Communities play a vital and often overlooked role in helping people walk and cycle for more of the journeys they make every day.
From identifying local routes and networks, which can make it easier and safer to travel actively, to boosting local economies by creating vibrant and attractive places for people to visit and spend time in, local communities have the power to make significant and positive differences to the lives of people living and working within them.
Over the past two months I have been privileged to have been involved in the official opening of a number of significant community-led projects and have been left impressed with the power local residents can have when they come together; a bottom up approach which is exactly what the Scottish Government is aiming to achieve through its Community Empowerment agenda.
Leading on walking and cycling paths
One opening was a new stretch of path in Tyndrum - famous for the Green Welly Shop and being on the West Highland Way. The new section of path forms part of a key section of the National Walking and Cycling Network and, as well as crossing part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, is also forms part of the Central Scotland long distant route, the Pilgrims Way.
Situated in the community owned woodland at Dalrigh, Tyndrum, the new path creates a circular loop from Tyndrum, allowing walkers and cyclists to bypass the very busy A82 trunk road.
The path was created by the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs Countryside Trust (LLTCT) working closely with the Strathfillan Community Development Trust, a charitable organisation with the aim of encouraging more people to get out and enjoy the great outdoors, with funding from a number of organisations, including £200,000 from Sustrans Scotland (Transport Scotland).
It was amazing to see so many members of the local community of all ages at the opening event, all thoroughly happy with the new path and all asking about the next phase – linking Tyndrum to Crainlarich.
Speaking at the opening of the new path, Natalie Stevenson from the LLTCT said:
“It has long been an ambition of the communities of Tyndrum and Crianlarich to not only provide a safe access route between the two villages but also to offer new local links to nationally recognised long distance walking and cycling routes such as the West Highland Way and National cycle routes.
“This ambition ties in with long term plans to create a network of paths running from the east of the National Park at St Fillans to the west at Tyndrum. This new path gives residents and visitors more opportunities for active travel, to enjoy recreational walks or bike rides or to join longer distance routes.
“We are committed to supporting local businesses and communities in achieving this ambition and are thrilled that we can now start work on the next sections around Crianlarich and Killin.”
Inspiring artworks on the NCN
Another example of a community-led project is in the Cairngorms National Park at Carrbridge, where there was the recent unveiling of a new artwork on the National Cycle Network to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the famous, old packhorse bridge at Carrbridge.
Here the community had successfully applied for funding from Sustrans Scotland’s Artroots Fund and the Cairngorms National Park to produce an artwork/bench which would be a feature in the community and on National Cycle Network Route 7.
The resulting bench has been designed and created by local chainsaw artists, Alice and Jeff Buttress, from a piece of local elm and celebrates all that is Carrbridge – from its local history and culture, to its stunning environment and diverse wildlife.
The opening was a truly memorable occasion with local Olympian cyclist Craig McLean officially unveiling the bench with the whole community looking on. The whole project was driven by the local community, in particular Maria Thompson-Slaven, project manager and chairperson of the Carrbridge Tourist & Business Association, showing just what can be achieved with determination. The community is now looking for funding to create an interpretation panel to enlighten all as to how the idea of the bench came about.
Communities can make a real difference to their local area, and it has been truly inspiring to see people coming together to make it easier for others to walk and cycle for more of the journeys they make every day.