The Mountains and The People project in Scotland’s national parks and the Fairy Pools car park project on Skye have won Scottish Land & Estates’ Helping it Happen Awards.
The Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS), a groundbreaking environmental charity promoting sustainable public access throughout Scotland, is delighted to have won awards in two of the nine categories at the Scottish Land & Estates’ (SLE) Helping it Happen Awards 2022, supported by headline sponsor NatureScot.
The winners were announced at gala ceremony at The Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh, on Wednesday 05 October 2022.
The Mountains and The People, the largest and most complex upland path project ever undertaken in the UK, won the Enhancing our Environment through Land Management Award, sponsored by NatureScot.
The £5.6m scheme, core funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, was inspired, initiated, planned and built by OATS.
It created and rebuilt footpaths on some of the Highlands’ most iconic hills, across Scotland’s two national parks, repairing environmental damage caused by walkers.
Seeding the budget with its own resources, OATS brought together agencies, and, crucially, won support from multiple landowners at 43 diverse sites.
The project completed 120km of paths over six years.
It trained 36 path-builders of the future and attracted help from volunteers across Scotland.
The Fairy Pools car park and toilets development project on Skye, in which OATS provided a unique solution to a local problem created by the global phenomenon of social media-driven tourism, won the Tourism and Visitor Management Award, sponsored by GLM.
In recent years annual visitor numbers at Skye’s iconic Fairy Pools have risen exponentially, from 13,000 in 2006 to 180,000 recorded in 2019.
The resulting car parking and toileting problems created in a remote glen, accessed using a single-track road, have been severe, with local residents, businesses and emergency services dealing with significant disruption.
MCHA used the Community Asset Transfer scheme to acquire the land from Forestry and Land Scotland and leased the site to OATS.
OATS fund raised the £800,000 budget, project managed the construction and now operate and maintain the car park and off-grid toilets.
The hugely successful landlord/tenant collaboration forged between the Minginish Community Hall Association and OATS is the perfect model to demonstrate how effective third-sector partnerships can address these issues, whilst giving OATS and the community additional income for local and national projects.
The overall focus of the Helping it Happen Awards is on recognising the role estates, farms and rural businesses play in enabling and supporting success in rural communities, rural businesses and rural landscapes, a true demonstration of the way in which rural businesses help Scotland to thrive.
The award categories focus on areas in which rural businesses are positively impacting Scotland’s economy and environment; and how rural businesses interact with their local communities and with visitors.
Duncan Bryden, Chair of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, who attended the awards gala ceremony, said:
“We thank SLE and the judges for these awards and hope they will help raise the OATS profile amongst landowners, managers and communities across Scotland and show that we are a small but highly effective charity capable of delivering and operating innovative solutions to access challenges.”
Dougie Baird, CEO of the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland, said:
“We are delighted that two of our most recent collaborative projects, and all those who have been essential to their success, have been recognised by Scottish Land & Estates.
“To win in these two categories at SLE’s Helping it Happen Awards 2022 highlights the positive work we do developing, building and fixing upland and lowland paths, path networks, habitats and trailhead facilities in popular, remote, and fragile places; supporting outdoors enthusiasts, land managers and local communities.”
Scottish Land & Estates Executive Director, Sarah-Jane Laing commented:
“We are delighted that our first in-person awards ceremony since 2019 has seen such an array of wonderful businesses, each doing great things for rural Scotland.
“Entries were consistently strong and inspiring and judging once again very challenging.
“The highest standards, the latest technology and embracing the expectation to prioritise environmental sustainability are key challenges facing rural enterprises and I take delight in seeing many succeed in meeting these demands.
“Having the chance to celebrate with our winners in person this year has been incredibly rewarding.
“Our rural communities are fortunate to have so many champions and contributors.”