My eye is drawn by the tiny green-headed pines poking their heads nervously above the heather, like prey wary of predators. It’s not that pines are unusual in Scotland but young pines, or at least those growing in such profusion, are conspicuous in a wider landscape largely bereft of any trees. These tentative pioneers are the building blocks for a future forest.
Secreted away in the south-western corner of the Cairngorms, the rampaging waters of the River Feshie carve an ever-shifting channel with no respect for property or boundaries. Geriatric trees, partly submerged in sand and gravel, litter the riverbed, testament to the power of these waters in full spate. Alongside the uprooted titans, lie fledgling trees. Unable to gain sufficient traction in the sandy soils, these youngsters have succumbed to the river but their presence is nevertheless significant in a country retaining just 2% of the forest that once dominated the landscape.
For decades Glenfeshie has been regarded by many as a jewel in the Cairngorms crown. Gnarly ageing pines, steep-sided gravelly hills and plentiful red deer, made this glen quintessentially Scottish. Beneath the idealised exterior, however, lies a...