Transport in the Strath
The Roman occupation of Strathearn saw the construction of the first recognizable road system as the occupants in their established tradition built a road system to enable communication between their various outposts . The road over the Langside from Braco to Comrie connected the main camp at Ardoch with the Dalginross “ glen blocker “ . The Gask Ridge represented a frontier of forts and watch towers stretching from Ardoch to Bertha where lies modern Inveralmond . The Romans constructed a military road to connect these various outposts and these have been partially excavated as part of an ongoing research programme undertaken by Dr DW Wooliscroft and a team of archaeologists many of whom are from Liverpool University . Various excavations have been carried out to determine how these roads were constructed . Although construction techniques may have varied dependent on the location , the Parkneuk and Roundlaw sections of the Gask road indicated that the Romans laid turves over the existing ground and made up the foundations in hardcore comprising small stones from a local source . The road was between 20 and 24 feet ( some 7.25 metres ) wide and laid to a camber and blinded on the surface with gravel . At Roundlaw , the existing farm road is thought to be the actual Roman road constructed all those centuries ago !
Tradition , nay legend tells us that part of King Street in Crieff was a Roman way . It should be remembered of course that when they occupied Strathearn some 2000 years ago , Crieff as a town or village was not there . The straight lines of existing roads such as those from Muthill to Crieff ( the A822 ) and the back road between Garrick Cottage and Muthill , off the A822 and skirting the Muir of Orchil depict characteristics of the roman road building ethos concerning the shortest way between two points ! It may well have been the shallow ford across the Earn at Bridgend in Crieff that saw them choose this line as a way to their glen blocker camp at Fendoch in the Sma’ Glen .
Archaeologists have known for a number of years that a well preserved road cutting adjacent to Innerpeffray library was almost certainly of Roman origin. A dig was organised in June 2004 funded by the Perth & Kinross Heritage Trust. It coincided with the Exhibition being held that month in the Library “Crieff from 1745 “. The Library itself sits atop an eroded “drumlin “(a hillock formed by glacial deposits) besides a sheer cliff overlooking the Earn. The theory was that this road was constructed by the Romans to bring traffic up from the crossing of the river at the old ford connecting with the road in and around Parkneuk further northwards. The Romans had a fort at Strageath on the south bank of the Earn and this was part of the road system linking then Gask Ridge watch towers and fortlets.
The initial survey levelled the area and discovered that the road had a gradient of about 1:5.7 which would have allowed the passage of wheeled traffic from the bottom to the top of the cutting. Wheel ruts were discovered when the top soil was removed. Excavations failed to reveal any suitable deposits of datable carbon or pollen or other organic material. The diggers did find a small piece of 18th century glazed pottery as well as a small piece of medieval green glazed pottery. Conclusions as to the originality of the road were difficult to arrive at. No Roman remains were uncovered .It is likely that this stretch of road was an integral part of the local system of communications back as far as the medieval days long before the Turnpike Acts of the 18th century and the bridge building in the area which significantly altered the route pattern that was existing .
Why then are we to believe that this road was constructed by the Romans? The line was , as noted above , part of the chain of the Gask Ridge defences . Secondly the manner of construction was typically Roman with an engineering style that was in advance of that found later on in these parts. Calculation indicated the extent of the engineering work carried out. In excess of 2 000 tons of material had been removed and a durable hard core bedding lay. The gradient was gentle, indicating an engineering technique that was too sophisticated for periods up until the 18th century. The only known complex road building carried out in Scotland between the Roman occupation and the arrival of General Waid in the 18th century was carried out by the Cistercian monks who were skilled in such matters ( Hoffman .2004 ) The nearest Cistercian abbey was at Couper Angus and there appears no evidence of their involvement at Innerpeffray . There is evidence that the road was in use during the Tryst at Crieff in the 17th and 18th centuries. To quote Hoffman:
“Rather more can be said of the cuttings likely later history. The early modern period brought increased traffic to this part of Strathearn. In 1672 and Act of Parliament (***Note: this refers to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh as it was prior to 1707) granting the earl of Perth the right to establish a large cattle market (The Tryst) at Crieff. This was held in mid October and quickly became the chief Tryst in Scotland with reports of 30 000 beasts changing hands in one week, to be exported to land s to the south. While the majority of cattle were brought in via the Sma’ Glen and the glens further west, cattle from Angus and Aberdeenshire tended to be driven from Perth via the “Old Gallows Road “. Described in 1715/1716 as “ the road to Stirling “ this leads out of Perth , past Long Causeway , Burghmuir Road , the Old Gallows Road at Glen Devon Farm and continues today as a line of hedgerows , field tracks and short roads past the old farm of Gateside , East and West Cultmalundie , Westmuir , Clathymore , Clathy , Roundlaw , Ardunie and Shearerston . It eventually crossed the Earn at Innerpeffray, with further branches leading to Crieff and Kinkell. As the name suggests , it appears to have run past the Gallows to the west of Perth , whilst the 19th century “ Notes of the Statute Labour Trustees “ already describe it as old and confirm its use as a drove road . ”
