d just managed to get back through. As I drove further it became clear just how high the river had risen and how close it was to the edge of the road. At the Old Bridge of Dee at Invercauld there was a raging torrent and the water level indicator, normally standing at least five feet above the surface, was now almost totally submerged. Further on at Clagganghoul my progress was halted by a roads engineer with the news that the A93 was closed. There was a flood two feet deep across the road and the water level was still rising. By this time the downpour had reduced to a drizzle but there was still an immense amount of water to drain down from the hills and levels would continue to rise for some time.

By lunchtime however things had abated and the new castle moat had begun to recede. By next morning it had almost totally disappeared and much of the flooding in the valley miraculously had gone and the landscape had largely returned to normal. It was amazing how quickly it receded.

However substantial damage was caused to tracks and paths at Mar Lodge and across other areas in the Park. The National Trust for Scotland and the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) have been working hard to assess the extent of the damage. The next step is for COAT, working together with the Cairngorms National Park Authority and other partners, to source the funds needed to put everything back to normal. In the meantime there are still many routes and paths to enjoy, for up to date information visit: http://cairngorms.co.uk/visit/outdoor-access-issues

Perhaps recovery was more of a challenge for a prominent member of the community who went with his daughter to a barbecue at a friend’s house a few days later. He parked his car, as instructed, in the adjacent field which had been under the flood earlier in the week. When time came to leave he found that the ground was very soft and he couldn’t get sufficient traction to drive out so his daughter took the wheel and he pushed. Despite his calm, quiet advice to drive in second gear and keep the revs down, things did not go well. Cries of, “Don’t you shout at me Dad!”, were heard across the field and as he pushed and she revved the engine more, the back wheels spun even faster and mud sprayed up all over him. Much to the amusement of the other on-lookers he stood there dripping wet, wiping the mud from his spectacles.

I wonder if his pride and dignity demonstrated the same resilience as the landscape of the Cairngorms National Park!