On the Boardwalk

Article in the Konect Directory, Calders edition, November 2010

by Karen Murray 

For the serious walker, a boardwalk might be considered a cop out. However, the main point of a boardwalk is to preserve the land beneath while allowing you to walk in the environment and enjoy it. The other reason boardwalks are so great is that they are an added incentive to persuade children to go for a walk. Mine change their shrill cries of ‘Oh no, not a walk’ to ‘Great, let’s go’ when we mention it might be a boardwalk.

Blawhorn Boardwalk

Our usual haunt is the boardwalk at Red Moss near Balerno, but through a friend who works at Scottish Natural Heritage I have discovered a new place for us to visit as a family namely Blawhorn Moss, near Blackridge. The wooden pathways now winding around this ancient habitat not only preserve the habitat, they keep the visitor safe too – if you stray off them you might just find yourself waist-deep in layers of soil and moss that have been vegetating for 1,200 years! 

As recently as 2008 Blawhorn - one of the largest and best examples of lowland raised peat bogs in the Lothians – was re-declarated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR). The 110 hectare Blawhorn Moss is owned by Scottish Natural Heritage and they are keen for people to visit this internationally recognised reserve. Bog habitat is still under threat nationally - almost 94% of the UK's lowland raised bog habitat has been lost since the end of the 19th century. Large areas of these deep peat deposits were dug out for fuel, drained for farming or planted for forestry.

The bog, which has over twelve thousand years of moss growth, is a survivor of a huge area of peat which once covered the entire area of central Scotland. Flora is many and varied with a carpet of sphagnum moss, heather, cotton grass, crowberry, hair moss and even the insect eating round leaved sundew – which has been known to eat even dragonflies. That little nugget of information could certainly intrigue a child and keep their interest in the outdoors!

For the budding ornithologist, many different birds visit the moss at different times of year including the red grouse, snipe, curlew, redshank, teal, skylark, hen harrier and short eared owl. Butterflies and dragonflies are also regularly seen at the reserve as are frogs and toads.

With all the talk of bog, you might wonder why it is such a great place for a walk. In the past bogs were simply considered only suitable for cutting the peat or for draining, but that has all changed. A walk across the bog affords a real close encounter with nature as well as some fabulous views. Bogs also act as a carbon sink, trapping carbon dioxide and helping combat global warming. Blawhorn is one of the best examples in central Scotland.

Perhaps the best time to visit the bog in terms of wildlife is from April to July but you will always find something of interest at any time of year and autumn is often brings perfect walking weather. In fact at this time of year, the leaves of bog cotton and deergrass turn the bog a rich russet colour.

This is only a short walk, but if you fancy a longer walk, you can start with Blawhorn and the reserve then links into the local path network.

Blawhorn can be found northwest of the village of Blackridge, four miles west of Armadale It can easily be reached from Junction 4 of the M8, heading west for three miles on the A89 to Blackridge. The car park is clearly signposted and is open 8am to 9pm (summer) and 8am to 6pm (winter).

Blawhorn

The name Blawhorn is said to come from the days when the local village of Blackridge was a midway coaching station between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Blawhorn was used as a viewing point for watching coaches approaching, when a horn would be blown to signal to the coaching inn down the hill at Blackridge, hence the name ‘Blow Horn'.

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