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For me the COVID-19 virus lockdown and subsequent easing was marked by site visits walking on the Posties Path, a Scottish Wildlife Trust lead project on the Trusts largest reserve Ben Mòr Coigach.

 

The waymarked path, which skirts the seaward side of BenMor Coigach, is one of three traditional routes around ‘the rock, the stunning and rugged multiple peaks that make up Ben Mòr Coigach’. Walking these difficult routes was known as ‘taking the rock’ (A’ gabhail na Creige). The Postman’s Path was named in recognition of the postmen who took the rock twice a week, bringing mail to and from the Coigach communities in the 1860s

 

Before lockdown I walked the Posties Path with the Reserves North Team from west to east to review the work on the path (https://coigach-assynt.org/2020/03/taking-the-posties-path-gabhail-achreig/ ). The Posties Path is a rugged path and it was never the intention of the project to tame the path into chipping topped urban path.   With relatively little traffic the intention was to address the key pinch points of the path with a modest sum sourced from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Landfill Fund and Ramblers Scotland by installing large stone works that fit into the landscape and will require little maintenance in the future. The contractor A.C.T. Heritage Ltd has outdone themselves in this work that included the more rugged slopes and precipitous sections on the East leg of the path, significantly improving the path.

 

And then as it became clear that the lockdown would come in force in March and the path workers were ordered off the hill, and we all experienced the restrictions of lockdown.

Figure 1. Looking west on the Posties Path with Michelle Henley, Acting Reserves Manager North, path consultant and contractor representatives © B Alexander/ Scottish Wildlife Trust
Figure 2. Walking the Posties Path looking eastward to Achiltibuie and the Summer Isles © B Alexander/ Scottish Wildlife Trust

As the lockdown goes, both my family and I really appreciate living in the Highlands. Out the windows we can see the spectacular hills lining Lochbroom and we are but footsteps from the country’s best scenery. Additionally, working through video calls from home has allowed more incite with colleagues and partners. The video call is a window into the home of the person being call, and I have picked up little details of their interests and persona. This ranges from their pets (cats or malamute), activities (bicycles or sewing manakin), to interests in wildlife (either Yukon Wolves, Lynx of Canada or dinosaurs of Jurassic Park). However, the down side to being immersed into technological communication is that after work I have ignored my own persona; emails and communicated less with friends and family. Additionally, with my home working station steps from my bed, I have found that that my work life has consumed my home life. However the wildlife and scenery that surround our village is phenomenal! For example a high point last week when fishing at Rhue Point on Lochbroom (one of my favourite places for not catching fish), with a fantastic view over Ben Mòr Coigach and the sunset over the Summer Isles, I saw two pods of common dolphins swimming into Lochbroom (see Facebook post of Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Noel Hawkins, Living Seas Communities Officer).

 

So, with the easing of lockdown it was a pleasure to have a follow up site visit to the Posties Path with Acting North Manager North Michelle Henley and the path consultant and contractor representative. Suitably socially distanced, we reviewed work completed, looked to sources of stone for materials for work to come and for maintenance in the future, and identified the pinch points for work scheduled over the winter. Despite the foreboding forecast of the Met Office that day we were blessed with a cracking sun and blue skies. We did not sight any seals, sea eagles or pine martins as we had done on the previous walk, but the weather was simply gorgeous! One of the attractions of the path is during breaks in the walk, sitting on the bed rock of the slopes and feeling the incredible beauty and awesomeness of the landscape that surrounds the path.

 

I talked to Keith Mackey from the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, as we walked, about the beautiful panorama over Lochbroom and the rugged coast and slopes of Ben Mor Coigach. Keith noted that he has worked in landscapes all over Scotland, and at a particularly stunning view turn to me and exclaimed, “This is a world class path!”

Figure 3. Keith Mackay, Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland and Donald Mackenzie, A.C.T. Heritage on the Posties Path © B Alexander/ Scottish Wildlife Trust

Boyd Alexander

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