Car parking available at Loch Leven Community Campus (KY13 8FQ).
WALK REPORT: 20th October 2017
If you follow Benvironment on Facebook, then like me you may have seen regular photos and videos of geese honking their way across parts of Fife in Autumn. Pink-footed geese, it would appear, are quite the spectacle this time of year as thousands of them migrate to Loch Leven from the Arctic for the winter. After reading Ben’s blog post about them and feeding off his energy and excitement for a few weeks, I suggested to my friend that we go and check things out on my next visit to her neck of the woods! We had been waiting to walk the Loch Leven Heritage Trail for months now anyway so it seemed like the perfect excuse to tick it off.
Now, I had been a little concerned about doing the whole Trail on the same day. Distance wasn’t an issue, it was more a question of sanity: surely I’d get bored walking 13 miles around the same body of water? I had become bored on shorter circuits around smaller lochs and didn’t see why Loch Leven would be any different. Whether that is the case or not remains to be seen because on this particular day we opted to do this 9 mile loop instead which only relies on 2 miles of the Heritage Trail before heading off into the countryside at the foot of the Lomond Hills.
The section of the Heritage Trail which we walked was short and sweet. There were nice views across the loch and the woodland footpaths made the going easy. We didn’t see much in the way of wildlife but we could hear the geese at one point just before we turned off towards Loch Leven’s Larder. One thing that did annoy us quite a lot was the number of cyclists using the trail. It hadn’t occurred to us before setting off that with it being the October school holidays we were likely to come across lots of families out enjoying the traffic-free route! Polite as we are, we stopped to let them pass….. often….. They were all very gracious and although it did become annoying I did appreciate that if my family all had bikes this would be exactly the sort of place we would come to enjoy a day out!
Pulling away from the Heritage Trail after approximately an hour of walking, I was aware that we hadn’t managed to spot any of the infamous pink-footed geese despite hearing their honking. Ironically, or more than likely intentionally, the footpath had been too far inland of the water at that point. With an “oh well, that’s that then” attitude, I marched on eager to see what lay ahead of us for the return leg of the route. First up were the pretty hamlets of Carsehall and Wester Balgedie, each with their quaint little cottages. We followed the minor road uphill enjoying panoramic views across the farmland to West Lomond (522m) and back down towards Loch Leven. It was a really enjoyable walk on surfaced roads.
Things became somewhat boggier on the next section as we followed farm tracks back downhill to join up with a dismantled railway. Interestingly, we passed several pieces of farming equipment seemingly abandoned in the vegetation to the sides of the track! They all looked as though they had been parked there for a while….
It was along the dismantled railway that the magic happened. Light was beginning to fade and I had all but forgotten about the pink-footed geese I had come here so longing to see. Out of the silence, a noise stopped me suddenly in my tracks. Honking?! Could it be?! From the fields beyond, a giant flock of geese flew right over our heads and I immediately went into full nature-geek mode! The camera was out in no time and I recorded their flight. They must have been feeding on the fields and this was them heading “home” to the loch for the night. It was such an amazing experience. Hundreds of them above us in their small groups of ever-changing flight formations and all the while that distinctive noisy honking. What made this such an incredible spectacle for me was the knowledge that these very same pink-footed geese, and thousands of others like them, had just arrived here at Loch Leven after migrating some 2000 miles from the Arctic! And that they do so every single year! I don’t know about you but I find it simply fascinating!