Tom PendryA paddler was due to set off this weekend on a 150-mile trip up the west coast of Scotland, using solar power to provide his energy.

Tom Pendry

Tom Pendry will travel by sea kayak from Barra the length of the Western Isles. He will use driftwood and heather for fuel and a wind-up radio to get weather forecasts. His expedition was made possible by a grant from the John Muir Trust.

Mr Pendry aims to leave as little trace as possible on the environment, and is heading from the southernmost point of the Western Isles, Barra, to the most northerly, Lewis. His trip is expected to take three weeks.

The Bill Wallace Grant was set up by the JMT in memory of one of its guiding lights. Bill climbed extensively in Scotland and was involved in expeditions to South America, the Alps and Greenland in the 1950s. The Go And Do It! grants are for between £500 and £2,000 and are for expeditions to wild places with an educational or scientific element.

Tom Pendry was born on Barra and has worked on the island as a renewable energy consultant, having achieved a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He is also a sea-kayaking guide.

He said: “I am proud to be sponsored by the John Muir Trust for paddling in what can be one of the most challenging kayaking environments and a stunningly beautiful location. This is sure to be an adventure that I won’t forget.” He’ll be keeping a blog during the trip, which you can see on his website.

Ben Sutton JMT Development manager Dave Picken said: “Now in its second year the Bill Wallace Grant is for expeditions that raise awareness of and help to conserve wild places.”

Ben Sutton

 “I wish this year’s adventurers the best of luck and hope that they have a great experience.”

Further grants have gone to Ben Sutton, part of an expedition to attempt summits in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, a former republic of the USSR and an area that has not previously been visited by mountaineers. The Tien Shan mountain range that extends northwest through Kyrgyzstan and includes the two most northerly peaks over 7000m in the world.

Ben Sutton said of his award: “Receiving the Bill Wallace Grant was a great boost for the expedition.

Ilya Maclean“It's so encouraging when people like the John Muir Trust are enthusiastic about your aspirations, and provide the support to help make it happen!”

The third recipient is Ilya Maclean, who has been awarded a grant to allow him to train rural Tanzanian villagers in bird identification and monitoring techniques in the Blackwood forest. These skills will enhance their prospects of securing future employment.

 Ilya Maclean, from Edinburgh, has a life-long passion for wildlife and has done extensive research in Africa as part of his PhD in Ecology. 

Ilya Maclean 

He said: “I feel very pleased and honoured that my project has been awarded the Bill Wallace Grant, to go out and do what I believe in: conserving wildlife whilst ensuring that people benefit too.”

The deadline for the next round of application for the Bill Wallace Grant is 15 January 2009.