NEMT Member, George Allan brought the recent pathwork development on Bennachie to our attention. This work is another example where we see signs that the required path maintenance is in danger of turning our wild land into an urbanised theme park.
To find out what is happening we sent the following letter to the Forestry Commission and we will keep you posted on their response.
31st March, 2008
Mr Mark Reeve, Recreational Forester
PATHS ON BENNACHIE
I am writing to raise one or two issues regarding the recent pathwork on Bennachie. I would like to put our comments in the following context. The North East Mountain Trust, which is dedicated to protecting the mountain environment, supports the maintenance of existing hill paths where these are seriously eroded. We consider that some of the resurfacing of paths on Bennachie, such as the paths from the Back OBennachie car park near Oyne to the Oxen Craig and the path from the Visitor Centre to the Mither Tap, to be models of good practice. These well-constructed paths have been surfaced with material which blends in with the surrounding colours, thus making them unobtrusive visually.
It is with this in mind that we have concerns about the recent work undertaken on three paths [Mither Tap to Oxen Craig; Mither tap to near Craigshannoch and beyond; Oxen Craig south to the forest].
These paths have, for considerable stretches, been surfaced in a very light coloured material. When standing on the Mither Tap, the first two of these show up as bold yellowish lines snaking across the central area of the hill. Whilst the Bennachie plateau is hardly remote land, it used to have a certain wild ambience which is currently lost.
It has been suggested that the surfacing material may have been sourced locally. We would be grateful if you could let us know where the material was sourced from and what your expectations are for the length of time this material will take to weather in.
The visual intrusion is also amplified by the drainage ditches which have been dug out in a very rough manner in places or, it appears, have been created by utilising sections the old path. In addition to this, we would raise the question as to whether these three paths needed resurfaced in their entireties or whether surfacing and drainage in the areas of worst erosion would have sufficed.
The work has yet to be completed. We hope we can safely assume that the pipes etc which have been left will be removed and the borrow pit which has been created on the track from the Mither Tap to Craigshannoch will be returned to its natural state. We would welcome assurance of this.
We appreciate that this work has now happened. We would however ask that the Commission, and the other partners involved in path repair on Bennachie, consider whether the upgrading of more paths on the hill is really necessary. If it is decided that it is, then we ask that you ensure it is carried out in the least intrusive manner possible. In particular, we would be opposed to the creation or major upgrading of paths in the area to the west of the Oxen Craig.
Finally, in case you are not aware of this, maintained paths right across the hill have led to mountain bikers using these. One of our members was met by half a dozen cyclists descending the Oxen Craig to Back OBennachie [Oyne] car park at speed. This obviously poses a nuisance and danger to walkers, particularly children, and the Commission may want to try to look at ways of discouraging this.
Thank for your attention and I look forward to hearing your views on these matters.
Jennifer A Cook
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