FROM atop the narrow ridge I watch the sparrowhawk skim over the woodland canopy, tumbling a small flock of siskins in his wake.

But the hawk shows no interest in these little finches and glides low over the brow of a hill without a single beat of the wings.

Perhaps he is heading to a favoured hunting ground or an oft-used perch. The siskins quickly settle, and all is quiet again.

What else is around? I sweep the area with my binoculars and down on the woodland floor in a flooded section of willow carr a moorhen carefully treads through the shallows, its stumpy tail constantly flicking.

It needs to be careful because there will be mink about and each step is taken with measured caution.

The toes seem impossibly long, but they are perfect for supporting the moorhen on the dark oozing mud.

I watch the bird for a while longer until it disappears into a thick tangle of half-submerged branches.

This wooded ridge near Tillicoultry is such a wild place, but this is no natural feature and when I claw my hands across the soil, tiny fragments of coal stick to my fingers.

I am standing on a spoil heap from an old coal mine, yet nature has totally consumed these past industrial workings.

Birch, sycamore, ash, alder and willow all abound and there are hidden surprises too, including broad-leaved helleborine, a tall and rather striking orchid which flowers in late summer.

Not so long ago this would have been a noisy and bustling place, coal wagons trundling to and fro, the excited shouts of miners and the constant clanging from the excavations below ground.

But now it is wildness that reigns supreme, the noise of the industrial past replaced by the gentle winter warble of the robin and the whisper of the breeze.