The John Muir Trust (JMT) are hoping to undertake repair work over the next couple of years on a number of eroded paths on land they manage in the Cuillin, including the normal route up Bla Bheinn. Before getting started they'd like to discuss their plans with interested parties, to help make the most informed decisions possible and explain what they're doing and why.
Local knowledge on the history and condition of paths on Trust ground will be useful in determining where path repairs should be undertaken, the JMT believe, and help ensure that work is carried out thoughtfully and appropriately.
Why are repairs needed? And where? And what will they entail? We asked the JMT's Footpath Project Officer Chris Goodman to tells us more.
'The path work will be carried out to protect the hill environment, the spectacular scenery and the joy of being in wild places' he said.
On Bla Bheinn a 290m stretch of the trail, from where it crosses the Allt na Dunaiche and climbs into Coire Uaigneich, is the main focus of repairs.
'This is now a 6-7m wide gully and the plan is to define a meandering path up through this damaged zone' Chris told us.
'There will be approx 100m of pitching (stone steps) within this in numerous short sections to break it up. The pitching will be built with large weathered boulders and designed not to be too formal or regimented. There will also be several water bars and cross drains for drainage as well as turf ditching and landscaping of some of the bare ground. We're trying to keep the line as natural as possible (ie. not straight) with a minimum of built features'.
'There will be a considerable amount of bare ground still left after the work but if this is protected from trampling and water damage it will get a chance to slowly revegetate.'
'There will also be a few minor repairs to the 2km of path below this on a few sections which are deteriorating and one small bit of work afterwards where the path takes a sharp right at the mouth of the coire and first climbs onto bedrock.'
Paths in the spotlight elsewhere on the JMT's Skye property include sections of trail on Druim Hain and Beinn Dearg Mheadhonnach, both spots where heavy use is also causing erosion problems.
'It's felt that the acute erosion on Bla Bheinn is only detracting from the experience of going there as well as on the ecology of the area' Chris said.
'But we also feel strongly that introducing man made features into the path is changing the hill going experience for people and reducing the feeling of wildness. It's a judgement call as to when to intervene and we feel strongly that it's inappropriate to heavily engineer paths in remote locations.'
That’s why any decision to introduce man made features into a path which is otherwise unbuilt is not taken lightly by the Trust, explains Chris.
'The proposed work has had a great deal of thought, not only about whether it’s absolutely necessary, but about how we can adapt standard techniques to make the work as minimal and as naturalised as possible' he said.
'I don’t enjoy walking up heavily engineered formal paths with flights of stairs and when I speak to many hill walkers that’s exactly the response I get from them too. The work will be carried out by specialist contractors. It's their work which finally determines the nature and feel of the path and so we'll be working closely with them to come up with innovative solutions using their experience and craft and our commitment to protecting wild land.'
If you'd like to find out more or have a say on the plans there will be an open public meeting at the Broadford Hotel on Wednesday 12th March from 7pm with a short presentation at 7.30.