Hillwalkers ‘put a little bit back in the pot’ and rebuild eroded paths up the mountainside

Work has been under way to repair erosion on Ben Vane and Beinn a' Ghl�. Picture: contributed
Work has been under way to repair erosion on Ben Vane and Beinn a' Ghl�. Picture: contributed
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Heavily eroded footpaths on some of Britain’s most popular mountains and hills are being gradually repaired, thanks to the efforts of walkers keen to reverse the damage their hobby has caused.

Work has begun on seven out of 13 projects selected by the Mend Our Mountains campaign, which launched in March last year and has so far raised £715,000 of its £1 million target.

The outdoors community are the people using these environments the most and we should all be giving a little bit back

RICHARD DUCKWORTH

It means that paths on famous routes including Beinn a’ Ghlò in the southern Cairngorms and the South Downs Way, Whernside in the Yorkshire Dales as well as the Great Ridge in the Peak District can now begin to recover.

The campaign was created by the British Mountaineering Council amid fears that the UK’s 15 national parks did not have the resources to counter the impact of more people taking to the hills.

National park budgets have been cut by around 40 per cent on average since 2010, with the organisation concerned that the country’s network of mountain paths was facing a crisis.

Without intervention, some paths on popular routes can grow to 30m or more across, as wide as a motorway, potentially endangering rare vegetation or wildlife as well as being visible for miles.

A significant portion of the money raised has come from concerned hillwalkers such as Richard Duckworth, 37, who has been climbing mountains around the UK for 12 years.

The businessman from Littleborough near Rochdale raised £9,000 by walking 120 miles in just 12 days, following the routes of all 13 projects being highlighted by the campaign. As well as traditional fund-raising, a significant portion of the sum came out of his own pocket, as he felt he had a personal responsibility to contribute.

“The outdoors community are the people using these environments the most and we should all be giving a little bit back,” he told The Scotsman. “There’s so much effort that goes into getting people outdoors, but one of the consequences of it is this erosion problem, and if you don’t nip it in the bud you can end up with great big scars on the hillside that will never regenerate.

“I think people like myself, outdoor professionals and other people who go out walking every weekend should be putting a bit back in the pot.”

In Scotland, work is due to start in June on the Beinn a’ Ghlò path, which has for years been an eroded trench visible from the busy A9.

Part of the money for the project was raised by pupils from Loretto, Scotland’s oldest boarding school, after a teacher discovered that a former headmaster had climbed the peak in 1892. Dr Richard Phillips, who teaches physics and is also head of the sixth form, came across an article written by Hely Hutchinson Almond and decided to lead a group of pupils in his footsteps.

“I spend a lot of time on the hills and climbing Munros, and I think people who do that should think about the contribution they can give back,” he said.