The car isn’t properly fixed all week so we can only go a few miles before over-heating. We check out Gairloch and find the Mountain Coffee Company café – well worth a visit – full of outdoorsy character, more caffeine-based beverages than you can shake a stick at, a great book shop and donations to the John Muir Trust. Fab place.
I have to liaise with the garage, hitching in. With time to spare I go down to the beach and find a wonderful mosaic of flush, marsh and scrub vegetation ending abruptly onto conglomerate slabs and boulders. Seepage tracks are colonised by the tightly packed, grey-brown Dermatocarpon intestiniforme (det B Coppins - see below) intermingled with D. miniatum. There is plenty Xanthoparmelia conspersa there and the usual coastal species like Xanthoria calcicola, Anaptychia runcinata and Tephromela atra but some unfamiliar crustose ones there which I can’t sample without a chisel. Nephroma laevigatum is unexpectedly found in a rock niche.
Isn’t it funny that you can spend ages agonising about the identity of a newly encountered specimen, but when you get it back from the expert (thanks, Brian) it then seems so blindingly obvious what it really is. Perhaps it is because language (species descriptions) is so relative and needs to be bottomed out by connecting it with the real thing – which is why decent photos can help so much. I thought this particular specimen was a bit old and wrinkly but Brian pointed out that it was parasitised by Opegrapha pulvinata. Two for the price of one!
The pebble beach is a treasure-trove of colour and beach-combing is a favourite pastime so I make a collection.
We took a trip to the beach at Redpoint. Quite a raw day but several groups of folk there picnicking and flying kites. Apparently a fairly normal beach but then at the north end there is a stream cutting down to the sea carrying red Torridonian sandstone. There are also small amounts of a much finer, black clay sandwiched in the rock. The current separates out these two different particle sizes forming fantastic bands and streaks which slowly migrate downstream.
It forms a striking focal point for this picture with Verrucaria mucosa, a dark green crust lichen, on the forground boulders.
One of my holiday objectives is to get up some hills for a decent workout and to recharge my wilderness battery. I try to get to Liathach and even a quick dash up Fionn Bheinn at Achnasheen (beautiful name for a village). But the car is still hopelessly overheating and I have to turn back. Frustrating, but they’ll be there next time. Back in the cottage I have fun teaching Georgia to light the fire and take her down to the sea to see the roaming cattle graze seaweed. She learns about tides. Karen supervises art projects.
The Badacro river carves through a lovely gorge with mature oaks perched on the edge of a vertical drop. The heather moor has many granite outcrops which support Umbilicaria torrefacta and Cornicularia normoerica. I fight through tick-infested bracken to coastal woodland dominated by aspen with Degelias, Lobaria pulmonaria, Melanelia fuliginosa (ssp glabratula), Pannaria rubiginosa and Megalaria grossa but disappointing not to find anything amazing and new for all that effort.
Friday comes. How are we going to get back home in that car? I suggest a drink in the Badachro Inn. We get talking to locals. They say ‘sounds like your thermostat’. I buy them more beer. We end up with me and neighbour Dave fixing the thermostat that evening, finishing well after midnight (the garage had put in a new, but faulty one). Wonderful local people helping us out at the last minute! Priceless. So we drive home no problem on Saturday.