The importance of Innerpeffray in the road system in the pre Statute Labour Days of the late 18th century can be seen by reference to old Perthshire maps by cartographers Moll and Stobie. The old Roman road or street running parallel to the Gask Ridge watch towers became an important road to Perth . It followed the fort line before turning north near Windygates to reach the old Gallows Road near Tibbermore . According to Hoffman the road appears to have degenerated into a mere track east of Gask House. According to the Statistical Account for 1773 for the Parishes of Gask and Trinity Gask it ” saw little use despite being in a good state “ .
The Innerpeffray road may have seen an upturn in traffic when the Tryst moved to Falkirk in the 1760s but this was brief . It had ceased to be part of a major route when the Crieff bridge over the Earn opened in 1740- 1741 . In 1758 , Maitland described the Roman road from Strageath fort as “ descending the eminence and , crossing the Earn , mounting the hill to the village of Innerpeffray in the neighbourhood of which it became the common road ”. The fact that he was able to cross the and that the route still appears on Stobie’s map of 1783 , suggest that the ford and the cutting were still usable at this time . His statement that the common road did not begin until he reached the village might imply that this was no longer a major crossing point . If so , this would fit in well with Moll’s map , produced a decade earlier in 1745. This still marks the Old Gallows Road but shows Kinkell , not Innerpeffray , as the Earn crossing point . Kinkell was originally a ferry crossing ( as Innerpeffray became ) but in 1793 was replaced with a toll free bridge . This cut travel times and drovers ‘ costs still further and would have had an impact on the importance of Innerpeffray .
The old Roman Road became redundant as with the advent of the Turnpike and Toll Roads drovers and other travellers were avoiding paying toll s by taking these old routes . Pressure was brought upon the adjoining proprietors to close non statute roads . The Old Gallows Road and a series of branch roads were formally closed in 1813 “on application by Lord Kinnoul and Robert Smyth of Methven ” .
The departure of the Romans from Scotland , saw a deterioration in the road system they had established . For centuries . transportation and population movement utilised this network and eventually they became virtually unusable due to lack of maintenance and upkeep .
ARB Haldane in his classic publication “ The Drove Roads of Scotland “(Nelson.Edinburgh .1952) relates the following : “ The tracks followed by the drovers up to the middle of the eighteenth century were for the most part ill- defined , marked principally by the passage of that very traffic for which they themselves were responsible . The duty of maintaining the roads of rural Scotland , which had been laid on the Justices of the peace in 1609 , was largely ignored , and the system of Statute Labour introduced in 1669 , for the same purpose brought little improvement . Matters improved after the Union of the Parliaments in 1707 , but trade in rural districts was carried on mainly by pack horse throughout the greater part of the eighteenth century ……In some parts of the Highlands , too , the routes followed by the drovers were routes also used by pack- horse , sledge and foot traffic , often dating from a very early period , and it is in many cases now hardly possible with any certainty to distinguish the marks made by one type of traffic from those made by another .” The main droving routes into Crieff for the annual Tryst were through the Sma’ Glen bringing the beasts from Caithness , Sutherland ,the Western Isles and Aberdeenshire and from Loch Tayside via Ardeonaig and Glen Lednock and along Loch Earnside bringing cattle from Kintyre , Mull and other parts of Argyll . This seasonal traffic must have caused a fair bit of congestion to those going about their normal business as the Michaelmas Fair approached . The pack horse traffic however probably served the Strathearn area for most of the year . An account by Anne Gordon in “ To Move With The Times ” ( Aberdeen University Press. 1988 ) says “ Before the days of proper road and bridge building , the use of pack horses was essential . They could carry loads of up to 2- 2 ½ cwts in panniers or packs on their backs of all sorts of goods – wool , grain , peat ,coal , lime , ironstone , salt , lead or anything else that needed to be moved , including smuggled goods taken by devious routes during the night to their destinations , and they needed nothing more than paths - the so called pack roads - and fords to do so , although they might have to go far out of their way to find paths firm enough to give them a firm footing . They usually travelled in strings of thirty to forty , sometimes even as many as one hundred and fifty , moving in Indian file , tied halter to tail . The first animal was led and the rest pulled forward by the tail of the one in front until they got to their destination . , when they were unloaded and the halter of the leading horse tied to the tail of the rear one , so that they were tied in a circle and could not run off .”
