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Journey of ‘Discovery’ for new Minister

24th July 2018

Minister for Rural Affairs & Natural Environment in Cairngorms National Park today and opens new Ballater path.

The Scottish Government’s new Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, Mairi Gougeon MSP, has travelled from west to east today (Tuesday 24 July) taking in the sights and sounds of the Cairngorms National Park on her first official visit to the area since being handed a ministerial role.

During National Parks Week (23-29 July) with this year’s theme being ‘discover,’ the Minister certainly had a packed itinerary. As part of her whistle stop tour, the Minister officially opened a new stretch of path in Ballater on the south side of the River Dee – an area which was badly affected by flooding following Storm Frank in 2015 – fulfilling a long term community desire to take walkers and cyclists off the south Deeside Road. The much needed new stretch of path has been constructed by the Scottish Outdoor Access Trust at a cost of £71,000 with funding from the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and the Scottish Rural Development Programme. The new section of path winds its way over three quarters of a mile from the entrance to Pannanich Woods past the Mackenzie Memorial to the Bridge of Muick.

While in the Ballater area, Ms Gougeon was also able to view the restoration works at the Old Royal Station which was badly damaged by fire in May 2015 but has risen from the ashes and returned to its former glory.

Earlier in the day the Minister had been in Grantown-on-Spey to meet with staff at the CNPA offices. She also visited a site at the River Spey to discuss the plight of Scotland’s fresh water pearl mussels and the challenges the species face, especially from wildlife criminals.

As part of the Minister’s road trip today there was also an opportunity to call in at the Discovery Centre in Tomintoul Square, which has been completely refurbished as part of the £3.6 million Heritage Lottery funded Tomintoul and Glenlivet Landscape Partnership project. The Discovery Centre is the result of the reworking of the Tomintoul Museum into a brand new visitor experience and information hub as well as community space. The museum continues to be central to the facility with stories and artefacts illustrating the area’s rich cultural and natural heritage including a virtual reality experience and a digital archive for researching local history.

From there she continued her journey on the ‘Snow Roads’ stopping at ‘The Watchers’ at Corgarff, which is one of three art installations on the route. The ‘Snow Roads’ is an outstanding 90 mile route from Blairgowrie to Grantown-on-Spey traversing the highest public road in Britain and linking the communities of Braemar, Ballater and Tomintoul with a range of natural and cultural attractions along the way. Funds to develop the ‘Snow Roads’ were secured from Scottish Government by the CNPA as part of the Scottish Scenic Routes Initiative. The Cairngorms Business Partnership has recently been awarded funding from Scottish Enterprise to work with partners over the next two years to develop the route as a must do journey.

Minister for the Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon said: “Scotland’s National Parks are central to the conservation of our diverse natural habitats, environmental sustainability, and rural economic development and recreation. I was therefore delighted to take in the sights and sounds of the Cairngorms National Park as part of National Parks Week today, seeing the beautiful scenery, helping to open a stretch of path, and meeting some wonderful and dedicated people. I would encourage everyone, to get out and visit our National Parks as they are truly stunning.”

Peter Argyle, CNPA Convener said: “We are absolutely delighted to welcome the new Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment to the Cairngorms National Park during National Parks Week, helping her to discover more about the Park and the types of initiatives happening on the ground. The series of wide ranging visits today clearly demonstrate the vast array of multi partnership projects – as well the multi-million pound investments – that are happening here, supporting our areas of work in conservation, visitor experience and rural development.

“We are particularly pleased that she has been able to open a new path in Deeside today which will provide a much safer route for walkers and cyclists in the future.”