Glen Orchy – an old bridge, a magical stone and some desperate frogs

It’s surprising what turns up when you start looking at old photos!

Glen Orchy (1)In 1984 (or thereabouts) Colin and I visited Scotland together for the first time.   My map-reading wasn’t the greatest, and we found ourselves driving down Glen Orchy purely by accident – but it was so beautiful that we stopped to have a walk by the river.

We came across a strange bridge consisting of an open wooden box, big enough for at least one person to sit in.   It was suspended on wires and could be hauled across to the other side via a pulley system.  (You don’t see many of these any more!  According to the RCAHMS, it was a transporter bridge, used for bringing deer carcases down from the hill.)

Needless to say I got in the box, and Colin wound it out towards the middle.   A few minutes later I was dangling above the gorge, which looked quite a bit deeper than I’d previously thought.   After a while I tried to wind myself back by pulling on the rope, but found it was impossible.  Meanwhile, Colin rejoiced in his success and took some happy snaps to remind himself of the moment.

We thought we’d lost the photos, but we came across them just recently while going through some old slides.  I’d forgotten that we took slides in those days!   So here it is, and here I am, in all my eighties-hair glory.   These pics must have some historical value from that aspect alone.

Box bridge, Glen OrchyDeer transporter bridge (1)About 15 years later we returned to Glen Orchy with the girls, and had a picnic lunch there.    The bridge had gone by that time, but I discovered something else fascinating.   The boulders on either side of a waterfall were deeply pitted with natural hollows, caused when small stones get trapped and swirled around by the water, grinding away the bedrock.   The holes were like little mine shafts, and to my dismay many of them had frogs trapped at the bottom of them.  Some of the frogs had died, while a few of them were still alive but unable to get out.   I spent quite a while rescuing them, getting very wet in the process.

Fast forward to September 2014, when we stopped in Glen Orchy on our way up to the west coast.  We walked down to the water’s edge and in the middle of the river – which at that time was very low after a dry summer – was a boulder with an almost perfectly round hole in it.

Glen Orchy 14 0914Now, I know what some of you might be thinking.   After all, I have posted so many times about piddocks!    But if there’s a shellfish out there big enough to drill this hole, I’m never going near water again.

So, how has it been formed?   I don’t know for certain, but I can make a guess.

Glen Orchy 9 0914What I imagine is that the river, when in flood, has dislodged the boulder from its original position, where the hollow would have been facing upwards, and since then the water has scoured its way through to the other side.   It’s only a theory, so if you have any more ideas I would be interested to hear them!   At least nothing can get trapped in the hole now, unless it’s a very fat brown trout.

There’s an old superstition about stones with holes in them:  people would collect them as good luck charms, and looking through the hole apparently gave you the gift of second sight.   In this case, you really have to do it in situ, because the rock is about three feet long and must weigh a ton.

So, is it a magic stone?   I’m inclined to think that the magic lies in the River Orchy itself, because over the years it has given me some pretty amazing experiences!

Glen Orchy 10 0914

Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf 


    • Jo Woolf

      Thanks, Viv, that’s reassuring! I think Princess Diana had a lot to do with it. Yes, I agree about the grinding power of water – you only have to listen to boulders thundering downstream when a river is in spate. No, it’s not ice – I think it is foam of some sort (under the bucket) and in the top pic it is the reflections giving that effect. Although I remember it was quite chilly at the time!

  • blosslyn

    Great photos, I can’t believe that you got into the box, let alone go out into the middle of the water. Great that you though, as it makes a great photo 🙂 Different colour or different colour now, re hair 🙂

  • ordinarygood

    Aaagh!! At first glance I thought it was a Swing bridge( we have plenty of those here in NZ and they freak me out) but it is even worse really as you have to rely on someone else to get you to and fro. Did the box sway? Well done you on being so brave.
    What a gorgeous spot though. It is wonderful to be able to return to such places over time and see the changes or the different moods.

    • Jo Woolf

      Haha, I know! 🙂 I don’t think it swayed very much, it just felt quite high! You do occasionally see rope bridges across streams in the highlands but I’ve never again seen one like this. It’s gone now – although the posts either side are still there. I believe there was also one in Glen Etive at one time, as we saw the remnants of it recently. Yes, Glen Orchy is really special, and it’s lovely to be able to get there in all seasons. Can’t wait to go up there again, in fact!

    • Jo Woolf

      I’ll have to take some photos, Jeanette, when we’re next up there. There’s a lovely waterfall, the Falls of Orchy, where the rocks are just pitted with holes of all sizes.

  • Thomas G Buchanan

    Hi Lynne, I have fished the river Orchy since 1967 the box bridge you refer to which is no longer there was originally put in by the forrestry commission to access and maintain the trees. It was placed across the River Orchy at the canal pool which is on the Inveroran beat of the river where I have fished the river through 55 years and have caught many salmon there although we release them all now for preservation. Black Mount Estates own the Inveroran beat and also the Inveroran hotel and the bridge box may have been used by them also. When I first crossed it in the early 70’s it was easy to pull but in the 1990’s it was much harder. Best regards, Tom B.?

    • Jo Woolf

      Thank you for this history, Thomas! It’s really good to hear from someone who remembers the box bridge in working order. Sounds like you got some great fishing there too! All the best, Jo

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