The long-awaited renovation of the Hutchison Hut in Coire Etchachan finally began to take shape on the ground on September 1, 2012.
It’s been talked about for several years now and considerable work had already been done in discussions, talks with the Mar Lodge Estate (which owns the bothy and the land), drawing up proper plans, dealing with the relevant planning authorities, working out the logistics (a huge and often thankless task), ordering materials and arranging dates and transport.
For the ‘Hutchie’ renovation, like that at Corrour a few years back, is an ambitious and major project which will take a bothy known for years as a ‘cold, damp, draughty hole’ and transform it into something to be proud of and an exemplar of its type.
It will still be a simple shelter (in one of the most stunning locations of any bothy) but it will have a new wooden floor over damp-proofing, and will be wood-lined, with insulation built in. The window will be replaced with something that can be seen through and opened – necessary, since there will also be a stove. The existing open ‘porch’ will be boxed in to give a weathertight storm porch which will improve the draughtiness in the main bothy and give valuable storage space for rucksacks. Inside, the bench will be replaced with a slightly wider model that can be more easily used as a sleeping platform.
So it was with considerable excitement that a few of us walked up Glen Derry on the Saturday morning and set to work stripping out the bothy ready for work to start.
The existing bench was dismantled and the wooden floor – always prone to warping – torn up. The earth floor beneath was scraped away to make room for a concrete sub floor.
Then back to base at Bob Scott’s and a rest day on Sunday before heading back up on Monday for rendezvous with a helicopter and eight (or was it nine?) loads of tools and materials.
But the first hiccup in the project very quickly became apparent. In flat calm weather, the midge population of the area had multiplied beyond belief. In more than 40 years up the hills I don’t think I’ve ever seen the like. Midge nets were essential and even then every gap in our clothing was a highway for clouds of the biting b*st*rds. An occasional five minutes of breeze (and the all too brief downdraughts of the helicopter) was only ever a temporary relief and the nets were never off for more than a few minutes.
No real work could start until everything had been delivered but, once the helicopter finally arrived its trips back and forth from the stockpile which had been built up at Mar Lodge were surprisingly fast and, by lunchtime, we were ready to spring into action.
Kenny and John marked out the walls with the relevant heights and started work on the shuttering, while Neil Findlay, Piper and myself dug down the floor level a few more inches to make room for the sand screed which we then spread to make a base for the damp-proof membrane. Then it was a seemingly endless process of Piper and I mixing while Neil F spread the cement to the correct thickness.
At last the floor was complete, but there was no break in the mixing for the storm porch required the same treatment and, though the planned quitting time came and went, we had to get this done that day so that the second work party, due to arrive on Wednesday, would be able to get straight to work with no delays.
Eventually it was six o’clock and we were finished. It still took the best part of an hour to stow everything safely and make our departure and then almost two hours to get back to Derry Lodge where, thankfully, we’d been able to get a vehicle up. That left just 20 minutes to the car park at the Linn of Dee and a tired journey to reach home at 10.30 p.m. A long shift, but well worth it in what we’d achieved.
Next stage in the renovation will start on Wednesday or Thursday when more volunteers will arrive to start on the insulation and woodwork, so watch this space for more news.