In the middle of Perth, in the middle of River Tay, is a small island that was until yesterday a complete unknown to me. Going by the name of Moncreiffe island (or with the older name Friarton Island) this low, small, unassuming patch of land is barely noticeable from the city riverside as it blends in with the far bank. A railway bridge sweeps over the road and river and island itself, the bridge pillars simply extending over the island as if part of the river.
Access to the island is on foot only, although there is a rather rickety looking ford at the northern end to the eastern river bank. To get there keeping feet dry involves the footbridge access which is affixed to the railway bridge. Steps lead off this down to the island below with a handy golf cart ramp attached.
It’s an unusual place, you arrive on a typical wooded, river island with sandy soils and a relatively sparse layer of vegetation on the ground. A path south however leads past well tended allotments with neat and not so neat sheds, typical vegetable plots and small detached urban gardens. These are all surrounded by a rather insubstantial flood bank that barely seems up to the job of keeping flood waters out. Beyond the allotments the path ends at the entrance to the King James VI Golf Course and the end of the road for the casual visitor.
Fortunately for my definition of an island it has been inhabited with Friarton Farm formerly on the western side of the island in the area now used as a golf course. It appears not to have been a long lived dwelling but the story of a fire in 1957 seems to refer to Moncreiffe Hall to the south not to the building on the island.
The wildlife of the island, at first, did not appear to be very remarkable, some wild garlic, wood anemones and bluebells under a mix of trees from Scots pine to sycamore. Some patches of few-flowered leek were a little more unusual. Then, a somewhat surprising find, a tall willow tree hacked away at its base, not by a vandalistic human but by a beaver. This is a sight that may be becoming more common on the Tay but for someone from Northumberland this is still something more associated with other parts of Europe than the UK.