Trainee Blog 4 – A Day on the Hill

By Ryan

Spade on Creag Bheag

The course provided by COAT is a one of a kind experience in my opinion. It has given and is still giving the team and I an experience that will be with us all forever. Building these paths in the hills just can’t be beaten in my eyes, what with the ridiculously beautiful scenery and the amazing amount of banter we all have when we`re at work. Every day we walk up the hill and start off with a lot of chit chat, half way up the chit chat seems to dull down to the sound of heavy breathing and concentration focussing on getting to the top. We have a small 5 minute break when we reach the work site to get the sweat off and to catch our breath. This means, when on the hill, that we can have more banter, perhaps having some jokes here and there annoying each other in some way or another (there’s always one dafty basically). We will have a quick health and safety briefing followed by a sumary of what everybody is up to, how it’s all going and if any help is needed. The day goes on, work begins and perhaps some music goes into one ear to help the grafter in us all graft away like a mad man (which I’m sure, at some point, we have all been called by a passer by on the hill). By 11:30am we have our first break of 15 minutes to have a quick piece and a chat, maybe talking about what we are building, what problems there may be etc, which helps a massive amount as there will always be someone there that can help you. More grafting, more tunes and before we know it lunch comes and goes and the time for packing up arrives and after a quick de-brief there’s a quick jaunt down the hill.

Why did I apply for this course?

I know everyone who applied had their reasons. I moved into the Cairngorms area at the start of last summer after graduating from University (Zoology) in the hope of finding something to do with my degree. Hard as it was I managed to get a job in the local Co-op and the Highland Wildlife Park. Neither job really fitting my “dreams” you could say. I needed to work outside and experience what there was to experience in the most amazing office the world had to offer, the outdoors. When I was told about this opportunity in the paper I read it and did some basic research into what COAT does. What I read opened my eyes to what I could be doing, I was thinking about what it would be like to be on the course and I had already thought about what I could be doing after the course had finished! And so I phoned up our training officer and asked for an application, I filled it out and sent it away. The rest is history!

Why is this course is one of a kind?

This course so far has allowed us to gain an experience that not many people have had. The course has given us the chance to speak to some of the people involved in the conservation of the Cairngorms. RSPB, SNH, the Cairngorm Ranger Service, Forestry commission… It’s all been amazing getting to know the kind of things these people are doing to keep what we have as protected as possible. It also opens my eyes how involved we are in an indirect way. In essence path builders look after the outdoors, conserve its beauty yet allow more people to experience what lies on their doorstep. With the number of people using the hills as a means of having a great experience, paths have become a necessity. I know a number of people who dislike having paths built in the hills, but when people ask me this on the hill I will always reply with the same… “Large numbers of people walking up a hill creates a scar. We build a path, reduce the scar in the landscape and hopefully prevent further scarring and control erosion. Without the path, the hill will become a massive B-line in itself. I think we need paths”. What`s more is that with a path, people are more inclined to walk on it and avoid other parts of the hill which might be more sensitive to walkers (like Cairngorm), or maybe there are breeding birds/mammals which are very sensitive to human interference. This is why I am chuffed about the work we have done so far on Creag Bheag and Meall a’ Bhuachaille. We are protecting the hills and that’s something to be proud of.

What are my plans for the future?

I know that everyone is in the same boat when I say this, we are wanting a job by the end of the course. I personally have a plan about what I want to do afterwards. I would like to work with a company and gain as much experience as possible learning more about the trades and getting better at the job. After I think I have enough experience under my belt I was toying with the idea of going freelance or starting up my own company specializing, but not restricted to, one of the trades such as path building, dyking, fencing etc. I have no desire to end up working in an office etc but If it comes to that I will take it on with both hands and keep on pestering folk! I don’t want November to come any faster than it already is but I know that because of this course things have opened up and opportunities will start flooding in… Hopefully before November though eh?…