Work on upland footpaths is never ending
Hillwalking has increased dramatically since the 1960s and has put great pressure on Scotland’s fragile upland habitats.
Imagine how many people must have walked the main Goatfell path since it appeared on the 18431882 OS map series. All of those steps, combined with the natural effects of climate, can cause severe path erosion. If left unchecked, paths can form gullies, boggy areas and wide braided scars on the landscape. This has the potential to damage rare vegetation and archaeological sites as well as detract from the natural beauty of an area.
Upland paths provide a gateway for people to enjoy Arran’s unique and beautiful landscapes. Large numbers of visitors come here each year with the goal of climbing Goatfell or one of the neighbouring mountains. How many would want to visit the uplands with dangerous paths, boggy tracks and landscape scale scars? Upland path work preserves one of Arran’s main attractions - the spectacular mountain landscape.
Footpath work is usually physical and often involves a hefty walk to the site, even before a tool is picked up. Many of the paths are extremely remote and can pose serious logistical and technical challenges. Much of the work is ‘pre-emptive’ and stops small areas of damage becoming expensive future repairs. Work often involves tasks including repairing braided paths and gullies, constructing waterbars and crossdrains and stone pitching. Sometimes it also involves using winches and even helicopters to move larger boulders and aggregates. Throw in a good dose of ‘changeable’ upland weather and you have a pretty difficult job. The reward comes on completing a section and knowing a small section of upland has been preserved for another 100 years or so. Unfortunately the work is never ending and paths continually need maintenance. Only last week a three to four metre landslip occurred on a popular section of path in Glen Rosa.
The National Trust for Scotland is at the forefront of upland footpath work and boasts a highly-skilled in-house mountain path team which carrys out essential maintenance on Arran, Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, Glencoe and Torridon.
On Arran they also make use of local contractors which reduces the need for travel and provides sustainable local employment. Not to forget the volunteer groups, such as the Thistle Camps. who also donate many hours of hard labour to conserve the islands uplands.
So next time you are out walking in the hills pause for a second and give a thought to the dedicated hard-working teams who are responsible for maintaining the ground underneath your feet.
Long may this vital work continue.
If you would like to keep up to date with goings on, check out the website www. nts.org.uk or the Facebook page www.facebook.com/ArranRangerService/
Hard at work on path maintenance in difficult terrain.
A section of path under repair. B34NTS02No