It's Up To Us - New Path Campaign Launches

© Dan Bailey

Thursday saw the launch of an ambitious new campaign that aims not only to raise money for path repairs on one of Scotland's best-known hills, but to begin a wider conversation around the need for investment to maintain upland trails, and about how this ought to be paid for.

Paths on An Teallach are the first target of the new funding campaign    © Dan Bailey
Paths on An Teallach are the first target of the new funding campaign
© Dan Bailey

It's Up to Us, a three-year campaign partnership between Mountaineeing Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) has earmarked the Dundonnell path on An Teallach for its first investment. An initial fundraising target of £300,000 will go towards redressing decades of erosion caused by the sheer number of walkers on the hill, and the extremes of highland weather.

We no longer have access to European funding, which provided significant support for path and habitat restoration projects in the past, with nothing from the government to replace it

An Teallach suffers from its own popularity, but while essential trail repairs will be very expensive, there is no source of Government funding available to meet the cost. This makes it a clear example, say the campaign, of the problem of path maintenance on privately owned land outside of Scotland's national parks or NGO estates, for which no central pot of money is provided.

Since Scotland lags far behind its neighbour to the south in the number of areas accorded National Park status, owners of the major part of the country's uplands effectively receive no financial help towards trail upkeep, a major disincentive to invest in the path infrastructure that walkers rely on, but may take for granted.

Mountaineering Scotland CEO, Stuart Younie, explained: "Scotland's informal hill and mountain path network plays a vital role in helping us to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of being active outdoors, which was never more evident than during the pandemic."

After 20 years of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, VisitScotland estimates that the annual economic impact of walking tourism is £1.6 billion, while anecdotally most hill-goers will have noted the increasing popularity of walking.

However all those people have an effect on the ground, and across Scotland the increasing footfall is taking a noticeable toll on hill paths and their surrounding habitats.

"Active tourism [...] makes a significant contribution to the Scottish economy and to local communities across the highlands" said Stuart Younie.

"We need to recognise the cumulative impact of recreational activity and extreme weather due to climate change on our landscape and do something positive to address it so it can continue to be enjoyed by future generations."

Dougie Baird of OATS, assessing damage on An Teallach  © OATS
Dougie Baird of OATS, assessing damage on An Teallach

Outdoor enthusiasts, active tourism businesses and organisations that care about Scotland's hills are being encouraged to give something back by donating to the It's Up to Us fundraising appeal.

"The fundraising appeal will highlight how hillwalkers, mountaineers and conservationists can come together to solve path erosion problems on mountains on private land throughout Scotland" explained Dougie Baird, CEO of the OATS.

"[W]e no longer have access to European funding, which has provided significant support for path and habitat restoration projects in the past, with no funding from the government to replace it.  It is vital to the success of the It's Up to Us campaign that we engage with Governments and all stakeholders to highlight the desperate need for investment in mountain paths, and a long-term sustainable model that gives all landowners access to funding for essential mountain path maintenance is developed."

It's Up to Us, which was launched at an evening reception at The Black Watch Castle and Museum in Perth on Thursday 25th May, will focus on engaging Government, stakeholder agencies and organisations, outdoor businesses, and all path users to ensure that essential funding for hill path repair and habitat restoration is recognised for its social, health and wellbeing, economic and environmental benefits.

Out of this, Mountaineering Scotland and OATS hope to develop a 'sustainable and long-term' funding model for hill path maintenance projects, to improve access to investment for landowners.

It's Up to Us has already been the beneficiary of the £100,000 60th Anniversary Diamond Grant Award from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, and has gained the support of some well-known outdoor types and social media influencers.

Campaign ambassador Cameron McNeish, said: "It's Up to Us is such an important project for every person who loves walking on Scotland's hills and mountains. The original tracks and trails on our hills were never built to sustain the numbers that use them now, so it's up to all of us to pull together in every way we can and keep them well maintained."

  • To find out more see here
  • You an follow campaign news using the hashtags: #ItsUptoUs and #SaveMountainPaths

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26 May, 2023

"We no longer have access to European funding, which has provided significant support for path and habitat restoration projects in the past, with no funding from the government to replace it."

The gift that keeps on giving.

26 May, 2023

Interesting. I'd be keen to know what/ whether their stance is on making paths MTB friendly versus asking for money from bikers.

( talking here about massive waterbars and in particular the specifically designed doubledrop waterbars that were in vogue a few years ago)

Obviously making Mtb friendly waterbars is slightly more expensive, and thus understandably not high on their list of priorities.

But on the other hand, I would be loathe to give money to a group that was designing out mtbs.

(This is a general observation, not specific to this path or this organisation.)

That's a good question, I'll ask them.

If you design-in for MTB then do you also have to account for an increase in erosion, and a different sort of erosion than you'd get from footfall? Would a multi-use hill path be built differently?

I'm thinking of loose chip surfaces being worn down, or those tyre scores you see on soft ground that seem to act as water channels for runoff (more damage per bike than a set of footprints?).

Are hill paths more a walker concern because they are the primary infrastructure for walking in the hills? Whereas MTB-ers already have lots of trail centres, and thousands of miles of gravel estate tracks that are better by bike than on foot. For bikers, is going up hills a minority activity and thus less of a consideration in the scheme of things?

Not sure what I think about any of this. Guess my principle would be the hills are for everyone non-motorised, so long as they're not doing more than their fair share of damage. But I really don't know to what extent we ought to account for two wheels when maintaining hill paths: there's got to be a conversation in there.

26 May, 2023

I would donate, but will not be offering a penny while Cambert McPish has any involvement whatsoever. An exceptional poor choice to have such a divisive individual as a figure head.

Furthermore it’s an incredibly ironic choice, given that McPish undermined the SMTs Munro and Corbett guide book sales by producing his own titles for personal profit. The SMT donates a large proportion of its sales proceeds to upland footpath repairs. So McPhish is indirectly/directly responsible for reduced footpath funding as a result of personal gain, as well as popularisation resulting in wear and tear.

26 May, 2023

On the cost side of the equation volunteer organisations certainly used to be used a lot. I know because I did path maintenance with the BTCV in the Lakes (now just TCV) for a couple of years. The NP (and I think the NT) would use the BTCV as cheap contractors. Plenty of people were willing to actually pay to do it on conservation holidays.

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