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Appeal to support It’s Up to Us path repair campaign

Written by Fiona

June 07 2023

A new campaign, It’s Up to Us, has been launched by Mountaineering Scotland and the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS) to raise money to repair paths on one of Scotland’s most iconic mountains.

The aim is to raise £300,000 over three years for upgrade work on the the hill path from Dundonnell on An Teallach in Wester Ross.

The initiative also aims to raise awareness of the need for investment in the repair and maintenance of informal mountain paths situated on land outside of Scotland’s national parks and NGO estates.

It’s Up to Us will focus on engaging the 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.

From this, Mountaineering Scotland and OATS will develop a sustainable and long-term funding model for hill path maintenance projects to improve access to investment for all Scotland’s mountain paths. 

An Teallach hill path repairs

The £300,000 restoration project will address decades of erosion caused by the cumulative impact of increased human activity and the extremes of Scottish weather.

The campaign has identified An Teallach as an example of a popular mountain path on privately owned land with no government funding currently available. 

The campaign has already been the beneficiary of a generous £100,000 60th Anniversary Diamond Grant Award from the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and has gained the support of many well-known outdoor adventurers and social media influencers.

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

In other words, it’s up to all of us to give back to the mountain environment we benefit from.

(L-R) Stuart Younie, CEO of Mountaineering Scotland, Dougie Baird, CEO of OATS, Brian Shackleton, President, of Mountaineering Scotland, John Fowler, Chairman of the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and Duncan Bryden, Chairman of OATS (Credit: Helen Gestwicki)

Mountaineering Scotland CEO, Stuart Younie, said: “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. 

“Active tourism also makes a significant contribution to the Scottish economy and to local communities across the Highlands. 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.”

CEO of the Outdoor Access Trust Scotland, Dougie Baird, added: “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.    

“However, 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.

“It is vital to the success of the It’s Up to Us campaign that we engage with governments and 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.”

Writer and presenter Cameron McNeish, who is an ambassador of It’s Up to Us, 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.”

John Fowler, Chair of the Scottish Mountaineering Trust, said: “There were a number of worthy bids for the Diamond Grant, but the trustees were really impressed by the ground-breaking approach that OATS and Mountaineering Scotland have come up with.”

Visit www.savemountainpaths.scot to find out more and follow the latest campaign news using the hashtags: #ItsUptoUs and #SaveMountainPaths

Path erosion on An Teallach. Credit: OATS/Dougie Baird
An Teallach. Credit: Keith Bryers

More details: It’s Up to Us

After 20 years of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, VisitScotland estimates that the annual economic impact of walking tourism is £1.6 billion [Scotland’s networks of paths and trails: key research findings – SNH, 2018].  The cumulative impact of increasing human activity, together with the extremes of Scottish weather, has had a major impact on the erosion of mountain paths and the degradation of surrounding habitats throughout the country.

As it stands, there is no public investment from the UK and Scottish Governments to support essential mountain path and habitat restoration work outside of Scotland’s national parks and NGO estates.

Most of Scotland’s hills and mountains, the majority of which are on privately owned land, are excluded. Brexit has exacerbated the situation for private landowners with the once significant funding from Europe no longer available and not replaced. 

Many mountain path and trail users take upland paths for granted, unaware of the cost of path building and the lack of funds for restoration projects.  NatureScot estimated path repairs at an average of £90 per metre in 2019, though costs are often substantially more than this.

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