A recent survey by Scottish Natural Heritage has found that the number Scottish adults visiting the outdoors for leisure or recreation at least once a week has increased. The figure has increased from 46% of the population in 2009 to 48% last year.
And perhaps not surprisingly, walking was the most popular outdoor activity, being the main activity on 73% of visits to the outdoors. The survey also estimated that Scots spent around £2.5 billion on trips to the outdoors in 2010.
Richard Davison, of the SNH’s people and landscapes programme, said: “This is great news. The reasons for the increase will be many and varied but we believe our work on encouraging more people to visit the outdoors and the excellent work being done by local authorities and many others is helping to inspire people to get outdoors.
The report is also great news for people like me who have spent years trying to encourage people to go walking in the bens and glens of Scotland but such numbers also pose potential problems for our hard-pressed mountain rescue teams.
Organisations like our local Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team have to raise considerable amounts of money every year to function at the very high standard that is expected of MR teams nowadays, and they have to rely very heavily on voluntary donations to maintain their services to walkers and climbers. A small amount of funding comes from Government sources but, as we expect our modern teams to be well equipped, well trained and offer a 24 hour, seven day a week service, they have to raise the vast majority of their not inconsiderable expenditure themselves.
That’s why I’ve signed up for this year’s Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team sponsored walk in Glen Feshie and I sincerely hope they will be plenty of others signing up too, particularly some of those who have just taking up hillwalking in the past year or so.
Not only is this an opportunity to enjoy a fabulous challenge walk in the incomparable surroundings of Glen Feshie, but it’s also a great chance to meet team members, see how they operate as a team, and learn that they are just ordinary walkers and climbers who come together on a regular basis to offer their time and commitment to help those often like-minded souls who get caught out in bad weather or bad luck in the mountains. I know there are those who get into trouble because of some stupid actions but you’ll very rarely hear mountain rescue team members criticise anyone.
The Cairngorm team’s bi-annual sponsored walk goes a long way to provide much of the income that required to keep the team functioning. And, touch wood, you never know when you’ll need their expert services…
The walk will start and finish at Corarnstilbeg in lower Glen Feshie and will climb through woodland before heading south through a remote heather glen where the remains of old settlements can be seen. The track then descends into Glen Feshie with spectacular views across the Moine Mhor to the high tops of Braeriach and Cairn Toul. The final stretch passes close to the estate house and circles back to join the start of the route south of Corarnstilbeg.
I hope you’ll join me and dozens of others on the sponsored walk on June 25th, and enjoy the natural and magnificent beauty of Glen Feshie for yourself. Walk through woods of Scots pine, rowan, alder, birch and oak, home to red squirrel, pine marten, cresties and crossbill. You might even see golden eagle rise high above the highest natural treeline in Britain. It’s going to be a great day out, an 18-mile walk for a very good purpose.
You’ll get more information from www.cmrt.org.uk. See you there…