18 May Trainee Blog Episode 1 – Weeks 1 to 4
As part of the 2018 Upland Path Worker training course our trainees will be sharing their experiences of life on the hill through their very own trainee blog.
Weeks 1 – 4
The Mountains and The People 2018 Trainee programme has begun. Eight of us, all of different in personality and work background, have come together to begin our journey to become Upland Path Workers. In 6 months time we shall be a well-trained team of hardy Path Workers, taking on bog and bedrock without a moment’s hesitation, laying paths with proficiency and confidence. But all of that is to come. At the moment we are in the first stages of our journey, still getting to grips with the processes and challenges involved. The processes and techniques are becoming more and more familiar with every work day, but with every day we are familiarising ourselves with a far more tenacious aspect of upland path work: the challenges.
The induction weeks passed with ease. Having gotten to know each other better we progressed from tenuous small talk to working and socialising together with ease. During this time we have had basic training in first aid, manual handling and hill safety. Following this we conducted drain runs on Ben Ledi and Ben Venue, getting a taste for work days on the hill. Having finished our 2 week induction we were ready and eager to begin path construction.
Our first work site is Craigmore. On the first day the conditions were promising, even the areas of the work site that resembled a bog seemed manageable in such dry conditions. With this in mind we began work. In keeping with the Scottish climate, a phenomenon as old as the hills occurred, the rain arrived. After being spoilt on our first day of work, and having progressed with much of the excavation work, conditions becoming increasingly wet. Despite the rain being far from torrential, perhaps some heavier showers amongst the drizzle, we experienced a stark contrast in our work conditions, even having to create dams to prevent our carefully constructed excavations from turning back into a bog.
But work continued, and we progressed from laying aggregate paths, with anchor bars installed to improve their integrity, to creating our very first drainage features. The most engaging of these features so far is sure to be the water bar. The water bar, to provide some clarification, is placed across the path at an angle to catch and divert any water that has found its way onto the path. Upon first glance at this rather modest drainage feature we were sure in our assumption that, while we would need to apply ourselves both physically and mentally to this task, the instillation of our first water bar would progress in a straightforward manner. We were mistaken. Of the challenges that I mentioned earlier, the unseen construction efforts of installing water bars were our greatest so far. Digging our foundations, for example, we had a roulette style gamble of what we would be excavating. Would it be deep bog with a water spring beneath the surface? Would it be bedrock so tough that our pinch-bars would simple bounce off? Or would it be perfectly dry and accommodating ground? The latter of these options is yet to be witnessed by the Upland Path Worker Trainees of 2018.
Through the challenges, of course, there is achievement. The feeling of success and the pride we feel when first walking upon a finished section of path is truly indescribable. While there have been days where we have returned from the hill with an unsecured anchor bar playing on our minds, or a squint water bar haunting our dreams, we have also returned with unwavering feelings of achievement. We may not yet be the upland path workers that we imagine ourselves becoming, but we are definitely getting there. Something that we can be certain of is that we have a challenging journey ahead of us, and that despite the challenges that we are certain to face in the coming 6 months, we are sure to enjoy every minute of it.