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.

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