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On the right path
Written By PETER EVANS
On the path Kingussie to Newtonmore with Creag Dubh in the background
THERE’S been a big push for some years now to encourage more people to exercise by creating community path networks.
One of the most successful ventures is the network around Kingussie. It offers locals and visitors alike the chance to take advantage of an impressive network of well-signed paths in lovely surroundings.
The wee craggy summit of Creag Bheag to the north of Kingussie is at the centre of it all.
It’s only 486 metres high but it provides glorious views of the Cairngorms and Monadhliath, with local landmarks like Kingussie High School and Ruthven Barracks prominent from the top.
A made trail now goes over the hill, linking Kingussie to Loch Gynack. The Kingussie Community Development Company brought about the upgrade and it’s made the walking a lot more pleasurable. After exploring the path network in a couple of trips over the festive season, Boxing Day provided a weather window for a circuit over Creag Bheag, returning to Kingussie.
I started from the Ardvonie car park alongside the Gynack burn, where there’s ample free space and an information board with details of the path network. The beauty of it is that you can link paths together to make a longer walk or just take a short stroll for an hour or so.
From the car park I angled up along the grassy bank leading to a minor road where there’s a signpost for Creag Bheag. Turning right I walked along the road to a track on the left which winds up through woods.
There are several paths leading off at angles but ignore these and stick with the main track to reach a gate in a wall at the border of the plantation. The views open up as you climb higher on the rocky path up the hill.
There’s another signpost shortly after the gate to confirm you are on the right line. I’d reached the snowline by now and followed the ridge along to a small shelter through deep snow in places.
The descent to Loch Gynack down the north-east side of the hill is steeper and needed a bit more care under the snow, with icy patches to contend with.
But I was soon at the lochside, where another signpost points the way west to Newtonmore along the south side of the loch. This is a lovely path that stays close to the loch along the base of Creag Bheag. A trail runner approached – the only other person I saw on the walk - and we exchanged greetings as he ran on, the way I’d come.
In about two kilometres, where the path rises slightly, signposts begin to appear for Newtonmore. I took a track branching left, descending then climbing gradually on to a bank above a burn on the south side of Creag Bheag.
Walking along this in afternoon sunshine I was glad I’d chosen this route for a post-Christmas outing.
The track leads to a gate then down to a point where there’s another gate on the right. Unsure at first about where to go from here I spotted an indistinct path, clearly used by locals, climbing a bank opposite where I was standing, on the other side of a burn.
Crossing the burn I took this path between houses up to a road. Sure enough, just above me was a signpost for the West Terrace Circular walk – also part of the path network.
Turning right along the road I strolled past some fine houses on West Terrace to reach the field above the Ardvonie car park and the end of my circuit.
Kingussie has a fantastic network of footpaths that has gone from strength to strength.
The expansion of the footpath network, under Andy Dunn’s leadership, is continuing, with the latest improvement seeing the establishment of a Core Path link from L Gynack via Ballachroan Wood to Newtonmore’s Wildcat Trail. The contractors on the job were severely inconvenienced by the severe weather of last winter, but the eventual path represents an excellent upgrade to its boggy and intermittent predecessor, and has been much used and appreciated over the summer. It was fitting that the Shinty Club’s sponsored walk earlier in the year was able to use this path for their successful fund-raising event. Next in the pipeline, through our continued association with Cairngorm outside access trust, should be the replacement of the top bridge at Strathlynn.
KINGUSSIE FOOTPATHS GROUP MEETING
TUESDAY 15 MARCH
PRESENT: Len Cruickshank, Andy Dunn, Jen Dunn, Donnie Grant, Duncan Macdonald, Ewan Thain
- UPDATE ON PATHS
- Ewan showed us the flyer which is going out to Bed and Breakfasts and other businesses, informing about the availability of footpath leaflets. These are now selling well, so the system is working satisfactorily after initial difficulties.
- He hopes to be able to engage a contractor who owes him three days work, to make repairs to the Loch Gynack path where a drain has collapsed, and the surface is very soft owing to the nature of the surrounding soil used as materials.
- Ewan was also about to speak to representatives from Pitmain about some more possible work on estate land. Gordon Macdonald who is to be responsible for training pathworkers, hopes to be able to use the south side of Creag Bheag as a training ground. The north side which is badly in need of attention, does not have suitable available materials close to hand and would be very expensive to work on.
- Adam Streeter Smith is looking at signage in this area.
- Not all sources of funding have come forward with requested amounts, so some parts of Ewan’s projects may need to be cut back.
- The new tools purchased by Andy with funding from Paths for All met with approval and are available for use. A notebook is available to log when tools have been borrowed.
- The visit from Brian Skinner with members of Community Service arranged for last week had to be cancelled because of snow; the snow is still here so next week is now a possibility.
- Wood has been ordered from Russwood to make duckboarding for a very muddy stretch, and Russell Jones has delivered bottoming. Andy has approached Bob Kinnaird to see if Glenmore might be able to help with funding.
- Last Wednesday’s event organised to thank WTH leaders was somewhat curtailed as the minibus and carload due to come from Deeside had been unable to come over the Lecht. Despite that, the event had been successful with good speakers in Cameron McNeish and Bob Kinnaird. Kingussie had led a healthwalk through the Mill Trail during which the sun shone.
Duncan has kindly offered to help with healthwalks if he is free on occasions.
- Andy referred to the current campaign which is being led by Ruairidh Ormiston to maintain access across the A9 at Crubenmore. Awareness has now been raised of the importance of keeping access free throughout the A9 corridor.
- MILL TRAIL/BIODIVERSITY
- Consideration was made of what might be the link between the Footpaths Group and the Biodiversity responsibility held by KCDC. It was agreed that a sub-group of KCDC could be formed to take on this role - Donnie has already spoken to the people involved - and that the Footpaths group would be supportive and join projects.
- Len noted that delivery has been taken of the wild woodland pack of trees which are to be planted in various places about the town.
- FAMILY PROGRAMME
- Following a suggestion at the KCDC AGM, Duncan was asked about the possibility of arranging a family event at the Mill Trail. Duncan already has a programme in place which includes two events in Tombaraidh during April and August and featuring The Gruffalo and Where the Wild Things Are. These sound very interesting and that will probably be enough at present, although Duncan is open to suggestions. There will again be a stall at the Kingussie Carnival Day.
- On a similar theme, a suggestion had been made to Len about the possibility of having ‘birds’ about Kingussie like Newtonmore makes use of ‘wildcats’ to promote family walking in the area. This idea will be explored.