Staff blog: The long and winding path to Suilven

Our footpath project officer, Chris Goodman, celebrates the start of the Suilven path restoration project

036 erosion on section 1 web detail

After a two and a half hour walk carrying tools, contractors have started repairing the path to Suilven. Contract team Arran Footpaths stuck the first spade in the ground as they began efforts to consolidate the steep path on the north side of the instantly recognisable, community owned mountain.

Next week will see a second contract team, ACT Heritage, start work on the approach path to Suilven from Glencanisp which crosses some very wet and boggy ground. Over the next three months they will work to create 800m of narrow, meandering hill path where currently a vague and ever widening peaty trod exists.

The path repair project is a culmination of five years of development work through the Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP) which brings together 14 partners to deliver a range of environmental and cultural projects.

It’s been a long journey developing the project from observations I first made on the state of the path on a hill walk in 2012, to finally getting work started this week.

Suilven is Assynt’s most spectacular hill and I remember the first time I saw a photo of it ­– my reaction was what and where is that! It’s a huge draw for walkers and one of the reasons I moved to Assynt, hence my concern that recreational access combined with the weather could impact on its appearance and the enjoyment of climbing it.

The majority of the work will run over spring 2017 and 2018 and involve an upgrade to the lower 1.6km of the path as well as more technical stone work on the steep side of Suilven to help stabilise loose and crumbling sections.

It’s a big job involving the use of helicopters to fly stone from nearby boulder fields to use in constructing drains and steps along the path as well as machinery onsite to excavate gravel for the path surface.

The John Muir Trust is project managing the work on behalf of the Assynt Foundation who took over the estate in 2005 and we are both are very grateful to generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Outdoor Conservation Association, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Mountaineering Trust and all those supporters who donated to the Trust’s Suilven path appeal in 2016. Updates on the work will be available through the Trust’s website as well as an ongoing blog on the CALL Partnership website.

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