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Paths, Trees and Bracken

Volunteer this Summer!

Front cover – Jake Bailey


End of an era Start of a new By Iona Skyring 5 years, 19 projects, 1 minibus, and a whole load of fun. The Nevis Landscape Partnership Programme is coming to an end.

We could fill up this whole magazine with all the facts and figures of the NLP programme since 2014 but we'll just give you the best. 12,000 native trees planted, 10,000 metres of path created and repaired, and a whopping 1,348 hours of volunteering. That's the equivalent of 600 8 hour work days! You'd be well deserving of some tea and biscuits after that effort.

Although it's the end of the programme it is certainly not goodbye. The Nevis Landscape Partnership will be continuing in full force with new projects to keep us occupied over the spring and summer with thankfully a few helpful pairs of hands in the form of trainee volunteer rangers as well. We will be working on a new path project up the Glen between Lower Falls and Steall Falls and of course bracken bashing will be a big task for the start of the warmer months. There will be lots of opportunities to get involved and get your hands dirty with a number of footpath and conservation work party events that have just been added to the website. We are hoping to add some engagement events to the summer programme too so keep one eye on the website for any new additions.

We are looking forward to the next chapter, hope to see you there. Tha sinn a' coimhead air adhart ris an ath-cheum, an-dòchas gum faic sinn sibh ann.

Rhododendrons: Tackling Rhododendrons are a colourful group of flowering plants that have become a common feature of Highland gardens. But one particular species, Rhododendron ponticum, has spread into many of our wild places, aggressively pushing out native plants. ‘Ponticum’ was first brought to Britain in the 18th century, introduced by Victorian estates for its ornamental value and for use as a rootstock for new cultivated hybrids. Due to its ability to thrive in wet, acidic soils, it has spread rapidly across huge parts of the countryside, especially in the West of Scotland, where it is estimated it now covers around 7% of all woodland areas.

Why, you may ask, is this such a problem? R. ponticum grows in dense thickets, shading out virtually all life beneath it, crowding out native plants, mosses, lichens, fungi and all their associated wildlife. Once established, the mature plants can easily spread either by seed dispersal or by ‘stem layering’, where horizontal branches set down new roots and grow as new bushes. As a result, vast forests can quickly envelop open hillside and woodland, suffocating many of the native species which would normally grow there. Encroaching plants can also damage forestry stocks, destroy grazing land and impede public access to the countryside.

In 2010, The Department for Food and Agriculture (Defra) estimated that invasive species generally cost the British economy at least

£1.7bn per year from the loss of native

wildlife and landscapes. In Scotland alone, we spent

£10m between 2003 and 2013 attempting to eradicate invasive rhododendrons, but they continue to spread and degrade our countryside.

So, what can be done? There are several known techniques for controlling R. ponticum. Most commonly, plants are cut back to the stump, which is then treated with herbicide and the branches and leaves burned. Chemical spraying can also be applied over large areas. However, these techniques can have damaging effects on the surrounding environment and often require years of repeat treatment to be effective.

A Growing Problem A relatively new method, devised in Morvern by the Lever and Mulch Partnership, aims to treat Rhododendrons in a much more long-lasting way. This technique makes use of the strong stems of the plant, removing all of the bud bearing material and avoids the use of chemicals. Though initially more labour intensive than other techniques, Lever and Mulch has been found to be far more effective and complete in its removal of the species. Follow up treatment is normally recommended to catch any missed plants during the first phase.

Nevis Landscape Partnership staff have been trained in the Lever and Mulch technique and over the past five years we have been working with volunteers to remove invasive species from the local area. Though Glen Nevis is not as badly affected as other parts of the Highlands, there are a few concentrated areas where the plants have dominated. If they are not controlled, there is a danger they will spread and destroy the other plants and wildlife for which Glen Nevis is so valued.

It's worth stating that not all rhododendrons pose such a threat. Ponticum is just one of a wide variety of rhododendrons, many of which do not spread invasively and can safely be grown in gardens. In some parts of the country, ‘plant swap’ schemes have been set up, where gardeners are encouraged to replace their invasive ponticum with less aggressive varieties. But, incredibly, R. ponticum continues to be sold by some commercial nurseries. Indeed, many people still find it attractive, with tourists often drawn to the Highlands in the summer to see the abundant flowers in bloom. A shift in public opinion is needed if we are to protect our native wildlife from being decimated by these plants. The Nevis Landscape Partnership will continue to campaign and raise awareness, as well as working on the ground to make Glen Nevis a Rhododendron ponticum free zone. If you’d like to help us, check for an upcoming work party on the events page on our website, or make a donation at

WORDS Rowan Doff

Leave No Trace Iona Skyring

AÂ sustainable guide to exploring and enjoying the outdoors. The Leave No Trace movement began in the United States in the 1960s when the USDA Forest Service saw the biophysical effects on the landscape of increased public land use. The movement grew throughout the 20th century into a formal programme which emphasised wilderness ethics and sustainable approaches to travel and camping. In 1993, the Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics was incorporated with the primary aim of promoting the Leave No Trace messaging through education and training resources.Â

