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Volunteer Cairngorms – Maintaining paths

By Becky Wilson on 6th October, 2022

Volunteering Manager

Becky Wilson talks about the time spent in the summer maintaining paths with volunteers in the Cairngorms.

In July I ran a volunteer path maintenance day with the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS). Volunteers from Kinross to Canada all worked together to repair parts of the Coire Domhain path. As well as improving this popular path for walkers, a lot of fun was had by everyone involved.

Volunteering with OATS on these organised days helps maintain paths for all to enjoy but is also an excellent way to meet new friends and spend some time in the outdoors surrounded by stunning scenery.

Summer 2022 saw lots of exciting opportunities being offered by Volunteer Cairngorms, some of our most remote and challenging opportunities were done in partnership with OATS. Together, we created around 10-15 ‘path maintenance experience’ days, taking place across the National Park. These days were all open for the public to come and gain path maintenance skills, take in the scenery, and have a chance to leave long-lasting change in the National Park.

July saw a team of volunteers working together to repair parts of the Coire Domhain path, down into the Loch A’an basin, taking in the immense scenery, and building confidence on high-level routes. Members of the team came from Kinross, and as far as Canada, and had a brilliant day swapping stories, working hard and soaking in the surrounding mountains. Here are some stories from the team about why they chose to come out and try this volunteer activity with Volunteer Cairngorms and OATS:

John, Kinross

“My girlfriend and her friend had signed up for volunteering and invited me to join them. I was really keen to give it a go as I spend most of my weekends out hiking in the Highlands and have learned to appreciate a well constructed path! Living in Perth, I am incredibly lucky to have the Cairngorms within an hour’s drive of my home. The opportunity to get into the wilderness after a busy week of work is something that I look forward to and I feel that this is my way of giving back to the opportunities afforded to me.

“Like most people, coming out of COVID restrictions for the past 2 years, I was keen to meet new people from a wide range of backgrounds who share a similar passion for the outdoors. I come from a country where the ‘Right to Roam’ is not as readily available as what is in place in Scotland, so I appreciate the freedom of movement in the countryside while being responsible myself in doing so.

I realise that having path networks in the Highlands is something which can encourage people of all abilities to get outside in the fresh air.”

Laurie, Perth

“Volunteering with OATS last Sunday on the Coire Domhain path was such a great day! It gave an insight into how much effort goes into the paths so many of us enjoy, and how important they are to maintain.

It was a wonderful chance to explore a rugged and stunning section of the national park which was new to me, whilst meeting lots of really interesting and friendly new folk.

I learned a lot, laughed a lot, and hope to explore more of the hills with Shona and the team in the future. I found it very fulfilling, and noticed the benefits in both my mental and physical health – even if that means sore legs!”

Cara, Canada

“I had an incredible day on Coire Domhain with the team. I saw a poster for volunteering in Fords of Avon Refuge Hut, and decided to look into it – I’ve been traveling Scotland for a while now and have loved exploring the Cairngorms.

I wanted to meet the people working behind the scenes, make some memories and give back to this incredible landscape.”

OATS volunteer maintenance days include upland path maintenance and erosion control, and other practical conservation work. Volunteers work alongside experienced people, learning techniques that enhance their practical conservation skills and increase their knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of our mountains. Volunteer days give people the chance to get involved and play their part to protect and enhance upland habitats in a fun and welcoming environment. All you need is good general fitness and experience in the outdoors, tools are provided and no prior path work experience is required.

More photos from the day

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