Almost 150 local residents, outdoor enthusiasts, community volunteers turned out on Sunday morning to celebrate the opening up of part of Glen Nevis for the enjoyment of all for the first time.
Difficult terrain had previously made the riverside path a no-go area for wheelchair users, elderly and frail visitors and families with young children.
But thanks to a £600,000 upgrade of the path and the provision of a new river crossing, all of these groups can now explore the countryside around the renowned Highland beauty spot.
Before inviting traditional musician Robert Robertson to declare the new 1.5 km route open, Alex Farquhar, chairman of The Nevis Partnership, which lead the two- year project in partnership with The Highland Council, told the attendance that partnership was the key to the success of the scheme.
He said: “This new All-ability Path & Bridge is testament to what can be achieved when organisations work in partnership. Of all our 19 projects this one is a facility for all to enjoy. However, it is impossible to bring together a project such as this without the help, funding and goodwill of a great many people and organisations.”
He thanked the Highland Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Sport Scotland, Active Places, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the Scottish Youth Hostel Association and Alcan Highland Estates for their contribution to the initiative.
The day’s celebrations which included a march over the new bridge by the Lochaber Schools Pipe Band and hours of family activities and entertainment, were sponsored by GFG Estates, part of the GFG Alliance, which recently became the owner of a large part of Glen Nevis when the business bought the Lochaber aluminium smelter, hydro power stations and surrounding estate lands.
Jay Hambro, chief investment officer of the GFG Alliance, said: “We are very proud to have invested in the future of this part of the Highlands and are particularly pleased to work with groups like The Nevis Partnership to promote projects that add real value to the community. We are committed to working with regional agencies and local partners to maximise the economic and recreational use of the estate lands.”
Mr Farquhar told the gathering: “GFG Alliance have been nothing but supportive in this endeavour. We welcome them to the area and look forward to working with them on other projects in the future.”
Robert Robertson (centre) declares the new All Abilities Pathway at Glen Nevis open. With him are from left: David Ewart, SportScotland, Mike Conway, the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre, Councillor Andrew Baxter of The Highands Council and Alex Farquhar, Chairman of The Nevis Partnership.
Following on from their hugely successful “Cut Your Own Christmas Tree” event Nevis Landscape Partnership were delighted to hear that a little extra help was heading their way.
The idea of chopping down non-native trees to encourage the growth and regeneration of Scots Pine in Glen Nevis naturally appealed to nature enthusiast Bear Grylls who visited the area yesterday. The aim of the visit was for Bear to learn all about the project and find out how he could do his bit for the once vast Caledonian Forest.
Freja MacDougall said : “Bear was really enthusiastic & engaged with what we are trying to do with this project. He spent a lot of time learning about how Scots Pine became endangered before assisting Henry Dobson, Forestry Commission with pine cone collection from a one-hundred year old tree. We want to instil Bear’s enthusiasm in all of our volunteers along with anybody who is interested in getting involved with our projects over the next five years.”
Climbing trees, collecting cones & helping save a forest proved to be all in a day’s work for the action man who was presented with a Scots Pine sapling as a thank you from all at Nevis Landscape Partnership. The sapling will be planted strategically to avoid interference from deer and non-native species ensuring Scots Pine will be present in Glen Nevis for the next generation of adventurers.
A team of scientists and mountaineers have made new discoveries on the highest mountain in the British Isles. Over the past two weeks, Ben Nevis has been the site of one of the most extensive and logistically challenging surveys to have taken place on a Scottish mountain.
Botanists, geologists, meteorologists and mountaineers have been drawn to this unique location for more than two centuries. However, much of this European designated Special Area of Conservation has remained inaccessible till now. Around 125 hectares of the mountain, known as the North Face, present a formidable barrier of 600m cliffs, gullies and buttresses.
Lead survey geologist, Roddy Muir of Midland Valley Exploration, commented "the team of professional mountaineers have been gathering new data with our recently developed FieldMove Clino App, as well as getting us onto the previously unrecorded cliff faces. The emerging data will be used in structural modelling software and will bring greater understanding of the processes which formed and changed the mountain. It is likely that we may have to revise the traditional model of a classic caldera collapse."
Abseiling the sheer rock faces which descend from the whaleback summit plateau has resulted in some important and unexpected geological discoveries. Breccias, formed by explosive eruptions have been located at significantly higher altitudes than existing geological maps show. The team have also been able to measure the original orientation of the ancient lavas where these rocks flowed out of the volcanic fissure.
The team of professional mountaineers used nearly 3,000 meters of rope, donated by Mammut, to access the steep terrain. British Mountain Guide, Mike Pescod, said "the main logistical challenge has been keeping the scientists safe whilst ensuring minimal impact on the fragile habitats within the Site of Special Scientific Interest. During the training week we developed an ecologically light-touch approach which incorporates mountain rescue systems alongside alpine and big-wall climbing techniques".
The team have had to contend with daily hikes up to the summit carrying huge reels of rope and other safety equipment. Mr Semple said "The combination of altitude, northerly latitude and proximity to the Atlantic imbue Ben Nevis with the fearsome status as one of the most changeable mountaineering environments in the world. The tail-end of hurricane Bertha ensured the mountain lived up to its reputation. “
After a winter of record snowfall the mountain has a distinctly alpine appearance. Snowfields remain in many gullies and are scattered around the upper scree slopes. These have compacted into dense, ice hard névé which is the first stage in the formation of glaciers. Sheets weighing hundreds of tons, with tunnels and fissures known as bergschrunds, present another set of challenges. Such hazards are common in arctic and alpine environments but are extremely unusual during a British summer.
Ben Nevis, standing 1344m above sea level, supports the greatest altitudinal range of habitats within the British Isles and has been attracting Botanists since 1767. Lead survey botanist, Ian Strachan, said "many of the rare Arctic-Alpine species we are searching for are relics from soon after the last ice age. Ben Nevis and a few other peaks in the Scottish Highlands provide the most southerly refuge for some of these species which can only survive due to the altitude and presence of semi-permanent snow fields."
After a week of intensive training by botanists, and with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) the mountaineers have been able to identify new locations for nationally rare and scarce plant species. Many new populations of high priority species such as Highland Saxifrage, Tufted Saxifrage and Wavy Meadow Grass have been recorded. Cathy Mayne, of SNH, said "the survey has exceeded all our expectations. Not only have we gathered potentially ground-breaking geological data and significantly added to the known populations of arctic-alpine species, the team have also discovered Alpine Saxifrage, which has never been found on the mountain before. Who knows what we might uncover over the next two years".
The survey is also the subject of a film which will be premiered at the Fort William Mountain Festival in 2015. The project, which is led by the Nevis Landscape Partnership working in collaboration with Midland Valley Exploration, is funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, The Highland Council and is sponsored by equipment manufacturer Mammut.
By Tristan Semple