Those venturing up the paths of Mt Keen, Scotland’s most easterly Munro, recently may have noticed some path improvement work underway. This work is part of the exciting ‘Mountains & the People’ project being led by OATS (Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland). A few weeks ago we were lucky enough to accompany Keith Mackey, Technical Projects Officer and Lisa Barnard, Business & Communication Manager of OATS for a wee jaunt up the hill to check out the improvements so far, as well as taking the opportunity to ask them a few questions about the project along the way.
What is the purpose of the Mountains & the People project, and how did it come about?
We were asked by Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority and the Cairngorms National Park Authority to develop a partnership project to protect the mountains of Scotland’s National Parks.
The project encompasses a suite of integrated Programmes, which have the overarching objective of involving the people of Scotland in the enhancement and protection of the wild and special qualities of the mountains within Scotland’s National Parks.
The path improvement work on Mt Keen falls under the ‘Upland Path Programme’ element of the project – to upgrade, enhance and repair a suite of prioritised routes in both of Scotland’s National Parks using both intensive and light touch path repair techniques. We have engaged experienced contractors from Scotland to undertake this challenging work, through a competitive tendering process.
Why was Mt Keen included in the ‘Upland Path Programme’?
Mt Keen, among others, was identified through workshops and consultation with key stakeholders, as a prioritised route in one of Scotland’s national parks that has suffered from some of the worst erosion problems.
It was highlighted as a Priority 1 piece of work, which is the highest possible in the path condition survey methodology. This reflects the extent of the existing damage, the dynamism of the route and the likelihood of significant increased erosion in the next 5 years, and also considers the importance of the route to the Upland Path Network in the Cairngorms National Park.
What is the actual work being carried out?
During the project development stage, it was recognised that there was scope to merge the Mt Keen path with the old drove road path called The Mounth, on the approach to the saddle. At the shoulder the routes would diverge – with the Mt Keen path leading up to the summit, and The Mounth traversing the cross-slope around the hill to join the path ascending from the south.
The project has been split into two phases. Work on Phase 1, which comprises 50% of the path leading to the summit of Mt Keen and The Mounth started in June this year and is due to finish at the end of August. Next year, phase 2 will see the remaining 50% completed, with the entire restoration scheduled to be completed in August 2019.
The total distance of the paths being restored is 1872 meters. Both the Mt Keen & The Mounth paths have recommended repair solutions that can be broken down into 3 categories or techniques:
- Machine Build
- Hand Build
- Light touch
The three solutions are dependent on the sensitivity of environment, complexity of terrain, extent of current damage, economies of scale, and quantities of earth movement involved.
What are the expected benefits of the Mt Keen/The Mounth section project?
The benefits will be twofold; firstly, for improved outdoor access in general for the public and secondly for habitat restoration.
The restoring of the Mt Keen path route will enable the existing users to enjoy a far more pleasant experience but perhaps more importantly, will enable those who have never climbed the mountain to give it a go. In other words, repairing and improving the route should make Mt Keen much more accessible for many more people.
We are all encouraged to get out into the outdoors, primarily for the health benefits it brings. However a huge increase in visitor numbers could have a detrimental effect on our upland habitats. To combat this, having a well-defined route on Mt Keen not only makes it more accessible to more people, but will also help to reduce the numbers of that walkers that are tempted to go ‘off piste’ and make their own route, which in turns ensures the upland habitat is preserved for future generations to enjoy.
How is the project funded?
The ‘Mountains & the People project is funded from a variety of sources, including:
- Heritage Lottery Fund
- Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority
- Forestry Commission Scotland
- Cairngorms National Park Authority
- Scottish Natural Heritage
- Charitable Trusts/Private sector/Donations
Watch this space for updates...
We’re excited to see what the path will look like come the completion of Phase 1 at the end of August, and will be sure to update you all accordingly!
In the meantime, for more information on this, and the other work involved in this project, please see the dedicated project website: http://themountainsandthepeople.org.uk/ or log onto OATS website at https://www.outdooraccesstrustforscotland.org.uk.