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Volunteering – How You Can Help

Volunteers are important to help us deliver projects that conserve our mountains and provide access for outdoors enthusiasts. Our volunteering opportunities give people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds the chance to get involved and play their part.

Conservation days can include upland path maintenance and erosion control, and other practical conservation work.

Whatever type of volunteering you take part in you will work alongside experienced people, learning techniques that enhance your practical conservation skills, and increase your knowledge of the natural and cultural heritage of our mountains. You’ll also make new friends.

There is a range of ways volunteers can get involved with us:

“I just liked the idea of giving something back,” says Pat Brechin, a volunteer on The Mountains and The People path-building project.

Pat, a keen hill-walker who had recently retired, was out in the Trossachs when she saw a sign asking for volunteers to help with path repair and building as part of the project. It inspired her to sign up and take part in around 20 days of work over the past three years.

“You want to contribute something to the wellbeing of the mountains – I’m one of the thousands of people wearing these hills out,” she adds.

She mainly worked in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, including on the Ben Venue, Ben Ledi and Cobbler paths, but also helped out with path-work at Beinn a’Ghlo and Beinn Tilt near Blair Atholl. Her volunteer teams worked in all weathers – rain, hail and wind.

“It’s hard work, it’s quite physical, but I have a garden and I am used to it,” she said. “The worst bit was lugging tools up a mountain: spades and mattocks are quite heavy.”

Most of the work she carried out was clearing drainage features and maintaining existing paths: “Cutting drainage ditches, up to your knees in water, it’s like being a kid again,” she laughs, but she also learned how to build paths, laying stones and bedding them in.

“It was really hard work and it makes you appreciate how much is involved in path maintenance,” she says. “But part of the satisfaction is going past where you have worked before and seeing what you’ve done, as well as other walkers thanking us as they pass.”

Pat, who’s 68, and from Edinburgh, appreciated meeting people and making friends, especially from other generations: “There was really good camaraderie… some people just came once but a lot came a few times. There was a real mixed bag of people, it was lovely.”

Debbie Greene is one of the volunteers OATS has recruited for its Adopt-a-Path scheme, and says the work just adds to her enjoyment of being in the hills.

For six years she has monitored the path leading from Cairngorm summit across the high plateau to Lochan Buidhe, just before the final climb to Ben Macdui.

“I was hyper-keen to be involved when I heard Adopt-a-Path was being launched,” she says. “I am out in the hills all the time and for the last 20 years I‘ve lived close to them. I am never going to be someone to lift giant boulders all day but going out and keeping an eye on a path is an easy thing I can help with.”

OATS trained her in path surveying, recording erosion problems, braiding where the path spreads out, blocked drainage, and crumbling steps. More often than not her path is covered in snow, leaving her a tight window to fit in her two surveys a year.

Debbie, whose day job is as local operations manager for government agency NatureScot, says preventing erosion is especially important as the area is protected under almost every designation possible, from being a Site of Special Scientific Interest and designated habitat to being part of the Cairngorm National Park and a National Nature Reserve. Three years ago she found a section completely washed away, and the path suffers from floods of snow melt.

As well as reporting back she will do some minor repair work herself: “Sometimes I take a little trowel and use it or the heel of my boot to clear water-bars. If there’s a loose stone in the path I move it to one side.” Anything bigger she reports back to OATS and the response from repair teams is rapid.

“It’s really worthwhile,” she adds. “It’s an opportunity to combine my love of the hills with doing something useful.”

Footpath repair skills and experience gained with OATS are feeding back into another volunteering scheme thanks to the participation of Damien Theaker.

Damien, from Helensburgh, first volunteered with the Mountains and The People project in 2016, after hearing about it through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (LLTNP), where he already did some volunteering. He was attracted because it was clear OATS was in it for the long haul.

“Rather than just walking away from the project once the capital work was completed, like so often happens, and then the whole thing falls into disrepair, what they were saying was we have invested all this time and money, now what we want to do is keep an eye on it.”

That, he said, was where the volunteers came in, providing inspection through the Adopt A Path scheme and light maintenance and repairs through volunteer work days, spending some enjoyable days working with the Trust: “They were good days out, and you had other people there with different interests, maybe birds or other wildlife. You got a chance to learn stuff from them.”

He said when LLTNP decided to set up a volunteering scheme of its own for path-fixing, he immediately got involved, knowing what he had learned with TMTP would be useful. OATS provided a day’s training in maintenance, reporting software, and safety. He has since helped train a team of volunteers for the park in path maintenance.

The LLTNP Volunteer Rangers have already set to work on some of the mountains where paths have been constructed by TMTP, and after a break because of the Coronavirus crisis, they should be back on the hill by September 2020.

A keen mountain biker and hill-goer, he added: “Volunteer path-work is hassle free, if you’re there you can do it and work as hard as you like, no-one’s marking your performance, and you’re putting something back.”

+ Pat Brechin

“I just liked the idea of giving something back,” says Pat Brechin, a volunteer on The Mountains and The People path-building project.

Pat, a keen hill-walker who had recently retired, was out in the Trossachs when she saw a sign asking for volunteers to help with path repair and building as part of the project. It inspired her to sign up and take part in around 20 days of work over the past three years.