It is an important concept to promote everywhere where there may be volumes of people visiting a natural landscape. The Nevis Landscape Partnership has been running Leave No Trace awareness courses since 2016 with the help of Stef Lauer who runs her own outdoor training business called Hands on Consulting. We have also developed some learning resources which add to the original seven principles and go beyond leave no trace:

Educate yourself and others about places you visit Take care of clothing and equipment you have Purchase only the clothes and equipment you need Minimise waste production Make conscientious food, energy, equipment and

There are seven principles that make up the framework of Leave No Trace which provide guidelines of how to avoid human-created impacts and enjoy the outdoors in a

clothing consumption choices Get involved by conserving and restoring the places you visit.

sustainable way. These principles are: We are lucky in Scotland to have the Outdoor Access Plan Ahead and Prepare Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces Dispose of Waste Properly Leave What You Find Minimise Campfire Impacts Respect Wildlife Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Code. The right to roam, as it is sometimes referred to, gives individuals the right to access almost all land and rivers in Scotland as long as they act responsibly. There are three key guidelines which should be followed while in the outdoors: take responsibility for your own actions, respect the interests of other people, care for the environment. The Outdoor Access Code promotes Leave

Today, leave no trace messaging is communicated all

No Trace through these guidelines, advising how visitors

around the world through education, training, and

can access the outdoors in a sustainable way.


Unfortunately there are many instances, particularly over the summer months, where holiday makers don't adhere to these guidelines. It is common in Glen Nevis to find large camping groups with multiple tents staying in the same area for up to a week, often quite close to roads and not far from their own vehicles. This can be referred to as car boot camping and does not come under the guidelines of what wild camping is supposed to be. It is also common for these groups to leave large amounts of rubbish including various plastics, parts of, or sometimes even entire tents, and traces of open fires. This behaviour can be very damaging to the environment and can disturb others, both of which go against the guidelines of the Access Code.

Since there isn't any rubbish collection in Glen Nevis, it is the responsibility of visitors to take their rubbish with them. "If you can pack it in then you can pack it back out", as the saying goes, promotes the message that you are responsible for your own belongings and rubbish and that you should leave a place as you found it, not rely on someone else to clean up after you. If you want to take it one step further, then the next action would be to reduce the single use plastic products you buy to take with you. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but when it comes to water, we are lucky in Scotland to have access to fresh clean water almost everywhere, particularly on the hills. This negates the need for taking crates of plastic water bottles out on most hiking and camping trips. If you can't reduce the plastic you take with you then disposing of it appropriately when you get back home or to your accommodation is the next best option.

There are many small things you can do to reduce your impact while enjoying the outdoors. Leave no Trace is a important message to promote in order to maintain the health of these incredible environments so that people can continue to enjoy them into the future. If you are interested in completing a Leave No Trace course or would like any copies of the learning materials, please email You

can also check our website for any other volunteering or engagement events you might be interested in.

There are many resources available for those who want to know more about Leave No Trace and the access code in the links below. Scottish Outdoor Access Code - Mountaineering Scotland - Leave No Trace Centre for Outdoor Ethics Leave No Trace Ireland -

Nevis Faces Dave MacLeod

Our 2019 film project for the Nevis Landscape Partnership

I filmed six different Nevis Faces. A painter, a path builder,

set out with two broad goals. First, almost all the previous

a climber, a photographer, a snow scientist and an

films we’d made in the Ben Nevis Film+ project over the

ecologist. We talked about vastly different things;

previous four years had been in summer conditions. This

mountain light, physical training, particle physics, ethics,

was mostly by coincidence, but in the last year, we were

risk, camping, camera settings, climate change, suffering

keen to show off one aspect of Lochaber that can’t be

and joy. And yet the thing that struck me the most, while

found elsewhere in the UK, the alpine landscape of snow

observing and admiring all the subjects of the six films,

and ice, combined with the wild weather of the west

were the huge similarities between them.

highlands. However, the first rule of Scottish winters is that they will surprise you and so our shooting for several of the films didn’t really get started until mid January, when winter finally decided to arrive.

As a climber myself, I can watch someone move across a tussocky Scottish bog and can tell in a split second by the way they move that they, like me, have spent a life in the hills. Their expression changes in the same way just before

But arrive it did. The second goal was to focus the films on a range of people who have wildly different relationships to the local landscape of the Nevis area. They all share a love, if not obsession, with these places, but play it out on completely different platforms. This was a particularly exciting theme for me to explore personally. My platform for exploring the mountains is rock and ice climbing. I’ve always been interested in seeing both the absolute

they turn their head into a biting, sleet filled, winter wind. They have the same routine of assessing forecasts, reading slopes, navigating. They have the same scratched and dented flasks and even make some of the same jokes on the hill. In a million tiny observations like this, you can see that their life in the mountains has shaped these people in such similar ways. I suppose it is unsurprising that my conclusion from watching these folks is that great mountains shape great people.

commonalities and the big differences in the other people I see (or sometimes never see) in the hills. We can be like ships in the night, visiting the same hidden wee spots in the hills, but at different times or seasons, and writing or talking about them in different social circles.

