Mending walls and building bridges

Students from three countries carry out conservation work in Scottish Borders and Highland Perthshire

European youth work camp at glenlude detail

A team of 18 young people from Germany, Spain and Scotland from disadvantaged backgrounds have spent a productive and fun fortnight repairing and building drystone walls, deer fences, footpaths and bridges along with the John Muir Trust.

The first week was spent building a drystone wall at the Trust’s Glenlude Estate near Innerleithen in the Borders and a bridge at the Border Forest Trust’s Gameshope estate above Tweedsmuir.

Glenlude Land Manager Karen Purvis said: “The students worked on an old sheep stell alongside two local professional dry stone wallers. By the end of the week they had rebuilt 26 metres of wall – about half the circumference of the circle – and topped it off with turf.

“I’m delighted with what they achieved at both Glenlude and Gameshope and how well they worked together.  We hadn’t expected them to achieve so much in the space of a week.”

European Youth Work Camp at Glenlude 2017 - sorting stones for the wall

Callum, from Nairn in Morayshire had never been to the Borders before:  “For some reason I thought it would be really flat and full of farms. It surprised me. It’s very beautiful.

“I’ve learned how to do drystone dyking and the importance of the walls in the landscape. It makes you appreciate the walls you see out in the countryside a lot more when you realise the painstaking process of building the whole wall.”

The Work Camp's Scottish organisers Irene Bews and Ally Sangster from AdventuraScotland enjoyed watching the group trying to communicate while working together on the wall. “They were repeating phrases the drystone dyker had given them like ‘long and lean’ and ‘never throw, just place’ like a mantra," said Irene.

European Youth Work Camp at Schiehallion 2017

The second week saw the students travel north to Highland Perthshire where they spent a rest day climbing Schiehallion (see picture above), erected a deer fence at Dun Coillich woodland with volunteers from the Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust, spruced up the clan trail around Loch Rannoch, repaired paths near Aberfeldy and visited Killiecrankie.

On the last Saturday of their visit, the young people helped out at the Kinloch Rannoch Highland Games where they were presented with their John Muir Award certificates before celebrating at the ceilidh.

The Trust's Schiehallion Land Manager Liz Auty said: "We had a great week working with the group. They kept going literally in all weathers and worked really hard every day. The size of the group meant they were able to carry out some tasks that would have been very difficult to achieve without their help and all the local partners we worked with were delighted."

Kay from Cologne in Germany says he enjoyed the sense of space in Scotland compared to where he comes from. “We have so many people you can’t walk anywhere without meeting someone. Here you can walk for hours in the hills and you don’t see anyone – it’s very impressive.”

Laura from Spain had never visited Scotland before and was amazed by the greenery of the landscape. “It doesn’t look like Valencia. Although we have more trees, we don’t have much rainfall so it’s not very green. I’ve really enjoyed learning about Scotland’s land and the work you do to conserve it.”

Another Spanish participant, Roman, said: “Thanks for a magnificent learning experience. I’ve learned that my limits are not in my hands but in my head.”

Lianna from Nairn was equally positive about her two weeks: "If you ever get the chance to work in wild places, absolutely go for it. It's definitely changed my perspective on life a little."

European Youth Work Camp at Loch Rannoch 2017

  • The European Youth Work Camp was funded by EWOCA – a funding programme in North West Rhine area in Germany - and Erasmus+.
  • Find out more about the Trust's work at Glenlude and Schiehallion.