The site visits were held on 28th and 29th March 2017 for a group of 30 visitors from all five ASCENT partners. The visit was hosted by Walking-the-Talk and led by Chris York and Bob Aitken.
The study tour was designed to give a brief introduction to path management in Scotland and to visit sites where different approaches have been used. The approaches to path management have come from different pressures (such as land management, visitor numbers, terrain and available funding). The visit also showed that there is not a single solution to the impacts of visitors and that as well as physical management of paths, it is necessary to consider the context of visitor management, including promotion (or otherwise) of paths and development of associated resources and infrastucture.
A key lesson, hopefully, was that path management is an ongoing process and not a ‘final solution’ that only needs capital investment. Funding for maintenance continues to be a problem in Scotland and there are still mountains that have had no repairs. However in forty years of ‘modern’ path management, a huge amount has been achieved using volunteers, specialist contractors and employed staff in different situations.
It is a very popular, iconic path which has heavy use. There was a purpose-built ‘pony path’ from the 19th Century – its attraction as a tourist destination is long established. The mountain is owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
This location was used to introduce ASCENT visitors to the concept of upland path management in Scotland: it is based on a need to reduce and contain the impacts of recreation, being mainly focussed on landscape and natural heritage protection. The primary aim is not tourism development.
Ben Lomond path has been managed for over 40 years and has evolved through trial-and-error and has ongoing investment. Work began using volunteers and has seen specialist contractors and an in-house team.
The Ptarmigan route was repaired ‘pre-emptively’ to avoid catastrophic damage, rather than to promote an additional route. At the time there was cooperation from the limited sources of promotion (guidebooks) to ensure that protective work could be completed before the route became popularised.
Glen Coe is a very popular walking and climbing destination, but also contains the main trunk road between Glasgow and Fort William. The Glen has been in the ownership of the National Trust from Scotland since 1933, and its purchase came with conditions that have become known as the Unna Principles (after the main contributor Percy Unna) which enshrine the concept of minimum intervention.
Glen Coe is often held up as a model of integrated countryside management, with the National Trust for Scotland having full control over land management, and a strategic approach managing visitors: there is no sign-posting, car parking is managed within the glen, there is a visitor centre (off site) and a Ranger presence. Path management has been developed over many years to deal with the specific problems of steep slopes and high rainfall within a contained environment.
Coire nam Beith path
This route was very popular as a route to and from climbing sites and the guidebooks were responsible for promoting the route. There was widespread and significant damage caused by the action of water on steep ground once the path had been established.
The path repairs were undertaken to reduce the landscape impact and involved stabilisation of steep ground, including the use of geo-textiles.