This month saw the completion of a major path repair project on Suilven. Over years of heavy use, the standard northern route on the figurehead community-owned mountain had got into a poor state.
Around 2.5km of the path has now been upgraded, in a partnership project between the John Muir Trust and the community owned Assynt Foundation. The renovation, costing over £200,000, involved two specialist contractors working for nine months over the last two summers.
Path Officer for the John Muir Trust, Chris Goodman, who has been managing the work said, "This is the biggest single project I've been involved with yet. The hard work of the path contractors A.C.T. Heritage and Arran Footpaths has made a massive difference transforming the path and repairing a lot of the damage caused by erosion."
Prior to the work, the evolved path into the north side of the mountain had reached 30m wide in places. Areas lower down had become very boggy, while the steep ascent up to the ridge was increasingly starting to crumble, becoming a scree slope in places.
In total the path repair work used 230 tonnes of stone and 140 tonnes of gravel which were flown in by helicopter, as well as further materials sourced on site. In total well over 100m of stone pitched steps and 60 cross drains were constructed.
The built path has helped stabilise steep eroding areas and means that visitors to Suilven can now enjoy a good quality surface rather than picking their way through exposed peat, trampling the fragile vegetation and further exacerbating erosion. However it is still a challenging walk, points out Chris Goodman.
Executive Officer for the Assynt Foundation, Gordon Robertson, praised the work saying, "A huge well done to everyone involved for achieving something very special. This clearly demonstrates the value of collaboration, with so many people and organisations working together to achieve a common goal".
The project has been made possible with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, European Outdoor Conservation Association, John Muir Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage and Scottish Mountaineering Trust, and was delivered as part of the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP) Scheme.