Saturday, 12 October 2019

Back To Brown

Aside from a few areas of improved land, mostly close to townships, the greater part of the vegetation on Skye is heather moorland. The improved land may well have once been cultivated - to grow potatoes or maybe oats - but today almost no-one grows crops on a large scale, and any surviving improved grassland is used for grazing sheep. Nomadic sheep and cattle also graze widely on the natural open moors.

So - with the bulk of Skye vegetation being of the moorland variety - spring brings forth a fresh growth of vibrant green shoots and a spectacular variety of wild flowers. The nomadic grazers soon remove most of the more obvious flowers, leaving the remaining predominant vegetation as grass, rush and heather. All of these plants are green (or green-ish) for about five months of the year. The heather flowers in September, providing a pleasing interlude of purple before winter begins.

Come October, the taller grasses have already turned ghostly, the heather has finished flowering, and the deciduous dwarf moorland trees and shrubs are losing their leaves. The landscape turns gold for a short but spectacular interlude. The leaves on any birch trees go yellow before they fall, and areas of bracken glow gilded in the scarce sunlight. A bright October afternoon on Skye is a wonder to behold!

But then, for almost six months, Skye is brown. The landscape sleeps, shivering beneath sombre skies and winter winds.

By day, the human Skye residents pull on their waterproofs and carry on with life. Come the evening - stoves are lit, and the dog does its best to push itself between you and the fireside - and maybe you let it win.

Brown is a wonderful time of year!

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