If you would like to watch the Nevis Faces series, they are available to view on the Nevis Landscape Partnership Youtube channel along with all the other Ben Nevis Film+ projects -

The Trainee Volunteer My time as a Trainee Volunteer Ranger with Nevis Landscape Partnership has been an incredible 20 week journey of learning and discovery which has kept both my body and mind fit and healthy throughout the winter months.

Having previously worked at Abernethy in the Cairngorms, it was a real eye opener to see the difference in what remains of the Caledonian pine forest here compared to over there, and how the wetter conditions of the west (on top of other pressures) have a real impact on allowing our pine forests to regenerate. For this reason I found a great sense of fulfilment

The programme has allowed me to learn and develop new

from planting several hundreds of Scots pine in Glen Nevis,

skills and knowledge, whilst building on my existing expertise,

which will hopefully grow into a forest that future generations

leaving me well equipped to take the next step on my

will be able to enjoy, and will enrich the habitat to encourage

conservation journey. The work and projects I have been

some of the wildlife that is currently absent or

involved in have been incredibly varied and it is hard to pick

underrepresented in the glen to thrive in years to come. For

just one standout moment.

example, red squirrels...

Path building with Path Officer, Dougie, has given me a better

Red squirrel surveying was another project I was privileged

appreciation of the importance of maintaining paths, and left

enough to be involved in. Early starts in the dark to locate

me with admiration for the gift of having the eye for finding

squirrel traps by headtorch was an experience in itself! It was

just the right size and shape of boulder and the level of

with a ripple of anticipation that we baited traps with

architecture that goes into shaping and constructing a path.

hazelnuts and made regular return trips to check if any

Path days never failed to leave me with a sense of

squirrels had been captured. However, more often than not

accomplishment, aching muscles and the pure bliss of having

there were no squirrels taking the bait, and only three

mud on my face and dirt under my fingernails. I’ll never quite

squirrels were trapped. However, low results are still results

look at a path the same way again!

and it gave us an insight into the state of the Glen’s red squirrel population.

The advantage of volunteering for a partnership organisation like NLP is the opportunity to work with different organisations, and to learn about the different work that is being carried out locally. This partnership working allowed me the chance to undertake a Scottish wildcat survey for the Forestry Commision in Glen Loy. Eleven camera traps baited with frozen quail were deployed throughout Glen Loy in locations which looked favourable for wildcat. The TVRs along with other local volunteers eagerly checked the cameras every two weeks and although unfortunately we didn’t discover evidence of wildcats it was interesting to see the other wildlife caught on film, including pine martens, badgers, foxes, otters and jays.

The last 5 months with the NLP would not have been half as much fun without the camaraderie of my fellow TVRs, Eilidh and Cormac who made the whole experience even more fun. We all worked well together with lots of laughs and a united love for nature and wildlife conservation which helped make my time in Glen Nevis all the more memorable.

By Jen Clark

Ranger Diaries Working as a trainee volunteer ranger with the Nevis Landscape Partnership over the last 5 months has given me a great opportunity to explore my interest in the concept of conservation and creativity. After months of struggling to write anything that I liked, I parked my van up and clambered my way down to the banks of the river Dee; my mind was busy with the infinite things it can use to entertain and exhaust itself. What was I even doing? Thoughts of how people would hear me from the bridge above and how this is likely to distract me from what I aimed to do zapped around my brain, I reminded myself, I wasn’t here to write a song, I was here to watch Salmon. I sat down on the best bum shaped rock I could see and sure enough within seconds I was observing these magnificent creatures battling their way against the current, taking huge leaps out of the water, bouncing of rocks, falling back down stream then righting themselves and leaping again. I took out my guitar, tuned up and started to play a brand-new song.

This is just one of the many examples where nature has grounded and inspired me to express myself and reflect. Wanting to help others experience their own version of this led me to develop the concept of conservation and creation. Getting the opportunity to join the NLP team has allowed me to develop this idea further and have a night in the CIC hut in December where we cleaned up some rubbish off the Ben and cosied ourselves up to share writing techniques, songs and what helps and hinders us in creative expression. There’s a great video made by Fort Wiliam’s Zeemon Erhardt that gives you a flavour of this on youtube, worth a wee look!

I got the chance to continue the idea in March with a tree planting event combined with a night in Steall Hut. We got near 300 trees in the ground in our new exclousure and had an excellent evening of sharing by the hut’s tidy new gas stove while Storm Gareth raged outside. It was a pleasure to run all the events and each has had its own feel, this one carried this theme on and everyone expressed how they got something out of it. By hearing each other’s songs, stories and thoughts we can help inspire each other and help ourselves remember that everyone has self-doubt and insecurity at times but accepting this and going for it anyway can allow the therapy of creativity to work its magic. With this thought in mind and the fact that anyone can be a poet or writer, even if it’s purely for themselves I always encourage anyone to get outside and take some time sit or stand and just observe their surroundings, soak it up for a bit, take out a notebook and just write, for the sake of it!

By Cormac Dolan

We like trees too. Help us keep planting them.

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