A recent survey on Schiehallion has highlighted the success of restoration work carried out by the John Muir Trust (JMT). These striking before-and-after photos show how over ten years a former heavily-eroded trail has been steadily returned to nature.
In 2005 the JMT opened a new path from the Braes of Foss car park up the south-eastern flank of the mountain to a point at around 780m altitude where the path becomes an undefined rocky route along the ridge to the summit. This replaced a route that had developed from the car park up a peat-based coire, which was heavily eroded — in parts up to 70m wide.
As part of the preparation for "healing" the scar of the old path the Trust engaged ecologist Neil Bayfield to carry out a rapid survey technique study of the old path in July 2003. Last month, on the tenth anniversary of this survey, volunteers replicated many of the original photographs. The results speak for themselves.
'Since the new path opened on Schiehallion ten years ago the number of walkers using the old route has almost dropped to zero' says Sandy Maxwell, the JMT's Conservation Manager for East Schiehallion & Glenlude.
'The John Muir Trust has put a lot of work into restoring the old path which was an ugly scar on the side of this popular Munro. Before restoration work started the upper sections were in parts up to 70 metres width of muddy peat braiding. Here we initially used a contractor to sensitively re profile the hillside with a digger recreating a series of run offs for the water and bringing some of the surrounding turf back into the path surface.'
'Since 2004 the work to continue reintroducing spot turfs and reprofiling the lower sections has all been done by volunteer work parties' says Sandy Maxwell.
'We run around eight days of volunteering with an average of 14 people per day each year to both maintain the new path on Schiehallion and continue the revegetation on the old line.'
'Over most of the length of the path, in particular the lower sections, grass has largely covered the scar with no new signs of water scouring happening. The old path is adjacent to a SSSI but the Trust did get permission to try reseeding with grass. Fortunately the spot turfing methods we have used although slow are proving to be effective so we will be able to "heal" the scar without brining in seed from outside so in the long run we will end up with a more natural solution.'