By Cameron McNeish
A record 5,600 hours of conservation work was clocked up last year by volunteers on the John Muir Trust’s annual conservation work parties. 153 volunteers took part in 24 organised conservation work parties across Scotland’s wild places, from the Western Isles to the Borders, and even managed a week of work at Skalanes, Iceland. 2011 also saw the first work parties held on Glenlude in the Scottish Borders, the Trust’s newest property.
The volunteers’ achievements include clearing 654 bags of rubbish from beaches and inshore lochs, maintaining 20 kilometres of path, and tackling invasive plants such as giant rhubarb, rhododendron and himalayan balsam.
Sandy Maxwell, co-ordinator of the Trust’s work parties, said to TGO: “I’d like to thank everyone who’s given up their time to come and help us this year. I’m always impressed by the number of our members and supporters who come forward to take part in practical conservation work.
“Their efforts go a long way towards restoring native habitats and helping to keep wild places in good condition. A few of our volunteers having been turning out regularly in all weather for about 20 years.
Rona McAlpine, from Croachy near Inverness, found herself with spare time after going from full to part time work and decided to get involved with the Trust’s work parties. Rona helped with seven work parties, and despite getting freezing cold clearing litter from Ben Nevis in August, she’s planning to come back for more later this year.
She said: “l wanted to use my free time to do some of the things l really like to do - and to try to strike a balance between having a lower income but a greater degree of personal satisfaction.”
“l joke that l've become addicted to work parties but l really just enjoy them. It gets me out in the wilds, gives me the opportunity to learn new skills, and lets me meet a lot of different people.
“The most difficult task l've done with the Trust was clearing litter from the top of Ben Nevis. Although it was only at the end of August it was blowing a gale at the summit and so cold my fingers were freezing. l love the hills but it was extremely difficult to pick up any litter!
“l'm certainly going to get involved again next year. There are so many other places l'd like to go to work at that l haven't been to yet, and l'm sure l'll try to squeeze in a few l've already tried!”
For more information about John Muir Trust conservation work parties, including dates for 2012, please visit: http://www.jmt.org/activities-conservation-work-parties.asp