Staff blog: The start of something

Our Path Project Officer Chris Goodman reports on some exciting changes happening on and around the path to Suilven

075 seedling and suilven 060617 detail

After four years of preparation I can’t believe the path work on Suilven has flown by so quickly. Arran Footpaths have now finished this year’s work on the higher sections of Suilven while A.C.T. Heritage have nearly completed their work on the lower path.

It feels like it’s all whizzed by in a storm of activity and action but that’s quite often the way with path work – once contractors are on site, it’s all hands on deck and a race to the finish. But it’s also felt like a real privilege to be involved with the process and getting to know Suilven.

Spending more time lower down on Suilven, I’ve noticed things that I’ve just walked past before: chiffchaffs singing from trees near the start of the path; primroses in flower a bit further along; birch, rowan and aspen growing from inaccessible ledges; and merlin calling as they fly over the bealach.

It’s easy to miss these things when summit fever grips you and you just beast it to the top, but seeing and hearing the wildlife around Suilven has opened my eyes to how much more is there. Old long dead pine roots near the path also remind me how much more wildlife lived there in the past and how much more could live there now.

While the old pine roots died and got buried in peat thousands of years ago as the climate changed, nowadays the absence of woodland is more down to human intervention. However, the presence of trees wherever there is a ledge or a gully that gives them protection from herbivores gives me hope that, with appropriate management, our native woodland and all the species that live in it could slowly come back.

The start of the walk out to Suilven takes you through the newly-planted area around Glencanisp Lodge. I’ve been watching over the last several months as the fence went up and the seedlings – oak, birch, rowan, hazel and more – have been steadily planted.

It’ll take a while, but it’s the start of something. As I continue to venture out to Suilven I look forward to watching the trees grow, the woodland develop and myriad birds and other wildlife return and find a home there. I look forward to that future spring day when starting out early one morning I have the dawn chorus of our native birds accompanying me on the walk.

Tree planting at Glencanisp Chris Puddlephatt

Photographs: Above shows the new woodland at Glencanisp. Photo © Chris Puddephatt. Top of the page show a rowan taking root by the side of Loch an Leòthaid. Photo © Chris Goodman.

To keep up to date with how the work is progressing you can follow the Suilven Path Blogs from a variety of people involved with the project and see some spectacular photos of the work at Shoot A Pathworker on Flickr.

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