The Lakes Rangers visit Scotland
Staff from the Upland Ranger teams had a recent field trip to Scotland to look at the work completed by the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) in this National Park. It was a chance to learn about the work they are doing up there and also a good opportunity to chat to people doing similar work as to what we do here in the Lakes. As part of the plan up there they have set up the Cairngorms Mountain Heritage Project, which is a four year project repairing upland paths across the West Cairngorms.
Due to the distance up to the Cairngorms, the team travelled up from the Lakes and stayed over at the Cairngorm Lodge Youth hostel, near Aviemore. What with the snoring in the dormitory and someone talking in their sleep about directions to the M6, the group was reasonably refreshed and ready to go. Gordon Paxton-White, who is the footpath contract supervisor for the area was to be our guide for the day.
We drove to the car park at the bottom of the Cairngorm Ski Centre and set off up the path to the North Corries Rim. This path is popular with climbers and scramblers and people doing a loop from the car park. The path had begun to widen, with erosion being caused to the sides and so landscaping stone was used to narrow the path line down, and then gravel from the nearby tunnel excavations for the Funicular Railway was used as a path surface. Drainage was incorporated as and when needed.
Path leading away from the Ski Centre
Once we reached the high point along this path we were in the snow and we had our fist snowball fight of the year. With the cloud in and out and the great stone formations, it gave us some good views.
Looking down fron the North Corries Rim
We then carried on over the North Corries Rim and then dropped down to Loch Avon on the Beinn Meadhoin path. This path drops steeply away from the plateau above and over time, the route was getting damaged and turning into a bit of a scramble. Pitched sections were put in and areas were built up to stop the stream from coming over on to the path and doing damage. Apparently it was fun moving some of the bigger stones around on the steep path!
Path down Beinn Meadhoin
After we climbed down from here and out of the snow, it was then down to the very picturesque Loch Avon for some lunch. The rain had stopped and we were sheltered from the wind. What with the clear water and sandy beach, it almost felt tropical.
Loch Avon with the beach where we had lunch
After lunch we headed back up the hill on the Coire Raibeirt path. There had been some intensive stone work done on this path and Gordon also showed us a recent rock fall that had come down onto the path. The path climbs up a steep sided ghyll and after seeing the size of some of the rocks that had rolled down, it was time to move on.
Once back up onto the plateau it was time to look at some of the work that was done over the last three years to help protect the rare montane flora that was being trampled from people spreading out. Alignment and path definition work has been carried out to try and get people to walk on a sustainable route through the area. After the winter, this area is prone to a lot of snow melt water coming off the summit and so a drainage ditch has been added later on.
Work on the plateau
We then fought our way through the increasing wind to the summit of Cairn Gorm and then made our way down to the very aptly named Windy Ridge path, which takes people back to the Ski Centre. This path had been constructed by a machine with imported gravel from the excavations of the Funicular and stone used at the sides for containment. This is a popular path with people heading up to the restaurant from the car park and so intensive work was needed, particularly in the middle section.
The Windy Ridge Path
Over the course of the two days we saw many paths with some very good work done on them. There are definite similarities to the work we do here in the Lakes but there are different factors that each area has to contend with. For example, the Cairngorms have more rain and snow whilst the Lakes have more people walk its paths and we think this is reflected in the subtle differences of the approach to the work.
Thanks goes to Gordon for showing us the great work they are doing up there.