27 Nov Last week for the 2017 Trainees!
As our 6-month long traineeship in Upland Path Building draws to a close, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on what an experience this undertaking has been.
Going from an inexperienced volunteer to a qualified, fully trained path builder in 6 months has been quite an experience. Alongside the training course we have also undertaken the John Muir Award and have been busy discovering, exploring and conserving some amazing places in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. We’ve gone through beautiful, long summer days on the hill, listening to birdsong and looking out for wildflowers between work (or rather attempting to cover up every part of our bodies covered from midges while trying to keep relatively dry in the pouring summer rain!), to the shorter, colder wintry days of numb hands, runny noses and snowball fights on the hillside.
The most important thing I have learned over the course of the traineeship is how much pressure our hills are under. The level of erosion on some of our most popular hills has amazed me. This is a major issue as it is important and fragile habitats that are being damaged by users, and I was dismayed by the amount of litter that still gets left on our most beautiful and iconic wild places. Working on the Cobbler, I was surrounded by ptarmigan, red deer, birds of prey and a variety of amazing plant and insect life, however it was obvious how badly eroded sections of the path were due to the level of visitors, and it troubled me how often I had to stop to pick up litter. This is why a project like The Mountains and The People is so important, as it trains people to not only repair paths, but also to become more aware about the issues facing our upland environments, so we can in turn share this with others.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom! There are serious issues facing our hills, but there are also some incredible people out there who are working hard to protect them. As part of the traineeship, we met the wonderful Ben Lomond rangers, who are two committed and passionate people who love the hill they work next to and strive to share their enthusiasm with others and encourage people to get involved with the work they do. Spending time with them was inspirational, and I only hope I can do the same with my own career. Other staff in the Forestry Commission, Plantlife, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and the John Muir Trust have been just as brilliant to work alongside and learn from. Not to forget the hard working TMTP volunteers, who come out day after day to do their bit for conservation. I really valued meeting these people, and they have all played a part in making me even more passionate about a career in conservation as I come to end the end of the traineeship.
So what next? We all have our own goals – some trainees already have jobs working with upland path building contractors, others aim to enter the conservation sector and get a job as a ranger. Some want to spend time abroad getting more experience. Whatever we all end up doing, I think we can all agree that the course has been an insightful, educational, challenging and worthwhile experience that has tested our abilities and our limits, while pushing us to achieve the best we can and prepared us to some extent for a career in the industry.
Would I do it all again? Maybe ask me again once I’ve had a good long holiday… but I’d probably say yes 🙂