In Strathearn there are two fine examples of what appear to be pack horse bridges . If one goes out of Crieff heading past the Glen Turret Distillery at the Hosh and follow the road up to the Turret Dam you come to the bridge over the Barvick Burn . Park your car here and follow the arrows up the steep path for about half a mile to the old Barvick Bridge . The views are spectacular and although the tumbling falls of the Barvick Burn are mostly obscured by thick afforestation , it is splendid walk . The bridge itself is narrow and constructed from local stone with a majestic arch enhancing its simple architecture .
Barvick Bridge built probably about the 17th century by the local laird to give access for tenants to Crieff market and also allow the packmen to gain access to the habitations on the Brae of Monzie
Another example of a pack bridge at Monzie next to the kirk . Commonly if somewhat erroneously referred to as the Roman Bridge
Porteous in his History of Crieff recounts a horrendous tale involving Lord Lovat on the aforementioned A822 ( as it is now ) in 1740 . Making his way from Drummond Castle south towards Dunblane en route to Edinburgh from Inverness with his two daughters , he writes , “ I got to Drummond Castle where we were storm stayed by the most tempestuous weather of wind and rain I ever remember . Setting forth eventually , I was not three miles gone from the castle when the axle – tree of my fore wheels broke in two in the midst of the hill betwixt Drummond and the Bridge of Ardoch , and we were forced to sit in the hill with a boisterous day till Chamberlain Drummond was so kind as to go down the Strath and bring wrights , carts and smiths to our assistance who dragged us to the plain , where we were forced to stay five or six hours till there was a a new axle – tree made , so that it was dark night before we came to Dunblane , which is but eight miles from Castle Drummond all much fatigued . Eventually we reached Edinburgh in safety , having taken eleven days for the journey “ .
Lord Fraser and his daughters’ experiences gives vivid insight to the condition of the roads of the period. In an effort to remedy the situation , the government passed a number of Turnpike or Statute Labour laws which were attempt to enforce able bodied men to carry out six days manual labour on the roads each year . In Strathearn , the results were somewhat mixed . The Acts enforcing individuals to carry out the work was administered by local Justices of the Peace . As the statutory registration of births , marriages and deaths did not come in to being in Scotland until the 1st of January 1855 , they could not have had a formal list of people who were being requested to carry out the hard labour of the “ Parish Road Days “ . The existing old parish registers covering Crieff were not obligatory and only started in the 1690s . This period did however see the construction of two roads to Perth , the first being that via what is now Dollerie Terrace and the second by Highlandman . Porteous’s account gives a lot of interesting detail regarding the road construction in the mid 18th century . As the labour to be used was not voluntary or indeed by choice , the numbers turning out was disappointing . Mr Thomas Caw , know locally as the “ Provost “ , was appointed overseer for the task with the assistance of one John Galloway , the local constable .The Local Justices issued them with the following : “ You are hereby ordered to call out the inhabitants of the Parish of Crieff , according to lists to be given to you , and on the days appointed by Mr Thomas Caw , overseer for that road , and you are to intimate to all those you call out to work upon that road , the penalties of the law in case they delay , or refuse to come to the roads when commanded thereto ; and as there is another road intended on the north of the Pow , you are to summon such of the town and parish to the south road as live on the south side of street or great road going through Crieff from east to west , and such of the tenants as live on the south side of the present road leading from Crieff to Corrievechter Easter and Dollerie , and leave the others on the north thereof to assist at at the north road . ( The ‘ present road ‘ above mentioned is the old road by Kincardine . )
