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Existing path networks in Torridon and Skye could be in for a smoother future thanks to a new project.
A survey to understand the current condition and make recommendations for future upgrades has already started with user groups, including mountain bike guiding businesses and mountain bikers, coming on board to set up mechanisms to look after the paths through ongoing management and maintenance.
The project, launched last week, has been instigated and will be managed by Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland (DMBinS), part of Scottish Cycling, and has only been possible thanks to funding from NatureScot through the Better Places Green Recovery Fund.
Ruari Watt, DMBinS Highland development co-ordinator, said: ‘We know from previous consultations with the mountain bike community that riders value the landscapes they ride in and want to protect the trails they ride.
‘Through this project we can find ways to protect and maintain the upland paths of Torridon and Skye and learn how different outdoor groups can enjoy these inspiring environments together and play their part in protecting them into the future.’
Scots and visitors alike already enjoy access to these wild and natural places under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and, in recent years, the hills in the Torridon and Skye area have grown in popularity with path users growing beyond hill walkers and climbers to a broader range of users, including mountain bikers, which has increased pressure on the paths.
With landowner permission, and supported by experienced mountain bike guides, a professional path contractor will survey the paths to establish their condition and highlight any areas where erosion is occurring and look at the impact of use, including mountain biking, and erosion mostly through water damage.
The survey will help to inform future path management, through a range of actions, from simple volunteer work by members of the mountain bike community with land manager permission, up to larger upgrades of sections of path carried out by upland path specialists, and guidance on responsible access to upland environments.
The findings will help to guide ongoing communication and guidance by DMBinS and Mountaineering Scotland to raise awareness of responsible access, promote discussion on ethics of outdoor access and the benefits of organised stewardship of paths.