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In the Park – January 2017

21st January 2017

Brian J Wood – Depute Convener CNPA

There is a path in our back garden which leads up into the woods behind the house and it’s been sorely in need of care and attention for some considerable time.  I have to admit that the problem has been worrying me and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.  I felt that I didn’t have the skills, nor perhaps the energy to deal with it.  And then the solution suddenly presented itself.

I was invited along to Piper Hall at Balmoral to celebrate the graduation of six trainees who had successfully completed their training in mountain path conservation, repair and maintenance.  They had been recruited as part of The Mountains and The People Project.  This is a five year project co-ordinated by the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) which attracted £3.8M from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2015.  It aims to engage people in protecting and maintaining cherished Scottish peaks and to create training and employment opportunities for up to forty eight young apprentices and volunteers.

The scheme operates across both the Cairngorms National Park and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and the Forestry Commission.  With match funding from the two Park Authorities, the various agencies and from corporate sponsorship and charitable trusts the total fund available is £6.1M.

With both Parks successfully encouraging more and more people on to the hills the various path networks are suffering added wear and tear and are in need of maintenance.  But that must be done carefully.  Respect, Reskill and Repair is the mantra of the Project as the trainees are taught to reinstate the mountain paths in a way that appears that no damage or repair was ever done.  Displays were set up at Piper Hall and videos were shown to demonstrate just how successful the scheme was. The pictures showed firm well-drained paths in excellent condition looking as if they had always been there.

It was also clear how much the trainees and volunteers had enjoyed and learned from the experience of working with the contractors, ,rangers and staff who had instructed them.  In the Cairngorms we can look forward to work being carried out on some of our most iconic landscapes including the paths on Mount Keen, Lochnagar and Beinn a Ghlo where repair and upgrading is so badly needed.

So with one group of young people completing their traineeship the task of enlisting a new band of recruits for the next course is underway.

And therein lies a possible solution to the problem I have with my garden path. The challenge I now have to tackle is how do I persuade my wife to sign up for the course?

The Mountains and the People Project will be recruiting again in the new year, for further information please visit: