Leaving Luing last Monday to travel to Ballachulish for our workshop in the woods, the wild grasses on top of dry stane dykes lining the road had shrivelled up with the dearth of rain these last seven weeks and no doubt needed the steady drizzle.
I met Carol in Oban and we agreed that our needs were rather different that day and hoped that it would clear up by the time we got there. On the way we stopped at shops and cafés to ask their owners to display posters inviting local people to take part in the cycle path project, which in one instance involved us trying to press A4 sheets on to a brick-hard, cluttered chipboard with the wind howling around us. The general response was very welcoming, although we were told that some landowners weren't keen on the path going through their land.
However, by the time we met Sam Clark and his P5, 6 and 7 pupils by the road that leads to Ballachulish Bridge, the rain had stopped and so we happily walked to the path and gathered together near the former station platform. I asked them what they could see, hear, smell, touch, taste and imagine all around them and to write down or draw some of those things, then we broke up into two groups, with Carol working with those who were drawing, while I helped those writing. At first it took them a little while to start writing poems and prose, but they soon got the hang of it and I read their work and suggested one or two ways they could improve what they had written. The sound of the wind in the trees and what it must have been like getting off the steam train at the station fired their young minds, and one of the pupils told us that his Gran used to collect tickets at Ballachulish station.
Sam discovered some traces of the station amongst the trees, pointed out how curved the platform was and explained that passengers would disembark there to go to the hotel and take the ferry across the narrows. Carol's group walked further along the path towards a cutting which went between rocks and came back with drawings of leaves, plants and the headless horseman who was supposed to have ridden the track that led to Ballachulish House. Halfway through we changed over groups and this time I took my group through the trees to explore a concrete block with a hole, pipes and some water in it that must have had something to do with the station.
It quickly became known as the witch's well and more poems and prose followed. In no time at all the minibus returned to collect them, so Carol and I went back to the school to tell the other pupils what we had done and to work for another half hour on their writing and drawings. Sam downloaded the photos he had taken on to his classroom computer to show everyone where we had been, and said he would work further with them on what they had done and perhaps take some to a coastal part of the cycle path near Kentallen.
That part of the path has magnificent open views of Morvern and some of the boulders along it might be suitable for carving short poems on before reaching a possible stopping place where cyclists could sit on a large rock-shelf on the shore and enjoy the seascape. Here are a few more lines about the path:
Winding through woods
on the trail
of the ghost train.