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John Muir Trust (JMT) celebrate 21 years of looking after the UK’s highest mountain this week.
And to coincide with the momentous achievement the trust has launched a fundraiser to help them continue the good work well into the future.
Managing the impact of the thousands of visitors each year on such a fragile landscape takes collaboration, which is why the Nevis Landscape Partnership – a collective of 15 Nevis stakeholders and landowners including conservation charity JMT – was established in 2002.
In 2014, the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the Nevis Landscape Partnership £3.9 million to deliver 19 projects over five years. This has contributed to continual path maintenance, cairn repair, and bridge work in the glen, amongst other conservation activities.
‘A lot of folk who visit Ben Nevis might not realise how much work goes in to maintaining the paths they walk along,’ said Ali Austin, JMT’’s Nevis manager.
‘But path erosion from people taking shortcuts or walking on the very edge of a trail very quickly escalates with wind and rain, impacting vegetation and scarring the landscape people have come here to enjoy.
‘Walking the Ben is free, but it costs around £7,000 just to maintain the paths annually and can cost in the region of £30,000 to carry out essential repairs every couple of years. Often it can be much more.’
To support conservation work at Nevis, the trust has launched the Nevis 21 fundraising appeal to raise £100,000 during 2021 and has welcomed outdoor gear company Mountain Equipment, a long-term trust supporter, as the official corporate sponsor.
‘The Ben is a unique and special place that clearly has a particular appeal for both hill-walkers and climbers,’ said Richard Talbot from Mountain Equipment.
‘By supporting the John Muir Trust and their Nevis 21 campaign, we hope to not only to help them raise more money for their vital conservation work on and around our most iconic mountain but also to encourage others to experience and realise the importance of our wild spaces.’
Volunteers have made much of the visitor impact reduction possible. Over the past 19 years, Ali estimates there have been over 1,000 days of work carried out by volunteers – the equivalent to a full-time employee for four years.
In that time, she estimates around 280 bin bags of litter have been removed from the mountain.
Between 150-155,000 visitors from all over the world walk the same tracks up and around the UK’s highest mountain every year.
Against this backdrop, golden and white-tailed eagles, pine martens, water vole, snow bunting, ptarmigan, and rare butterflies like the mountain ringlet and chequered skipper can all be found thriving. As can 75 different species of lichen, 33 of which are considered rare in the UK.
‘As a wild places conservation charity, we have many goals at Nevis,’ added Ali.
‘One of these is to enable the native woodland in Steall Gorge to expand and fulfil its natural potential – benefitting the many plant, insect and animal communities that it supports.
‘Equally, we want to ensure that everyone can fully experience the area by maintaining paths and access routes, as well as develop new and innovative ways for people to immerse themselves in the landscape.’