Despite the somewhat threatening attitude to the citizens of the town , work on the projects would appear to have progressed at a snail’s pace . Such was the dissatisfaction amongst the Justices and the local lairds that a meeting was convened in Crieff in 1742 to determine what steps should be taken to expedite matters . The Duke of Perth was prominent amongst the latter and the various proprietors along the routes to Perth were given the task of directing operations over that part passing through their lands . The meeting issued the following statement : “ The inhabitants of Crieff have shown an unwillingness to go to the making of the road and have made but small progress considering the numbers who have gone out , that it be made optional for the inhabitants to go out three days this summer or pay 12 shillings Scots on or before 10th May next “ . A fine of 20 shillings Scots was to be levied on defaulters and instructions were given to Thomas Caw to draw up a fresh list of those liable to work , while fourteen who had failed in their duty were to be summoned to attend a meeting of the justices . The tools purchased by public monies to construct the road were to be passed on to the next proprietor as the work was completed on the foregoing stage . About 1790 the road now called the Perth Road , starting from the east end of High Street was formed . It joined the old Perth Road near Callum’s Hill . The unsatisfactory nature of the system to construct a new road network was soon recognised as subsequent Acts amended the situation . A levy or tax superseded the statutory labour requirement and a rate of 1/6 ( 7.5 pence ) was imposed after 1751 . By the end of the 18th century the Turnpike Acts introduced tolls on the new roads and toll houses were set up to gather the revenue . In Crieff six were built , two at Bridgend , two at Dalvreck and two at “ Charing Cross “ , the guschet between Dollerie Terrace , Perth Road and East High Street . Of all the toll houses only these last two one remain having been renovated by J & R Robertson, local building contractors around 1980 and transformed into a pleasant single residence . During the renovations when the wall linings were stripped back , it became clear what the original lay out had been . The present Perth Road is much higher than at the time of the tolls . A window on the north wall had been built up and was some two metres below the present street level . This part of the property was the toll house dealing with traffic on the main highway to Perth whilst the southern part was the one serving the Gleneagles Turnpike .
We have examined elsewhere in this narrative the road building exploits of General Wade in Strathearn and north of the Sma’ Glen . His road system dates from the period after the Jacobite Uprising of 1714 from about 1725 . His road started from the Bridgend in Crieff , up King Street and over Ferntower . His construction methods have proven incredibly similar to those of the Roman occupants of the first century AD . Although many of his bridges have long since gone , some remain including a superb little one over a burn near Newton and of course the magnificent one at Aberfeldy which is still in use . It was built by Wade but designed by the architect William Adam . Before we leave the subject of bridges , mention should be made of the “Roman “ bridge at Monzie . The appended Edwardian post card was of a much photographed scene at the old mill of Monzie . Whether or not it was actually built by the Romans is a matter of great scepticism . It ‘s rustic rubble construction is similar to a number of bridges in the Strathearn area including the one over the Barvick some four miles to the west .
One benefit achieved by the construction of the new roads was that for the first time the towns and villages were at last within reasonable reach of the principal towns and cities of Scotland . Apart from the horses and carts of public carriers plying regular routes bringing and taking wares to Strathearn , a number of stage coach services were introduced . Crieff became a post town with the Glasgow to Perth mail coach being routed through its congested streets . It must have been an exciting scene as the daily coach and horses galloped in via the narrow approach of Duchlage Road which was,until 1823 , the main access from the south . Before long Crieff was also being served by the Edinburgh mail coach as well as a number of services for the public allowing at last access to the outside world . Coaches such as the Comrie Dasher , The Strathearn Lass , Bessie Bell , Mary Gray , The Victor and the Rapid plied their routes between the towns and villages of the Strath . There even was a “ lawyers’ coach “ laid on to transport Crieff’s solicitors to the county town and legal metropolis of Perth !
In 1820 , Robert Stevenson , grand father of the author Robert Louis Stevenson , presented a “ memorial “ , or in modern parlance , a feasibility study to a number of eminent personages including His Grace the Duke of Atholl, the Right Honourable the Earl of Strathmore, the Honourable W.R.Maule, M.P., James Wemyss, Esq. Younger of Wemyss, M.P. and the other noblemen, gentlemen and magistrates. This memorial was “ regarding the propriety of opening the great valleys of Strathmore and Strathearn, by means of a railway or canal “ . The presentation included a hand coloured folding, engraved map, hand coloured with blue printed wrappers. It outlined plans to connect Perth , at the head of the Tay navigation system , with towns both east and west . Canals were to be constructed through both Strathmore and Strathearn . It had been discussed since the middle of the 18th century and indeed Stevenson himself had reported on a Strathmore canal in 1817. Here he shows why the country would be suitable either for canal or railway, before coming down in favour of horse-drawn edge railways, describing the advantage of such a system over both canals and roads.
Things however were changing rapidly and after the economic depression following the Napoleonic Wars , things improved dramatically . Bumper crops in 1842 and 1843 heralded an improving affluence in the country . The stock market was awash with spare cash ripe for investment and the prospect of good returns from investment in the newly invented railway system was proving popular . In 1844 there were some 66 proposed railway construction bills before Parliament . Local persons of influence felt that Perth and Strathearn , to the west , should be part of this rapidly expanding network which was gradually spreading out its lines throughout these isles . The ground had been surveyed in 1841 and by 1844 a Committee for the Railway from Perth by Stirling to the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway had been duly formed under the chairmanship of Charles Sidey , Lord Provost of Perth . The number of influential landowners in the area who became involved was substantial . Amongst them were Laurence Oliphant of Condie , a former MP for Perth City . , HL Colquhoun of Clathic and Archibald Turnbull of Bellwood . The initial meeting heard a proposal from John Campbell , 2nd Marquis of Breadalbane urging that a prospectus be issued for the construction of a railway from Perth to a junction with the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway near Falkirk . Indeed this followed on soon afterwards on the 15th of March as a result of a high powered gathering in Edinburgh attended by , amongst others , the Marquis and Lord Kinnaird , joint promoters of the adjoining Dundee and Perth Railway , Sir Patrick Murray Threipland of the Carse of Gowrie and Sir John Stirling of Kippendavie near Dunblane . Without much ado a provisional committee was set up and things began to move .
Named the Scottish Central Railway , the subscribers initiated a detailed engineering survey together with an estimate of cost . This was carried out by the Mitchell family from Inverness who had a well established pedigree in railway and canal construction. After much consideration as to the actual route to be followed , the Company came down in favour of the route by tunnel through Moncrieff Hill and on into Perth . The alternative choice before them was to swing north from Auchterarder towards Crieff and thence follow the line of the Pow Burn eastwards towards the Fair City . Undoubtedly if this choice had been followed , it would have had great economic benefits for Crieff as the proposal would have virtually by passed Perth to link up with the Strathmore line to the north . Perth would have ended up at the end of a branch line , something its worthy citizens would not have welcomed !
Proposals followed , that a branch line would be formed to connect Crieff to the main SCR line at Greenloaning . Unfortunately financial constraints put paid to that scheme which had suggested initially that when the main line opened in 1848 , the Crieff connection would also have been completed . Some five years later , things had moved on a pace and the Crieff Junction Railway Bill received Parliamentary and Royal Assent on the 15th of August 1853 . The engineer appointed by the Company to be responsible for all aspects of design and construction was a man who had established a reputation for building cheap railways throughout Scotland . This man was Thomas Bouche . Bouche ( later Sir Thomas Bouche ) was the person whom designed and took responsibility for the ill- fated Tay Rail Bridge .That disaster in 1879 virtually killed the man who had at the time been working on his Forth Rail Bridge project .
The Crieff scheme suffered dreadful delays and set backs despite an optimistic opening date given to the directors by the contactor , James Gowans . On reflection many of the reasons for the delays lay with Bouche whom had taken on too many other projects and failed to devote the necessary time and consideration to the job in hand . The intentions were that the SCR would actually operate the smaller Crieff Junction Railway providing the necessary locomotives and carriages . Staff employed by the Crieff Junction Railway for the proposed opening had to be paid off when it became clear that completion of the line could not meet the deadline date set . As many of those had been in the previous employ of the larger company , feelings between the two were not good . The opening date of the 13th of March 1856 proved yet another disappointment as the Central refused to permit its locomotives to pass over the track work at Crieff Junction Station ( later to be called Gleneagles ) as it was deemed to be unsatisfactory . After consultation between Gowans and the Central ‘s engineer , modifications were carried out to the track and , a day later , the line opened . There appears to have been considerable bad feeling between the two Companies and it was only some nine years later that this ceased when the two amalgamated .
