The John Muir Trust is in competition to win funds to help repair the path up Bla Bheinn (pronounced Blaven) on Skye. The path is eroding dramatically due to high footfall and wet weather and repairs need to be made as soon as possible. One of Britain’s most magnificent mountains, Bla Bheinn sits as an outlier of the dramatic Cuillin, attracting thousands of walkers every year thanks to its easy accessibility and breathtaking views from the summit. The Trust’s footpath officer Chris Goodman explains why this popular Munro is in urgent need of attention.
‘Standing apart from the rest of the Cuillin, its imposing buttresses towering high above Loch Slapin, Bla Bheinn is one of Skye’s most stunning and celebrated hills. This puts it under a lot of pressure. On my first visit in 2012, I reached a point only half an hour from the car park by Loch Slapin where I could see a broad path leading up into Coire Uaigneich ahead. This early visibility of the trail was alarming – the state of the path already a concern.
Path repair trainee Thomas Harper pushed a measuring wheel on Bla Bheinn, while Chris took pictures, measuring the path width and making notes on its condition.
‘We crossed the Uaigneich burn and began to climb the broad path that was so visible from below. Up close, it looked even worse. The path, if you can call it that, is about seven metres wide and set in a gully almost a metre deep in places. A swathe of vegetation and hundreds of tonnes of soil have been lost over a 300-metre stretch of the path. It was a dry, sunny day but evidence suggested that when the skies open, a considerable amount of water washes down this way – the key to understanding what has happened here.
‘Foot pressure from walkers frequently wears away upland vegetation to create a path. On its own, this might not be too much of a concern, but when heavy rain then runs down the path it washes away the exposed soils, leaving behind awkward stones in a narrow gully. When this happens, walkers instinctively step onto easier ground to the side of the path and the process will carry on repeating itself – extending the path widthways onto the surrounding fragile environment – until we can fix the problem.
‘The John Muir Trust would like to repair this stretch of the Bla Bheinn path as soon as possible, this year if we can. It’s a major job, and an expensive one, which will require specialist contractors who will ultimately determine the nature and feel of the path. We’ll be working closely with them to marry their experience and craft with our determination to protect wild land. We want people to enjoy wild places while minimising human impacts.
‘We’re delighted that leading outdoor brand Berghaus has recognized the importance of these repairs and has chosen to nominate the Bla Bheinn path repair project in a competition to receive funding from the European Outdoor Conservation Association. Conservation projects from around the world are being put to a public vote. Whoever gets the most votes will win £24,000 towards their project.
So if you care about one of our greatest mountains in one of our most stunning landscapes, please cast your vote for us.’
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