AbstractBen Lawers is Britain’s primary site for rare arctic-alpine flora, and I have been fortunate to work here since 2010, initially as a volunteer, and then as an NTS ecologist. Spring and summer 2020 were unusual because I only climbed the mountain once this year. However it ended up being an absolutely stunning botanical day out. The experience brought me so much joy that I knew I had to share it. There are also vital contributions from aspiring young botanists Georgia (aged 6) and Felix (aged 4)! If you enjoyed reading, then please give me a follow on twitter @Watts_SH
I was employed by the National Trust for Scotland from 2013-2020 as an ecologist at Ben Lawers NNR, Britain’s best site for rare plants and arctic-alpine flora. In a typical summer I would climb Ben Lawers (1214m) and its surrounding peaks on very regular basis to undertake monitoring of nationally important habitats and plant populations. However, as we are all aware, 2020 proved unusual and I found myself on furlough leave and unable to work at this remarkable upland location. I only went up Ben Lawers and neighbouring Beinn Ghlas once this year (9th August), but it would turn out to be the most wonderful single-day botanical experience I have had yet.
The initial purpose of the outing was a family hill walk up the two Munro summits. Georgia (aged 6) and Felix (aged 4) took the adventure in their stride, and since the weather was unusually good for August, I suggested that we make a detour on our descent from the summit of Ben Lawers. We would walk past the known botanical hot spots “just to have a look”. However, it soon became clear that it would be more than just a short diversion. I have seen each of the following species at some point before, but never like this all on the same day. It was the sheer scale and abundance of flowering that made the occasion so special.