Over the last 10-15 years Highlands and Islands Enterprise, The National Trust for Scotland and Upper Deeside Access Trust (now Cairngorms Outdoors Access Trust) have been highly successful in generating funding for and carrying out upland path repair and development on the Cairngorm Estate, Mar Lodge Estate and the Upper Deeside mountain path networks respectively. These have until now taken the form of discrete capital programmes of work of varied scale and magnitude.
Maintenance of the resource has been carried out in varied ways during that time, with use of contractors in Upper Deeside, use of contractors and more recently a seasonal path maintenance post at Cairngorm Estate, and seasonal rangers and volunteers used at Mar Lodge Estate.
The organisations have identified clear benefits in joint working on path maintenance particularly in relation to
Team Capability – Some of the standard maintenance work such as cross drain and water bar clearing are generally acceptable for lone working, provided there is a safe system available. However, some of the more fundamental tasks essential for long term maintenance on granite paths can be impossible, difficult and/or dangerous for a lone worker. Granite aggregate paths do require regular topping up of the top surface to prevent rilling, gullying and loss of material through wear and tear, and this is certainly a team task due to scale and movement of volumes of material. Repair of stone built cross drains, water bars and other features is very difficult and dangerous to undertake with a lone worker and should not be countenanced by a responsible landowner, yet if these paths are to be maintained in the long term the stone work will have to be repaired regularly to prevent the paths degrading back to their original state.
The scale of path network that has now been improved is becoming difficult to manage, especially with use of seasonal staff and volunteers. It is becoming increasingly important that we are able to call on technically competent workers with a good knowledge and proven capability of working in these remote and sensitive areas year after year to achieve the best results for a long term maintenance plan.
Health and Safety – Lone working is a feature of mountain working for rangers and specialist surveyors. Safe working practices have to be established for this type of work, and feature ‘buddy’ systems, radio and text based systems of communication which provide cover until the person is off the hill. As soon as hand tools are used, the chances of injury escalate exponentially in comparison to survey work. Even minor injuries such as a back strain, ankle or knee injury could potentially have highly serious consequences to a lone worker wrestling with a pinch bar and boulder at 4000ft.
Economies of Scale – Joint working would allow the organisations to share administrative, start-up, supervision and quality assurance costs rather than having to incur these costs on separate contracts and programmes of work. A joint contract would be substantial and therefore likely to attract far more attractive pricing from the contract sector in terms of day rate than if they were split into separate tenders.
Consistency in Standard and Style of Work: Style and standard of upland work, particularly at altitude in the Cairngorms, is of critical importance. Aggregate surfaces and granite-built features require specialist skills. It would make a great deal of sense if common standards and styles could be applied to maintenance and long term management of these paths to get the best out of the skills set available. Joint management of maintenance in these areas