“You want to contribute something to the wellbeing of the mountains – I’m one of the thousands of people wearing these hills out,” she adds.

She mainly worked in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, including on the Ben Venue, Ben Ledi and Cobbler paths, but also helped out with path-work at Beinn a’Ghlo and Beinn Tilt near Blair Atholl. Her volunteer teams worked in all weathers – rain, hail and wind.

“It’s hard work, it’s quite physical, but I have a garden and I am used to it,” she said. “The worst bit was lugging tools up a mountain: spades and mattocks are quite heavy.”

Most of the work she carried out was clearing drainage features and maintaining existing paths: “Cutting drainage ditches, up to your knees in water, it’s like being a kid again,” she laughs, but she also learned how to build paths, laying stones and bedding them in.

“It was really hard work and it makes you appreciate how much is involved in path maintenance,” she says. “But part of the satisfaction is going past where you have worked before and seeing what you’ve done, as well as other walkers thanking us as they pass.”

Pat, who’s 68, and from Edinburgh, appreciated meeting people and making friends, especially from other generations: “There was really good camaraderie… some people just came once but a lot came a few times. There was a real mixed bag of people, it was lovely.”

+ Debbie Greene

Debbie Greene is one of the volunteers OATS has recruited for its Adopt-a-Path scheme, and says the work just adds to her enjoyment of being in the hills.

For six years she has monitored the path leading from Cairngorm summit across the high plateau to Lochan Buidhe, just before the final climb to Ben Macdui.

“I was hyper-keen to be involved when I heard Adopt-a-Path was being launched,” she says. “I am out in the hills all the time and for the last 20 years I‘ve lived close to them. I am never going to be someone to lift giant boulders all day but going out and keeping an eye on a path is an easy thing I can help with.”

OATS trained her in path surveying, recording erosion problems, braiding where the path spreads out, blocked drainage, and crumbling steps. More often than not her path is covered in snow, leaving her a tight window to fit in her two surveys a year.

Debbie, whose day job is as local operations manager for government agency NatureScot, says preventing erosion is especially important as the area is protected under almost every designation possible, from being a Site of Special Scientific Interest and designated habitat to being part of the Cairngorm National Park and a National Nature Reserve. Three years ago she found a section completely washed away, and the path suffers from floods of snow melt.

As well as reporting back she will do some minor repair work herself: “Sometimes I take a little trowel and use it or the heel of my boot to clear water-bars. If there’s a loose stone in the path I move it to one side.” Anything bigger she reports back to OATS and the response from repair teams is rapid.

“It’s really worthwhile,” she adds. “It’s an opportunity to combine my love of the hills with doing something useful.”

+ Damien Theaker

Footpath repair skills and experience gained with OATS are feeding back into another volunteering scheme thanks to the participation of Damien Theaker.

Damien, from Helensburgh, first volunteered with the Mountains and The People project in 2016, after hearing about it through Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (LLTNP), where he already did some volunteering. He was attracted because it was clear OATS was in it for the long haul.

“Rather than just walking away from the project once the capital work was completed, like so often happens, and then the whole thing falls into disrepair, what they were saying was we have invested all this time and money, now what we want to do is keep an eye on it.”

That, he said, was where the volunteers came in, providing inspection through the Adopt A Path scheme and light maintenance and repairs through volunteer work days, spending some enjoyable days working with the Trust: “They were good days out, and you had other people there with different interests, maybe birds or other wildlife. You got a chance to learn stuff from them.”

He said when LLTNP decided to set up a volunteering scheme of its own for path-fixing, he immediately got involved, knowing what he had learned with TMTP would be useful. OATS provided a day’s training in maintenance, reporting software, and safety. He has since helped train a team of volunteers for the park in path maintenance.

The LLTNP Volunteer Rangers have already set to work on some of the mountains where paths have been constructed by TMTP, and after a break because of the Coronavirus crisis, they should be back on the hill by September 2020.

A keen mountain biker and hill-goer, he added: “Volunteer path-work is hassle free, if you’re there you can do it and work as hard as you like, no-one’s marking your performance, and you’re putting something back.”

First hand accounts from three of our recent volunteers:

Conservation Volunteering Days

We want people to join in Conservation Volunteering Days to help protect and enhance upland habitats. On such days you will get out in the mountains, discover new places, take on challenges, meet people, learn new skills and improve your health and wellbeing through outdoor activity.

Spaces are usually limited and volunteers must book their places in advance. All of our activities are shown in our events calendar.

Adopt A Path

Developed by OATS, the Adopt A Path scheme lets you become a custodian of one of the paths we have worked on.  Adopt a Path volunteers report on damage or other path issues, allowing maintenance to be targeted to best effect. Volunteers get training and support to carry out path surveys safely and effectively, in order to supply us with the essential information we need. Find out more here.

Corporate Volunteering

Whether you are a couple of colleagues or a group of 50, corporate volunteering can be a great way to give something back, enjoy new experiences, break down barriers between teams or just have fun.  Get in touch to find out more about the benefits of volunteering through work and what opportunities we have available.

If you are part of a group, a club, a school, a business or an organisation we can help you get involved by tailoring activities to suit your needs.

To find out more about any of these initiatives contact us at
admin@outdooraccesstrustforscotland.org.uk