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Consultation starts on proposed guided walks at top of Cairn Gorm (14/11/11)
Consultation on a proposal to offer permanent guided walks from the Cairngorm mountain railway top station to the summit of Cairn Gorm gets underway today (Monday 14 November).
Scottish Natural Heritage and The Highland Council are carrying out the six-week consultation from 14 November to 23 December 2011 following a request by operator Cairngorm Mountain Ltd (CML) to offer the service.
Marketed as ‘Walk @ The Top’ the walks will be offered to the summit of Cairn Gorm and back from the top station using the summit path, a direct line between the top station and the summit of Cairn Gorm, and the Marquiss Well path, which lies to the east of the summit path.
The new walks will require changes to the visitor management plan (VMP) a legal framework between the local authority, SNH and CML. Trial walks started in July 2010 and recommenced this May at the Ptarmigan station, following a circular route round established and associated paths.
A condition of participating in the guided walks is that those attending must return to the top station with their guide. The trial period saw a 100% compliance rate and the total number of walkers recorded using the summit path of Cairn Gorm during the period 17 July–31 October 2010 was 9041.
The total number of walkers on guided walks during the same period was 1179. Guided walk participants therefore constituted 13% of the total numbers of users during this period.
The funicular development and paths for guided walks lie within the Cairngorms National Park, the Cairngorm Mountains National Scenic Area and are adjacent to, but outwith, the Cairngorms Special Protection Area (SPA) and Cairngorms Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
SPAs and SACs are designated under the European Commission Wild Birds and Habitats and Species Directives respectively. These are some of the largest European conservation sites in Britain.
Cairngorms SPA and Cairngorms Massif SPA support a number of qualifying bird species associated with woodlands, moorland and montane habitats. The species with most relevance to the proposed amendment to the VMP is the dotterel, a migrant species nesting on montane habitats – usually above 850m – from late April to late August.
Cairngorm Mountain Ltd has monitored dotterel on trial walks from 17 July–31 October 2010 and 1 May–17 July this year. Observations indicate that visitor use around the summit dome in 2010 did not displace a nearby dotterel family.
To view the consultation documents please visit the SNH website at this link.