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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