(Issue 348, December 2007)Article and Photos: Felicity Martin
Sunshine greeted the crowd who assembled on Saturday 3 November to participate in the opening of Phase 2 of the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. This 3km path section runs from the RSPB Vane Farm Reserve to the northern edge of Levenmouth Wood and adds to the 7km between Kinross and the Pow Burn that was completed in the spring.
The opening ceremony took place below Findatie car park at the new footbridge installed in October across the River Leven Cut. This peaceful spot close to Findatie beach is roughly the midway point of the new section of path.
Councillor Willie Robertson, the chairman of TRACKS, welcomed everyone who had come along, saying, "If you go down to the trail any day at Burleigh Sands or Kinross House, you´ll find people looking out over the loch, cycling, walking, jogging or visiting the hide and people with their children, all enjoying what is the most wonderful natural resource. I´m delighted that this is another step towards making that resource available for the public and I hope that they enjoy it for years to come."
He handed over to Neil Kilpatrick, Project Director for the Loch Leven Heritage Trail, who thanked the many people who had made the new path possible, "Without the willing support of the landowners on whose ground we have built the trail and constructed the bridge, nothing could happen at all. Thank you to Kinross Estate Company who own the lochside, to the River Leven Trust who have kindly consented to let us put this bridge across the river, to the RSPB because it has been wonderful to start this phase of the trail at Vane Farm itself, and finally to Findatie Farm, who own the land beside the river.
"The sponsors are also very important as they produce the money. We have been very fortunate to have been able to raise the best part of £2 million from quite a formidable list of sponsors. (See below)
"In addition, we have had two excellent contractors leading this part of the project: MacLarty Limited constructing the trail and Hatrick-Bruce who have done the bridge. Thanks must go also to our three project managers: Lewis MacAskill who looks after all the trail contractors, Aaron Lawton who is dealing with all the interpretation and Alistair Smith who is our engineering consultant.
"The project you are looking at is not quite finished as we´ve given priority to actually constructing the trail so the public can use it. Work is going on behind the scenes on the interpretation aspects. We´re going to build a viewpoint at the Kirkgate and gateways at each of the main entrances: at Findatie, Burleigh Sands and the pier at Kinross. You´ll see these developing over the coming year and we´ll be putting in signage and interpretation boards describing the very rich heritage around the loch.
"The River Leven Trust is an extremely interesting part of the heritage of the trail. It goes back to the 1830s when the cut was constructed by hand, using navvies, to supply much-needed water to the mills downstream. At the same time, it lowered the loch so a huge tract of new agricultural land was created. In terms of its industrial heritage, it´s very important and the Trust still looks after the river and controls the water that flows downstream to the mills and distilleries."
Neil Kilpatrick invited Billy Mitchell, Chairman of the River Leven Trust, to open Phase 2 of the trail. Before cutting the tape across the bridge, he said, "I hope that you take great enjoyment from this new bridge, which I think is a superb installation. The Trust has a photographic history of the cut going back to the 1820 and this is a yet another addition to that, so we will catalogue the whole building of the bridge.
"People don´t perhaps realise the importance of this water here, which serves industry downstream. I would just ask - enjoy the track, enjoy the walk, enjoy the cycle ride, but please respect that we do have people who live up here and operate the sluice for us and maintain that water.
"We as a Trust have enjoyed working with you and I take great pleasure in officially opening the Levenmouth Bridge."
The spectators then crossed the bridge and most of them continued along the path for a walk or ride though Levenmouth Wood. Many went as far as the Scottish Natural Heritage bird hide, which overlooks a wetland beside the loch, and a few went to the far end of the wood.
For now the path stops at the north end of Levenmouth Wood and it is necessary to retrace one´s steps. However, the third and final phase, which will be started next April, will complete the missing link between the Pow Burn and the edge of Levenmouth Wood. Once that is opened, it will be possible to go all the way from Kinross clockwise around the loch to Vane Farm.
TRACKS is very grateful to the sponsors of the project: the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage, Perth & Kinross Council, the Forestry Commission, the Gannochy Trust, Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust, the Arthur Margaret Thomson Charitable Trust, the Community Environmental Renewal Scheme, the SITA Environmental Trust and Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust.