Back in the Spring, we launched our Sponsored walk at Dunmaglass as part a year-long series of events for the Bell’s Bothy Challenge. This was to be a family-friendly day to encourage people to get out and explore the Strathnairn area and support a good cause at the same time. Generally, support from the community of Strathnairn had been positive, but it was difficult to tell whether anyone would really fancy trekking up a hill with us to raise a little bit of money! Very quickly, we learnt that the support was genuine as families registered for the event and started collecting sponsors. People came out from Inverness to join us, and we even had participants who travelled up from Edinburgh for the weekend!
As the day of the walk approached, everyone involved in organising the event, as well as our budding walkers, were studying the weather closely. The plan was to offer 3 separate routes to allow for walkers and cyclists of differing abilities, and so that everyone could see a different view of our surroundings, looking down on Strathnairn – from the top of a fairly high hill (802m above sea level). By the Friday evening, the day before the walk, it became apparent that walking at the top of the hill with lots of children was going to be a little unsafe – the weather forecast was predicting gusts of 45 miles an hour at low level, nobody wanted to hazard a guess as to what that would translate to higher up! With some help from the guys at Dunmaglass, who knew the land better than any of us, we managed to plan an alternative route at lower level, which meant that the event could still go ahead.
The big day arrived, and as forecast, it was windy. Not the lovely sunny summer’s day we had hoped for, but when you live in Scotland you learn to make the most of the weather conditions that are thrown at you! The day started with an introduction from Tom, one of the Gamekeepers on Dunmaglass Estate and a chat from Jenny from Loch Ness Rural Communities Group.
She kindly donated some wildlife identification cards, tick sheets and some pens and encouraged us to keep a look out for some of the wildlife that can be seen in the area. Once everyone was briefed on the route-change due to the weather conditions, we divided into groups. There were still 3 hardy souls (and a baby!) who were prepared to walk the 10-mile route, up and back down the hill (all agreed that the full 14-mile option was beyond their capabilities in the conditions!), so they were set on their way. Although the decision had been made not to walk at the top of the hill, Dunmaglass Estate and SSE had given us permission to go up to the top to see the wind turbines and admire the view. So, those that fancied it drove up the hill for a look – a number of our party had not seen a turbine from such close proximity before, so this was quite a sight! Before we got blown off the hill, we headed back down to start walking. The new route was just under 3 miles, and took us past the end of Loch Conagleann and past the older Dunmaglass Lodge. There is now a second ‘Dunmaglass Lodge’, which is more modern, and visible through the trees.
In total, we welcomed 45 walkers, including 19 children, ranging in age from 5 months old to 60+! Everyone who came enjoyed a walk, even if perhaps it was shorter than planned, and got to see a part of the world they had not visited before.
Each individual will be able to claim an adventure of their own, but I think the most memorable of those will be Annelise’s, who battled 5 miles up the hill and then 5 miles back down again on her own with a young William in a pushchair against the wind! We also benefitted from kind donations of home-baked cakes from the congregation of St Paul’s Church, Croachy, which were much appreciated after battling the elements. The day was a great success, and now that all sponsorship money has been collected and counted, we are pleased to announce that we raised a grand total of £1053!
Thanks must be said again to Dunmaglass Estate and SSE for allowing us access to the land and the windfarm, Iain, Tom and Hamish from Dunmaglass for all their help in the planning and assistance on the day, Jenny from Loch Ness Rural Communities, and the congregation of St. Pauls for their baking. And finally, thank you to everyone who took part, donated money and sponsored of our walkers, without you we would never have reached such a fantastic sum of money!