Newsletter Vol. 2 No. 6 — What a Summer!

Hello Friends of the John o’ Groats Trail,

My apologies for the delay in producing another newsletter.  We’ve been so busy working there hasn’t been a pause to reflect.  Now that I can catch my breath, I can report that in just the few short months since we had our launch in May, we’ve built over 25 miles of trail!  We’ve done this with a dedicated and resourceful team of volunteers, including volunteer landowners.

The stages Brora-Helmsdale and Dunbeath-Lybster are mostly completed and can be walked!  See details below in “Walkers Update.”

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We had a total of 10 pre-planned volunteer days this spring/summer, including 2 days where we were joined by the Caithness Countryside Volunteers, organised by the Highland Countryside Rangers.  Thanks to all our volunteers, we have made and continue to make incredible progress.

Recently our volunteers have begun to act on their own, working in small groups to complete projects such as building stiles, marking, and reconnoitring.  Our Wick group, led by Charlie Bain with Derek Bremner and Donna Simpson and nicknamed the Boiler-Suit Gang, has built several stiles and marked nearly 2 miles of trail in September.

We also need volunteers who can improve our web site and Facebook page, apply for grants, help with the newsletter, and do other “indoor” tasks.  We would also like to start developing leaflets for the individual stages, and people with local knowledge of historic and natural heritage sites could be very helpful.

If you would like to join in with any of our volunteer efforts, or know anyone who would, please send me an email at jbw243@gmail.com or ring me at 07526 281088.

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In exciting news, Andy Robinson, author of the Cicerone guidebook The End to End Trail, has contacted me and we are working on a guidebook for the John o’ Groats Trail.  We’re not sure when it will be finished, and will be a work in progress as the trail itself keeps changing and improving, but this will be a big step in the life of the JOGT.

We have also been contacted by a walks blogger, and Harvey Maps is interested in adding the JOGT to their Trail Maps series.  We’ve had articles run in/on BBC Scotland Radio, Inverness Courier, JOG Journal, The Times (Scotland), and the Financial Times (forthcoming).

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We’ve also been granted Scottish charity status (Charity # SC046737) and have applied for a bank account.  Each charity must have a board of trustees, and we are very lucky to have four dedicated and talented people on our board (plus me!).  These are (with apologies in advance for misspellings and other mistakes):

  • Secretary: Catherine MacLeod.  Based in Thrumster.  She runs Thrumster House B&B and cottages with her mother Islay MacLeod and she is on the board of Venture North a tourism initiative.
  • Treasurer: Sinclair Dunnett.  Based in Inverness.  He runs Puffin Express tour operator, is active in HOSTGA (Highlands of Scotland Tour Guide Association), and is a member of the Inverness Ramblers walking group.  
  • Trustee: Neil Manson.  Based in Wick.  He is a member of the Caithness Waybaggers and Hillwalkers Anonymous walking groups, and is a current member of the charity Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland.  
  • Trustee: David Hannah.  Based in Ardgay.  He is treasurer of the Sutherland Walkers Group, Ardgay Scottish Country Dance Club, Scottish Esperanto Association and Creich & Kincardine Branch of Legion Scotland.  He is also a trustee of East & Central Sutherland Community Care Forum, Gearrchoille Community Wood Ardgay, and Ardgay Public Hall.  David is an experienced walks leader, and has already walked a large part of the Trail, with SWG and independently.  
  • Chair:  Jay Wilson.  Based in Hertfordshire and Berriedale.  He is Area Walks Editor of his local Ramblers Area and occasional walk leader and walk description writer.  He has walked most of the trail twice and some of it multiple times.

If you are interested in being an active member of the board if trustees, please get in touch and let’s talk.  There’s so much to do, your initiative would make a huge difference.

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Walker’s update:

The following stages are nearly complete and can now be walked with minimal inconvenience: 7: Brora-Helmsdale and 10: Dunbeath-Lybster.  Stage 7 you will need a map or description from our web site for the last couple miles to Helmsdale.  Stage 10 you will still need to cross three barbed wire fences.

We are actively working on stages 12: Whaligoe-Wick, and 13: Wick-Reiss.  When these are nearly completed, we will begin to work on other stages.  Our goal is to have all of the JOGT in an “improved state” by Spring 2017 so that more people may begin to enjoy the trail.  In Spring 2018 we hope to hold a grand opening of a 99% completed trail.  Keep checking the web site www.jogt.org.uk for updates.

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Our success so far is due in large part to the trust we have developed with landowners and tenant farmers and the very helpful responses we have got from almost all the people we have contacted.  If you know landowners or tenants who hold land along the coast, please help me get in touch with them.  We are particularly interested in making contacts along the following stages now: Berriedale-Dunbeath, Lybster-Whaligoe and Keiss-JOG.  

If you have any suggestions or questions, please get in touch.

All the best,

Jay

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