Dr Liz Auty. Photo: Susan Wright/John Muir Trust

Dr Liz Auty. Photo: Susan Wright/John Muir Trust

A munro which is the spiritual home of the contour line has a new land manager.

Dr Liz Auty has taken up the post looking after the east side of Schiehallion, which in Gaelic means fairy hill of the Caledonians.

The mountain was the scene of a pioneering experiment to calculate the density of the Earth carried out in 1774 by the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne, backed by a team of mathematicians, scientists and labourers.

Observatories were constructed to the North and South of the mountain, and a bothy was built to accommodate the scientists and their equipment. The labourers camped out in rough canvas tents.

To aid the cleric’s calculations, mathematician Charles Hutton devised contour lines.

Dr Auty is keen to record and conserve the flora and fauna of the 1,083m (3,553ft) peak in Perth and Kinross as manager for the John Muir Trust, which owns the eastern side of the mountain.

She said: “I’m really pleased to be taking on this role. Schiehallion, the fairy hill of the Caledonians has everything.

“Its Alpine-like peak rises straight up from the heart of Scotland; it is steeped in legend and folklore; it is home to over 300 species including some of Scotland’s rarest wildlife; it has dozens of fascinating archaeological structures and it has a unique place in the history of mathematics, science and geography.”

Thousands of visitors make the ascent of the munro each year.

“Because of its easy access from much of central Scotland, and its relative safety in good weather, Schiehallion is one of Scotland’s most popular and family-friendly mountains,” Dr Auty said.

“The Trust is always keen to encourage people out onto the hills, but maintaining the footpath and keeping it clear of litter can make it feel like painting the Forth Bridge.

“I will also be working in close partnership with our neighbours – the Highland Perthshire Community Trust, which owns Duncoillich, the Forestry Commission and the Kynachan estate.

“We would like to work towards a network of native woodlands across the four estates.

“We will also be stepping up the number of species studies carried out on east Schiehallion. The black grouse, we know, have been doing well, and last year’s beautiful summer was great for the rare mountain ringlet butterfly.

“If there are any local experts out there interested in helping us monitor wildlife, especially birds and insects, we’d be delighted to hear from them.”

Cambridge University graduate Dr Auty lives in Auchterarder with her husband and two children. Since 2007, she has been the JMT’s national biodiversity officer, working out on the land on trust properties across Scotland.

Anyone interested in helping Dr Auty can contact her on on 01796 484874, or by email.

The mountain’s Gaelic name is Sith Chailleann.

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