A group of volunteers is set to give a scenic walking route in Skye a significant upgrade, thanks to a funding boost from Scotland’s walking charity, Paths for All.
Minginish Community Hall Association (MCHA) has been awarded £1,500 to construct a new bridge and path network to improve access in and around the popular Fairy Pools route.
The group will use the money to develop the current infrastructure to make the route safer and more accessible for people of all abilities.
The increase in erosion and its impact on the vegetation and flora in the area has jump-started a major push for investment to help enhance the visitor experience and bring more benefits to the local community.
Henrik Micski, Project Officer with MCHA, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Paths for All for awarding us this grant and cannot wait to start seeing the value this project brings to our community.
“Currently the path is heavily eroded and rocks are starting to stick up through the ground. The trail is really steep, so these issues are making the area increasingly unsafe.
“There are river crossings along the route which currently only have stepping stones. Together with our partner, Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, we are going to construct two bridges to allow visitors to cross the river safely and stop them from walking up and down the riverbank, which causes further damage and erosion.
“The main aims of our project are to increase accessibility for everyone, make the area sustainable for tourism and in turn provide long term community benefits.
“We’ve had amazing support from the community here in Skye and the turnout for other events has so far been exceptional – we didn’t realise how important it was to the locals.
“We’ve even had volunteers as young as nine years old right through to 75 years old. We couldn’t do all of this work without them.”
MCHA believes the ecological infrastructure has not yet caught up with the increasing volumes of people visiting the island, making their work fundamental to the local tourism industry.
The project is estimated to take 12 months until fully complete with the construction period scheduled to last two to three months.
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All, said: “It’s inspiring to see groups like MCHA devoting their time to carry out these vital path upgrades which come with so many logistical and physical challenges.
“Without care, paths can sadly become unsafe, unstable and fall out of use making walking and enjoying the outdoors difficult for many.
“But thanks to the dedication of these passionate volunteers, our vision of encouraging everyone in Scotland to walk every day and everywhere is becoming a reality.
“Improved paths really build on community spirit as they’re more frequently used by commuters, dog walkers, joggers, children playing and people enjoying the simple but very important pleasure of just going for a walk.”
Paths for All has awarded £72,560 worth of grants to 44 groups across Scotland as part of the Know Your Routes campaign.
From the Isle of Skye to the Scottish Borders, over 700 volunteers will be helping to transform neglected parts of their local path networks and their work is expected to be finished by April 2020.
The money will be used for wide-ranging work including clearing debris, structural improvements, installing signage and lighting, hiring tools or contractors, promoting routes and improving biodiversity along path networks to encourage every day walking and put ‘no-go’ areas back into the hands of the community.
This year’s grant schemes have been funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Transport Scotland and the Scottish Government.
The estimated figure for the community groups’ volunteer in-kind contribution is calculated to be over £271,000.
Paths for All works with Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other ‘active travel’ initiatives.
The Scottish charity awards thousands of pounds worth of grants to worthwhile projects that improve health, promote walking and improve environments for people to be active in.