Wednesday, 15 July 2009
Machair (pronounced "macker", at least by my Scottish friends) is a unique natural environment found on the west coasts of the Hebridean islands.
Sand in the Hebrides is composed mostly of ground up shells (I heard a figure like 90%). Peat is naturally acidic, and the shells are alkali, so when the sea breezes blow sand across the peat fields it reacts to form a pH-neutral and very fertile environment.
(What do you mean, you didn't come here for a science lesson?!)
The net result is that, around June/July every year, the ground erupts into a blanket of flowers. Here are some pictures of the meadows to show what that means in practise:
Bear in mind that this is a broad strip along the whole western coast of various islands. It's a sight to behold - although there are downsides for those of us with hayfever!
We camped on the machair a couple of nights, and found the texture of the soil is very sandy, making it easy to get the tent-pegs in but I did worry about whether we'd have stayed anchored in a storm! Thankfully we were very lucky with the weather.
Common flowers include buttercups and clover, but also loads of others I've not seen before. I especially love the tiny purple ones. Here are a couple of close-ups: