Work on up­land foot­paths is never end­ing

The Arran Banner - - News - Na­ture Notes with JACK IB­BOT­SON

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

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