Tuesday, 22 May 2012

St Cyrus Nature Reserve

Saturday 19th May,

We missed out again last weekend due to poor weather and travelling to visit family - which seems to be becoming a theme that I think we need to stamp out! Friday was another cold, wet washout but the forecast for today suggested that at least it would be dry, so we settled for that. We had two routes planned with the decision to be taken when we got up in the morning. If it was sunny with clear skies we would try for Hill of Wirren and if not we would take the shorter, easier alternative of St Cyrus Nature Reserve. In the end we did a wee bit of both in as much as we drove down to find the start of the Hill of Wirren walk, but the top was still covered in mist so we headed back towards the coast, which was clear, and St Cyrus.

The Nature Reserve is set just north of the Montrose and the river North Esk. It sits between the A92 and the sea and is sheltered by high volcanic cliffs.

Looking north along the original river course
With the reserve being managed by Scottish Natural Heritage there's an informative visitor's centre that details everything you can see, to everything you might see, so it was worth spending a while looking around it before we set off on the Coastal Path north following the base of the cliffs, (more by coincidence than design, this turned out to be another piece of the Scottish Coastal Path network we could tick off). We stopped off at the old Nether Kirkyard which sits on what was originally the beach but is now some 2km from the sea.

Nether Kirkyard - Looking North

Nether Kirkyard - Looking Southeast
 With still no particular plan in mind we continued along the Coastal Path until the cliffs met the beach. The path from the beach up to the cliff top was closed due land slips so we found a sheltered spot to have some lunch.

Nice spot for a house but maybe a bit too precarious!

Looking North

Looking South
With nowhere left to go we turned south along the beach which stretches in a long curve all the way past the river North Esk to Montrose, but at this time of year you can only go as far as the Visitor's Centre before you're met with out of bounds signs as SNH try to re-establish bird breeding areas among the dunes. It's a little bit disappointing but what can you do? I like the idea of trying to re-establish breeding colonies but it seems like a big area and I wonder if there isn't better way than simply closing off great chunks of the reserve. Maybe I'm being a bit selfish.

No through road!!

Hopeful - or have missed the point!
So having walked the length of the beach, and passed a couple of beach casters who didn't appear to be doing very much that looked exciting, we followed the path through the dunes back towards the car park. The path crosses the original route of the North Esk which burst its banks during a huge storm in 1879 and the route of the river estuary changed in just 24 hours to its current position some 1.5km to the south.

Looking what would have been downriver, (north), before the flood.
From here it was an easy stroll back to the car. Compared with two weeks ago when we visited Balnamoon's cave, this was an easy, short walk but it had been nice to visitthe area again and to feel a wee bit of sun on our backs. We had left the car around 10 o'clock and got back just before 2 o'clock so a quiet afternoons stroll would be the best description.

I did stop off to photograph the Kinnaber Viaduct that once carried the branch line from Montrose to Inverbervie and its much older road equivalent built by public subscription in the 18th century during the Scottish Enlightenment. It's one of those photographs that I can see but can't quite get right! Answers on a postcard!!

Kinnaber Viaduct, (road on the right, old railway on the left)
More Photos


  1. Loving the hat in picture three...

    1. You're a cruel nephew to your favourite auntie!!............J

  2. Hi John. That cheered me up. I love the picture of the footsteps disappearing into the sea. And the one of the fishermen – isn't the idea to get close to the water?
    Cheers, Alen McF

    1. Hi Allen, The scary thing about the footprints is that they didn't belong to us and we never met anyone that far along the beach. Maybe we should have worried about why we couldn't find any coming back out! Thanks for looking in......J

  3. Hi there, lovely photo's! just thought i'd drop a quick line with regards to the exclusion zone. Its a voluntary exclusion zone set aside due to the increased pressure on the ground nesting birds by visitors and dogs. I understand its a tricky one as it can be seen as a little restrictive, but it has been heavily backed by locals who say they can see a difference in bird activity so we have continued the area on a voluntary basis (it has been an exclusion area for over a decade). We are doing a study of breeding bird density within and outwith the zone and it really does work, which is so important as Skylark populations have plummeted in the last 30 years. We also have little ringed plover in this area which is great!

    Many thanks for the blog!
    Therese Alampo
    St Cyrus NNR Reserve Manager

    1. Therese, thanks for looking in. I really wasn't having a go, after all I'm pretty poorly qualified to complain with any justification! I really hope the experiment continues to work and that the numbers climb back up to sustainable levels...........J