Trainees Gill Walker, Keiran Fogarty and Rory Paterson at work on Conic Hill

Trainees Gill Walker, Keiran Fogarty and Rory Paterson at work on Conic Hill

Walkers are being asked to ‘adopt’ paths in Scotland’s two national parks.

The Mountains and the People project will also see 36 traineeships created in the £6.1m scheme to improve popular routes in the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs.

The Adopt a Path scheme is asking volunteers who go hillwalking to adopt a favourite hill route in Scotland’s national parks that they will inspect when they go walking and then report back on the condition of their adopted path.

The aim is to create an army of volunteer path inspectors who will help spot damage on paths in the national parks early, so maintenance money and effort can be targeted and effective.

The work will improve more than 125km (78 miles) of paths and offer more than 1,000 days of volunteering opportunities and 36 paid traineeships, providing the opportunity to gain skills and qualifications for work in the conservation sector.

The official launch involved the first group of trainees demonstrating their new path-work skills on Conic Hill, on the route of the West Highland Way, to representatives from each of the partner organisations behind the project.

The trainees are taking part in a six-month paid course to achieve their SVQ Level 2 in environmental conservation, spending time getting to know the different aspects of the course, meeting people working across the sector and most importantly getting to grips with the practical skills required to work in some of the country’s most challenging yet inspiring locations.

The project will run a series of six-month traineeships based in each national park, training 36 people across the five-year project.

The scheme is being led by Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust in conjunction with Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority, Cairngorms National Park Authority, Scottish Natural Heritage, Forestry Commission Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund which contributed £3.26m towards the project.

Dougie Baird, director of COAT, said: “As part of the West Highland Way, Conic Hill is one of Scotland’s most popular walks and the ideal place to launch Adopt a Path.

“The path up Conic Hill will be repaired and improved as part of The Mountains and the People Project. Once repairs are complete on, each of the mountain paths involved, we need people who walk those paths to help us keep an eye on them so we can make sure they are well maintained.

Ryan Hamilton, left, and Fraser McLaughlin work on a path

Ryan Hamilton, left, and Fraser McLaughlin work on a path

“The volunteers can also be trained to undertake minor maintenance on these adopted paths, helping to ensure that small problems are tackled quickly. Hiring people to inspect paths is expensive and cannot be done often, so it makes a huge difference if we can inspire volunteers who love the hills and walk regularly, to become custodians, adopting routes and keep us informed about the state of the paths.”

Gordon Watson, chief executive of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs authority, said: “We are thrilled that so many people come to Scotland’s National Parks to enjoy the spectacular mountains and scenery. But all those walking boots, combined with Scottish weather, can have a significant impact on our most popular hills.

“As paths get worn and degrade walkers tend to go around damaged areas causing paths to widen over time and the surrounding environment is damaged. By restoring the paths, training a new generation of path conservation workers, and encouraging people to get involved in this project we want to make sure these mountains are here to enjoy for this generation and the next.”

Ben Lomond and The Cobbler are two of the 23 mountains in Loch Lomond & the Trossachs that will benefit from the project.

Cairngorms national park boasts Britain’s highest and largest mountain range and at 4,528 sq km is the largest of all the UK’s 15 national parks.

Beinn A Ghlo is one of the hills that will see prolonged, sustained damage repaired using techniques pioneered by COAT during the now complete, four-year £2.1m Cairngorms Mountain Heritage Project.

COAT led the successful application for HLF funding and committed a further £612,177 to the project, which was boosted by contributions from Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Authority (£525,000); Cairngorms National Park Authority (£275,000); Scottish Natural Heritage (£200,000) and Forestry Commission Scotland (£525,000) with the remainder coming from corporate sponsorship and charitable trusts, to give an overall total of £6.1m.

Gill Walker, a trainee with The Mountains and the People said: “It has been a great opportunity to see first-hand the level of erosion caused by heavy footfall and Scottish weather to mountain paths, to put our new found knowledge and skills in path maintenance and repair into practice.

“This will all help me work towards my goal of a future career within the Conservation and Environmental sector.”

Cabinet secretary for environment, climate change and land reform, Roseanna Cunningham said: “We all care deeply about conserving our landscape; none more so than those who walk our hills and countryside regularly.

“The best way to conserve our mountains is to address these issues early. This is why we are enlisting the help of volunteers to spot any problems and concerns early so that we can all work together to help keep our paths open and safe. I would encourage all hillwalkers to adopt a path and help protect some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes.”

More details are on The Mountains and the People website. Anyone interested in volunteering can email the organisation.

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