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25 Oct 2022

20-year project milestone for path manager Bob

A man crouches on a footpath that runs through a glen alongside a burn, with tall mountains all around. He wears a waterproof jacket and walking boots.
Upland Path Manager Bob Brown has worked on our path project at Torridon since 1999.
A major National Trust for Scotland path project at Torridon is nearing completion, despite weather and terrain challenges.

Since 1999, Bob Brown has been working as part of a 130-strong team to restore a 14km path that stretches across the majestic mountain paradise of Torridon.

This footpath was the first one Bob worked on when he started as a trainee with the National Trust for Scotland over two decades ago, and since then he has gone on to train many others, including Trust staff members and volunteers, on the same path. Bob has been with this project from its inception, watching the landscape change over time while developing his own career to become the Trust’s Upland Path Manager.

A magnet for climbers, hikers and walkers, Torridon is home to 5 of the Trust’s 46 Munros as well as a population of red deer. The work that has been carried out to improve the footpaths across the landscape will help prevent further damage over time and will benefit all those who enjoy Torridon’s stunning vistas.

A smiling man stands on a footpath that runs through a glen alongside a burn, with tall mountains all around. He wears a waterproof jacket and walking boots, and is holding the straps of his rucksack.
Bob at Torridon

High footfall, coupled with the dramatic extremes of Scotland’s weather, means footpaths can quickly become damaged and erode if not maintained and repaired. This can cause ugly scars to form on these landscapes as, without clear pathways, walkers stray from the tracks. This also puts the native flora and fauna at risk, as the fragile area surrounding the path is damaged.

Thanks to donations from the Footpath Fund, the team work during difficult weather conditions and across challenging terrain to protect Torridon’s incredible landscape. They have installed steps and drainage to replace eroded paths and reduce bogginess. This helps to prevent people leaving the path for dry ground and accidentally trampling over the surrounding habitats. It was hoped that the path works at Torridon would be completed this month but the complexity of working on mountainous paths, paired with unpredictable weather, has delayed the works until the spring.

Bob became passionate about the work at Torridon after seeing the erosion on Ben Nevis. There, a high number of walkers and a lack of a proper path caused the creation of permanent scars on the landscape. Building paths like those at Torridon helps to prevent this. Bob still remembers the spot where he built his first water bar – a ridge made across a hill road to divert rainwater to one side.

Bob says: ‘I smile every time I cross the first water bar I built. I’m incredibly proud to have worked on this project for so long and to have trained many of the people who have contributed to the work. Torridon means a lot to me, and I am pleased to be a part of a project that will mean people can enjoy it for years to come.’

“I know that the work we have done so far will reduce any scarring on the landscape from walkers and mountain bikers, as well as protect Torridon’s nature, beauty and heritage for future generations to enjoy.”
Bob Brown
Upland Footpath Manager

Other footpaths being improved and strengthened by the National Trust for Scotland include those at the summits of Beinn Alligin and Tom na Gruagaich, to ensure their longevity. There are also future plans to install landscape features such as blockers (boulders, turf or mounds positioned around the path to discourage users from taking shortcuts or leaving the path) to help prevent the accidental trampling of surrounding vegetation. Rare species in this area include curved wood-rush (Luzula arcuata) and northern rock cress (Arabis petraea). The blockers will also prevent the widening of the path and formation of erosion scars. Working on these areas is difficult due to their exposure to the elements at the summit, so the team have to wait for the correct conditions to safely move vegetation.

A close-up shot of a mountain footpath, with stone 'steps'. A pair of walking boots can be seen at the top of the image.
A well-maintained footpath at Torridon | Image: Murdo Macleod

The National Trust for Scotland cares for over 440km of mountain paths across Scotland that need to withstand the effects of many thousands of pairs of hiking boots and walking poles each year, as well as the Scottish weather – anything from baking sunshine to ice and snow. The Footpath Fund is a vital source of support for Scotland’s mountain landscapes. A donation of £50 could help us care for 1 metre of footpath, clear vital ditching or restore a section of trampled ground.

Improving and maintaining our mountain footpaths is part of our new 10-year strategy – Nature, Beauty & Heritage for Everyone – and specifically supports our conservation objectives to:

  • stabilise and improve the condition of the Trust’s estate
  • enrich Scotland’s protected heritage to make it relevant to more people
  • enable nature to flourish across our countryside, gardens, farmed and designed landscapes

Read more about our new strategy

The Footpath Fund

Help protect the landscapes you love.

Find out more
Footpath team at work on Ben Lawers. A group of people use a lever to try and shift a large boulder into place on a hillside. >