The Long and Winding Path to Suilven
Guest blog by Chris Goodman, Path Project Officer for the John Muir Trust
After a 2½ hour walk carrying tools, Wednesday saw work start on 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 iconic community owned mountain.
Next week will see a second contract team, A.C.T Heritage, start work on the approach path to Suilven from Glencanisp which crosses some very wet and boggy ground. Over the next 3 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 5 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,” said the John Muir Trust’s path officer, Chris Goodman.
Suilven is Assynt’s most iconic and spectacular hill and Chris remembers the first time he saw a photo of it, “my reaction was what and where is that!” Suilven is a huge draw for walkers and one of the reasons Chris moved to Assynt hence his 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 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 John Muir Trust’s Suilven path appeal in 2016.