It’s long past time I updated the position regarding the Garbh Choire Refuge.
As readers of the Mountain Bothies Association magazine will know, Mar Lodge Estate has finally agreed to allow the shelter to be renovated.
And all going well with the paperwork, there are plans to carry out that renovation during 2018.
Not only that, but a donation of £5000 has already been sent from someone who used the refuge for two nights a number of years ago, who read of the news in the MBA magazine and wanted to mark his gratitude. An amazing sign of the devotion so many people have for this tiny, remote shelter.
Long fallen into dilapidation, despite frequent temporary repairs by walkers and climbers, the refuge was the subject of much debate and a long campaign by those who wished to save it. This campaign dates back many years and was revived in 2011 when Heather Morning sought permission to have it repaired in the way that the Fords of Avon Refuge was, on RSPB land. Since then myself and Kenny Freeman have been the focus of a widespread movement keeping the issue active.
Towards the end of 2017, in a meeting with Mar Lodge Estate, which owns the refuge, I was told that the estate had finally been persuaded that between removal and renovation the better option, all things considered, was to allow a renovation.
The campaign to save the small stone shelter was led independently of the MBA, although it was always understood that if renovation was to take place the MBA would carry that out, using its well-proven expertise in vulnerable areas, and would be responsible for ongoing maintenance.
Following an offer from Mar Lodge Estate the MBA has now agreed to take on responsibility for the refuge and awaits the legal paperwork from National Trust for Scotland, which owns Mar Lodge Estate.
Once that has been obtained work can go ahead to return the structure to its original state. This will involve removing the stone casing and all the rubbish and debris from previous repair attempts over the years. Then a new waterproof membrane will be fitted over the existing iron framework and the stones and turf will be replaced. The floor will be repaired, and the door and fanlight at the front will be rebuilt to withstand the severe weather experienced in the corrie.
It will make the refuge weathertight once more – for the first time in several decades – but it will remain the same size, sleeping just four at a pinch if everyone wants to sleep lying down. And no fire. It will be, as it ever was, a very basic refuge, suitable for emergency shelter more than planned stays.
I’ll post more on here as work takes place, but this will probably be late spring or early summer. Until then the refuge remains an unsavoury hole which doesn’t keep the rain out.
Thanks are due to the NTS and Mar Lodge Estate, who have agreed to the renovation despite very understandable reservations, and placed a considerable amount of trust in the MBA’s ability to work in such a sensitive location. It is hoped that this trust will be repaid, with the renovated structure being less of a multi-coloured eyesore, and that future users will respect both the shelter and the environment.