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9 Apr 2019

Muddy partners in Glen Nevis

Written by Johnny Wells and Kirsty Walker
Working holiday participants in Glen Nevis
One of the best Scottish short walks has just got better thanks to our working holiday participants
As spring starts in Scotland, our Thistle Camp and Trailblazer working holidays programme is already well underway, and out in the field we’re improving our places one spade of earth at a time.

It’s been an active start to the season for the working holiday team, with projects already undertaken at Falkland Palace, Arduaine Garden, Haddo House and North Perthshire woodlands. We’ve been supporting local teams on various tasks to make sure properties are looking their best in readiness for visitors arriving this month.

Our most recent project was slightly different – instead of working at a Trust place, we linked up with the Nevis Landscape Partnership in Glen Nevis. The Partnership was set up 17 years ago to unite local, national and international organisations, government bodies and landowners to conserve and enhance the incredible landscape of Ben and Glen Nevis.

The aim of the project was to help reinstate a historical route from Paddy’s Bridge to Steall Falls. The footpath is on the south side of the River Nevis, in a lovely part of the glen surrounded by mature Scots pine. But due to a lack of maintenance the path had become a muddy route that only the hardiest walkers would use to get to the second highest waterfall in Scotland.

The muddy footpath before work started
The muddy footpath before work started shows the scale of the problem

The Thistle Campers were set the task of re-establishing 50m of the path by creating stepping stones on the wettest parts, and adding stones and gravel to raise the path level so there’s less chance of soggy feet for walkers. Through this work the Nevis Partnership are aiming to provide more variety in the route options in Glen Nevis, creating a low-level day walk to Steall Falls for when the weather on Ben Nevis is uninviting. 

Stepping stones being winched into place
Stepping stones being winched into place

Under the knowledgeable guidance of Dougie Sinclair, the Partnership’s path officer, the group were taught how to use a variety of tools including a winch and pinch bars, making even the heaviest stones movable. Materials were collected from the river bed and gravel was dug from the hillside. Through this work, everyone developed an appreciation of how much effort is needed by the Trust in maintaining footpaths around Scotland to allow visitors access to stunning locations.

Digging a trench to add stones and raise the path
Digging a trench to add stones and raise the path
Digging up gravel from the hillside
Digging up gravel from the hillside

This was one of our more physical camps, rated seven out of ten on the working holiday scale of physicality. Everyone in the group put in a great amount of effort, and they were rewarded with home-baked goods galore to power them through the week! Scones and tea loaf were enjoyed as we took regular tea breaks to recharge and take in the scenery.

Tea loaf
There's a tradition of having tea loaf on thistle camps led by Johnny

Over the course of four days we made steady progress on the path. We calculated that it took 244 volunteer hours by the Thistle Campers to complete the 50m section. We celebrated a job well done with a meal out at a local restaurant and spent an easier final day working to improve the nearby car park.

Part of the group testing the stepping stones
Part of the group testing the stepping stones
Dougie takes in the finished path
Dougie takes in the finished path

If you’re interested in taking part on a working holiday, see the full range of Thistle Camps and Trailblazers. There’s a wide variety available for all ages and fitness levels.

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