In 1864 , the Crieff and Methven Junction Railway was established and after a meeting held in the Drummond Arms in Crieff , work was sanctioned . Once again delays followed and eventually it opened to the public in 1866 . The following poem quoted in Porteous in his History of Crieff and written by one John C Fisher , a native of Crieff , sums up the opening of the line in a most apposite manner . As a song it was sung to the tune of “ Bonnie Dundee “ .
We hae gotten a start in the richt way at last
For commerce and railways are multiplin’ fast
And soon from our home in the North we can ride
To the banks of the Tay , the Forth and the Clyde
The gude folks o’ Crieff deserve noo a sang
For a nice thriving place they’ll mak’ it ere lang
Wi’ railways , and Baillies , a Provost and a’ –
Us Crieff folks , ye see , are getting “ fu “ braw
Since the Crieff and Methven line’s first turf is cut
There’s gladness in many a hamlet and hut , -
And many anxious bit wish for the day
When an engine shall puff on the Methven Railway
The lady we thank here , who opened this line
And all who who joined the procession so fine
Our Provost , the Masons , and Crieff Volunteers ,
Let’s gie them dear friends , three loud ringin ‘ cheers.
On the opening day , the 21st of March 1866, it was declared a holiday in Crieff . Three trains departed that morning with an incredible crowd on board of nearly 1 000 passengers .
The development in a westerly direction out of Crieff was somewhat slow in happening . Efforts fronted by Comrie proprietor Colonel Williamson of Lawers came to little . Opposition came from Crieff Town Council when it was revealed that this would cut through the Town Green known as the Meadow . This area , a former public bleaching field had been the subject of earlier discussion when an ownership issue arose . The site of this controversy is currently occupied by the Somerfield Supermarket and car park . At long last Comrie was joined to Crieff when the first train puffed out westwards on the 1st of June 1893 at 6.30 am .
The final link in the chain was connecting Comrie to Lochearnhead . This most scenic of routes traversed the north side of Loch Earn finally entering Lochearnhead and the dipping southwards to Balquhidder Junction where it joined up with the Callander and Oban railway .The line was authorised in 1897 and opened shortly after this . The Balquhidder end had a single timber shed with a 60’ turntable . The Lochearnhead station is now a Boy Scout Centre and was located to the rear of the former Lochearnhead Hotel . The lines were absorbed by the Caledonian Railway in 1902 .
Railways were an important part of local for more than 100 years . In Strathearn , Dr Beeching’s savage cuts in the 1960s saw the demise of what had been a way of life . The railways in Strathearn were major employees . Analysis of figures in the census enumeration books of the late 19th century shows that the railways were at one time the second largest employers in the area . The axe fell and it was no more .
The complexity of the Crieff railway set up is best appreciated by examination of the ordnance survey map of 1902 . Two lines approached Crieff from the east . The areas above Duchlage Farm compromised cattle pens , a saw mill( where Duchlage Court now
stands ) , a timber yard , an engine shed , sidings and a water tank . The line then passed under Duchlage road and split into numerous sidings , peripheral to the main station . Apart from coal depots , there were three sawmills , a timber yard and various small buildings . The station had two platforms with glass canopies . An attempt to run rail” busses “ which allowed you to flag down a “ bus “ at certain spots proved a failure . The line closed in 1964 and the land lay derelict for many years . Until developed in the early 2000s , the old yard was shrouded in small shrubs and bushes . The platforms were clearly discernible and the ground had a high ash content a tangible reminder of the by gone steam age . For a while a bike track utilised the space once occupied by bustling holiday makers and Crieff businessmen heading for opportunistic offices of Stirling and Perth . Now the site comprises sheltered housing ( Duchlage ) , a small industrial estate , the new cottage hospital , the new ( 2000 ) Crieff Health Centre and its redundant predecessor . Further westwards the the embankment over Morrison’s playing field s at Dallerie has been excavated away to provide up fill for the new roads to the many new houses now occupied by Strathearn’s latest arrivals . The bridge over the Turret has gone . The line of the railway as it makes its tortuous way westwards is obscured with newly sprouted greenery and its undergrowth provides nature with a more acceptable habitat . Have things really changed in the reclaimed countryside ?