A meeting at Mar Lodge produced some news of interest at the weekend.
Hosted by Mar Lodge Estate’s Property Manager David Frew, the evening meeting was a community update to let local people – and interested parties – know about events during the past year and a little about what’s planned for the future.
Lots of interesting stuff, about all aspects of the estate, but one hot topic for any walkers in the area was the future of the footbridge at Derry Lodge.
Only on Saturday morning I had been speaking to a visitor who was glumly contemplating a wet crossing of the Derry Burn (I directed him to the tree bridge) and expressing the view that the estate probably didn’t ever intend replacing the bridge.
I told him he was wrong, and that was borne out at the meeting on Saturday evening, when David Frew confirmed that the estate’s insurers had agreed to pay for bridge damage. It appears there is still some discussion whether the bridge will be rebuilt on the current site or at a more favourable location, which would allow use of a hard track rather than the current boggy crossing of the Derry Flats. This would be drier underfoot for walkers and would also leave the flats, frequented by Black Grouse, in peace.
Whichever solution is settled upon, however, it is likely to be spring before any work takes place.
In the meantime the official line is that, if the river is too high to ford safely, the next crossing is up at Derry Dam, a couple of kilometres up Glen Derry and making a considerable detour for anyone heading to or from Glen Dee and the Lairig Ghru. It’s not as bad as all that though. I spent a morning a few weeks back, cutting a way through the branches of a tree which has fallen across the Derry Burn about 200 metres upstream from the bridge site. The trunk is broad and there is now a relatively free passage through the upper branches of the tree on the west bank. You still have to clamber over the root disc on the east bank but, with care, a crossing can be made without too big a detour. When you have crossed to the west bank it’s best to head at right angles to the burn until you reach the path: if you head directly downstream you end up having to cross some wet ground and a boggy ditch.
Staying in the same area, we were told that the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the estate, is very keen that a use be found for Derry Lodge, which for long has lain as an empty shell.
Independent consultants Bell Ingram have been asked to carry out a feasibility study into different plans for the building. One proposal is to make a European-style mountain hut with accommodation and some catering. There has also been interest from youth-based organisations. We were told that, whatever use the building was eventually put to, there was no intention to open up the road to vehicle access.
I asked David Frew what the implications would be for Bob Scott’s Bothy were paid-for accommodation created just a hundred yards away and was told that there would be no implications: Bob Scott’s would be able to continue as a bothy. However, moves to formalise a lease for the bothy, already underway, would have to progress, with Friends of Bob Scott’s Bothy formally taking over the present de facto situation there.
Garbh Choire Refuge
There has been a feeling amongst campaigners for the future of this refuge that the estate is dragging things out hoping people will lose interest but the section of the evening devoted to buildings was introduced by a slide of the GCR, so no dodging the issue there… almost.
David apologised for the delays in consultation on the future of the refuge – two years’ of delays – but said that the long awaited event would take place “early in the new year”, with an independent consultancy canvassing views and preparing a report for the NTS with a recommendation on the future – or lack thereof – of this important and valued structure. I’ll be following this closely and will update any news on the consultation on this blog.
Duke of Edinburgh Award news
This doesn’t come from Saturday evening’s meeting at Mar Lodge but, having thrown down the gauntlet to the DofE Award, it’s only fair to recognise their rising to the challenge.
My post about youngsters’ behaviour at Corrour and later photographs that emerged of graffiti there and at another bothy were taken on board by the DofE Award Scheme who suggested a meeting. There we – the Mountain Bothies Association and the DofE – agreed to work together to prepare educational material that could be fed through to youngsters on DofE Award expeditions, explaining to them how bothies are looked after and their vulnerabilities to misuse. It won’t mean any change in the DofE expedition ethos of staying under canvas, but recognises that kids will be kids and, if they see a bothy, will go and have a look.
There are a few measures under consideration but the important thing is that a dialogue has been opened and the attitude from the DofE scheme at Scottish level has been very positive and encouraging, and any educational materials prepared will be available for other interested youth groups too.