Bla Bheinn Path Repair, Isle of Skye, Scotland

The John Muir Trust is a UK conservation charity dedicated to protecting wild places. They work to restore the rich wildlife and habitats of wild land, helping native woodland and peatland to thrive. They campaign for long term legal protection of wild land and educate people on conservation of these areas.
 
Bla Bheinn.  Image Ken Paterson
Bla Bheinn. Image Ken Paterson

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The Project

Bla Bheinn (pronounced Blaven) is one of Britain’s most magnificent mountains. It guards the entrance to the Black Cuillin range on the Isle of Skye, rugged and elemental wild land ringed by coastal villages, sea lochs and native woodland. The breath-taking view from its summit and relatively simple access mean high footfall, which, combined with rainfall has led to serious erosion on sections of the path. This has damaged fragile soil and plants on the hillside and caused sedimentation of nearby streams, as well as creating a prominent scar visible for miles. This project will:
• Complete all required repairs to 3.8km of the Bla Bheinn path, protecting the surrounding habitats while preserving the wild land character of the fragile mountain area
• Run 2 conservation working parties per year on Skye with volunteers contributing to Bla Bheinn path repairs and gaining new skills
• Raise awareness of path work issues and how to minimise your impact with walkers and those interested in wild lands. The project will potentially engage with 10,000 visitors to the local area and thousands of JMT supporters/members using a film, online and in print materials.


 
Surveying the problem.  Image Chris Goodman
Surveying the problem. Image Chris Goodman

The Update

Work began on 30th September with contractor Upland Access spending a week bagging up 110 tonnes of stone from nearby boulder fields and repairing the site ready for the airlift. The airlift of stone went ahead on 16th and 17th October 2014, with blustery conditions making quite challenging flying conditions for the pilot. In keeping with the Trusts ethos, the path remained open at all times. The stone work was on target to be completed by Christmas 2014 when they reported to us in October. Stone features such as steps and cross drains are being constructed in a style that is more organic and less formal so that the work blends in with the natural surroundings and reduces the man made feel. Trust volunteers helped maintain the first 2.1 km of the Bla Bheinn path this year. New interpretation boards, leaflets a short film and online materials have all introduced the topic of path management to a wide audience.
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We are hugely grateful for the support of the European Outdoor Conservation Association, without whose support we could never have realised such an ambitious project.
Hugo Tagholm, Surfers Against Sewage