Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust - 2010 Programme

Since the last edition of Mountain Views, a lot has been happening here. Dougie Baird and Chris Goodman have surveyed the key upland paths in the Cairngorms National Park and generated a very useful Upland Path Audit. This document has been reviewed in detail within NEMT. We fully support it.

We can all agree that, for example, the steep section of path up from Loch Avon to Loch Etchachan is in a very poor state and needs significant repair. There are many other examples where we can all agree. The sensitive aspect is that repairs are not over-engineered and that "light-touch" means just that. There is a feeling, at times, that ample money has been raised and that it needs to be spent and, as a consequence, we end up with excessive work and paths that are inappropriate to the wild land they are passing through.

On the basis of the Upland Path Audit, COAT has applied for funding to start carrying out the work. They are optimistic of getting sufficient money to start work this summer, probably on the northern side of the park. Having studied the audit document, we are convinced that there is plenty of work needing doing on agreed repair scope. We will be liaising with COAT during the summer to try and make sure that the sections detailed for "light touch works" are indeed lightly-touched.

COAT are planning to start an "adopt-a-path" scheme, using volunteers to survey specific paths once or twice a year. This would also involve low level maintenance such as cleaning out water bars. Serious maintenance would be done by a separate professional maintenance team. We very much support this initiative and will be pushing it out to our Member Clubs during the summer. If local hillwalkers and climbers are actively involved with specific paths, then any proposed repairs are likely to meet with approval.

An issue, which needs to be further worked, concerns mountain bikes. A well-repaired path is a lot easier to bike along than a heavily eroded scar. Thus an unintended consequence of repairing footpaths is that it encourages mountain bikes further into core areas, which can lead to accelerated erosion. COAT is sensitive to this. We, in NEMT, will be looking at this in more detail overthe summer.

Dougie Baird has offered to give a presentation on this topic as part of next year's lecture series so we hope we can look forward to inviting you along to this.

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