National Trust For Scotland Delivered Two Disabled Wilderness Initiatives

The National Trust for Scotland and Julie McElroy delivered two wilderness projects for people with disabilities. This follows on from the resounding success of the inaugural event innovative new programme which was launched two years ago which aims to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space and develop a meaningful connection to the beautiful natural landscapes Scotland has to offer.

The brainchild of this project was Julie who has Cerebral Palsy has resulted in walking difficulties, speech and hearing impairment along with manual dexterity problems. Julie was inspired to initiate this project to encourage more people with disabilities to access woodlands and green space as part of her aim to achieving her John Muir Award which had played an important part when Julie completed her top Conserver John Muir Award two years ago.

Initially the bespoke initiative were looking for participants to take part in a range of outdoor activities including a little taste of the kind of conservation work that is such an important aspect of the Trust’s work at Ardress Lodge, Ben Lomond, in the heart of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

This year due to a resounding interests in the Disabilities Wilderness Initiative, the National Trust for Scotland were able to deliver two projects which coincidentally ran back to back in September this year.

First project ran at Mar Lodge. We took the students from the City of Glasgow College, whom had learning disabilities to the National Trust for Scotland’s estate of Mar Lodge and they stayed at Basecamp lodge. Mar Lodge Estate occupies nearly 7% of the Cairngorms National Park, covering in total 29,380 hectares of some of the most remote and scenic wild land in Scotland, including four of the five highest mountains in the UK.

The activities undertaken by the students include exploring wild mushrooms, making aromatic oil and lip balm, bat detectors session, conservation work of heather cutting. On the last night, we did a camp fire with the students too. We also took them to the Compass Christian Centre where we did indoor rock climbing and thereafter outdoor rope course. This was a fantastic success for all the students involved as they conquered their confidence, fear of height and many other personal attributes.

The fourth and original proposed initiative for this year’s Disabilities Wilderness Initiative took place at the National Trust for Scotland’s property, Ardress Lodge, Ben Lomond, Torridan. The stunning ideal location is based east shore of Loch Lomond to a height of 974m (3,193ft), Ben Lomond.

We invited Monica Wilde who an herbalist who runs Napiers the Herbalists today to do a full day with us in both camps. Her inputs were hugely successful and well received by the participants. The participants discovered so many wild food and plants to make aromatic products.

This year, we also embedded the John Muir’s Discovery level to encourage participants to develop skills in conservation work and to learn about nature through environmental activities.

The third and forth initiatives coincide with 2013 being the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’ which is being supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. It is about celebrating Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty in 2013! From stunning landscapes and iconic wildlife, to creative events and nature festivals, Scotland’s great outdoors is waiting for you.

This year has been hugely successful as one of the facilitators summed it up in a nutshell, “Julie, you have enabled great experiences for lots of people through the National Trust for Scotland”.

The award presentation will now take on Friday 11th October at the National Trust for Scotland’s David Livingstone Centre to celebrate the participant’s achievements.

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Disabilities Wilderness Initiative – Ben Lomond

The main aim from this project is to support 6 young adults with disabilities to gain access to the NTS properties and to encourage them to develop skills in conservation work and to learn about nature through environmental activities.

The whole project based at Ben Lomond in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, with participants staying at the NTS Ardess Lodge. We will discover the Millenium Forest Path in Balmaha and well as other woods, mountains, lochs and coasts which are rich in wildlife and cultural history.

The main theme this project will follow will be ‘Ben Lomond- past, present and future’. With this, we mean to explore the ‘history’ theme by looking into Ben Lomond’s archaeology; ancient human history and the geology of the site. For ‘present’, we aim to look at what flora and fauna lives in the property and what issues it faces in the 21st Century. We will then move on to imagine what the future is for Ben Lomond, assessing its conservation and future public engagement with visitors, including its position in the National Park.

Ben Lomond is situated from rising from the east shore of Loch Lomond to a height of 974m (3193ft), Ben Lomond offers exhilarating walking and spectacular views across Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Its scenic splendors apart, the mountain is an important botanical site as well as a working hill farm.

This time around we’ve raised the challenge, offering disabled participants the opportunity to camp out over night and complete the Discovery level of the John Muir Award. The John Muir Award had played an important part when Julie completed her top Conserver John Muir Award two years ago.

The Disabilities Wilderness Initiative will also coincide with 2013 being the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’ which is being supported by Scottish Natural Heritage and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. It is about celebrating Scotland’s outstanding natural beauty in 2013! From stunning landscapes and iconic wildlife, to creative events and nature festivals, Scotland’s great outdoors is waiting for you.

Disabilities Wilderness Initiative – Mar Lodge

The Disabilities Wilderness Initiative has come a long way since I set out inspiring more disabled people to access the Great Scottish Outdoors way back in 2011. Since then, in partnership with the Natural Trust for Scotland, went onto deliver two more Disabilities Wilderness Initiatives which bring it to a staggering four projects run to date.

This year, we collaborated with the John Muir Trust to give participants to complete their award as Julie, herself completed her John Muir Conserver Award two years ago.

The main aim from this project is to support young adults with disabilities to gain access to the National Trust Scotland properties and to encourage them to develop skills in conservation work and learn about nature through environmental activities.

As a result of this project, the National Trust Scotland and Julie McElroy will produce a document with guidance to help inform other outdoor action providers how to support disability groups to access green space and develop a meaningful connection to the beautiful natural landscapes Scotland has to offer. We wish to encourage people with disabilities to push their outdoor boundaries.

This year’s Disabilities Wilderness Initiative has tailored a bespoke package for a Scottish college to take an opportunity to explore the wilderness. The residential week was based at Mar Lodge.

Mar Lodge Estate is part of the core area of the Cairnsgorms, internationally recognised as the most important nature conservation landscape in the British Isles. The estate contains four of the five highest mountains in the UK. It includes the upper watershed of the River Dee and remnant Caledonian pie forest of the national importance. Some, 7,080 hectares (17,500 acres) lie within the Cairnsgorms National Nature Reserve. Large parts of the estate are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and the majority of it is within National Scenic Areas. The outstanding wildlife and birdlife on this estate are characteristic of the northern mountainous areas of Britian. Conservation work here includes promoting regeneration of the native Caledonian pine forest.

The group chosen to go were students studying at City of Glasgow College. They consists of adults ranging in age between 18 and 25 who live with a disability either from birth or acquired throughout their life. The Trust wants to support the group to push their boundaries in a safe environment. They are interested in learning more about practical countryside conservation and many are also motivated to complete their John Muir Award – Discovery Level.