2019 was a big year for the JOGT. Numbers on the trail were way up, and a pilot ranger programme was a success. Though 2020 will be a challenging year for us all, we will continue to improve the trail. But we need your help.
A note from the chair
So much has happened in the past year. Many apologies for the huge gap between newsletters. Thanks everyone for your support and encouragement. As life turns indoors for many of us, I finally find myself with time to sit and write a newsletter. But there is some urgency, so please see the last section for a request for action by month’s end (this Tuesday).
In autumn 2018 we received a new round of funding from the LEADER fund, with match funding from Subsea 7, the Scottish Ramblers, and many many individual donors. This allowed us to hire a full time ranger as well as a part-time ranger and a part-time development officer. The ranger started in December 2018 and we were very pleased to have him in post and working to build and promote the trail, as well as his many walks and volunteer events, such as this walk from Latheronwheel to Lybster. (see photo above)
The ranger left his post in August 2019, and all LEADER-funded work ended in December. But before it did, we also managed to apply LEADER funding to surveying some sections of trail for the purpose of future funding applications. With luck this will lead to path-building along key sections of the trail, helping to keep momentum as we strive to continuously improve the trail.
One of the exciting things the ranger helped do was to keep the trail open through the tall bracken and other vegetation during the summer. This means we no longer discouraged people from walking the trail in July and August as we did in years past.
We are trying a free newsletter service (“Mail Chimp”) to send this edition. If you have any problems viewing it or otherwise, please reply and let us know.
Jay Wilson, Chair
Due to the current lockdown of course it’s difficult to travel to the trail, and many accommodation providers may have shut down. But for people who live locally, the trail will provide a welcome location for exercise and a break from home life.
Please exercise caution when walking the trail, as emergency services are stretched thin as it is. If you happen to meet someone on the trail (not too likely!), try to keep a two metre distance as you pass them. Be safe!
We continue to make progress. For example, see the photo below of a bridge recently built by our contractor Ruard Erridge over the Culgower Burn south of Helmsdale. Also, the trail ranger upgraded many of the stiles last year to make them safer and more accessible.
In addition, we continue to press on towards marking 100% of the trail. Last year we received permission to mark the limited number of places where the trail crosses or goes along the A9, and this has almost been completed. Just this month, we received permission to mark the route of the trail in Inverness. Once that’s done, the trail will be 100% marked except for those limited areas where we have not reached agreement with landowners.
In 2019, a record 130 walkers from around the world signed in our book near Berriedale. This represents almost three times as many as in 2018. This remote sign-in book is meant to only record the hardy walkers covering most or all of the trail. This is probably a significant undercount of walkers, as some may not see the box containing the book, may possibly walk a different way or skip that section, or may be too tired to bother!
The numbers of day users is also growing. Since we started building and promoting the trail in 2016, the frequent use of the trail is increasingly evidenced by the wear of a path along all parts of the trail. Happily, the trail is used even more by local short-distance walkers than by long-distance walkers.
Also in 2019, we incorporated our charity so we are now a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). In the process, we also changed our name to the Association of Northern Trails Scotland (ANTS). But we remain 100% focused on building the John o’ Groats Trail, and we are authorised to continue to proudly refer to our organisation and our members as Friends of the John o’ Groats Trail.
March Donation and Membership Appeal
Our online donations provider “Wonderful.org” has notified us they are shutting down due to knock-on effects of the coronavirus. Their last day in operation is this Tuesday, 31 March. They have assured us that all donations made up to and on that day will be deposited to our account.
If you would like to become a member or renew your membership (£10), order a guidebook, or would like to make a donation, please consider doing this by the end of the month. All donations to the trail help us pay for tools, supplies such as timber, and important matching funds for grants for bigger trail-building projects. After donating, please forward the confirmation email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know what the donation is for. Click on the donation link below:
When we have a new online donations system, we will let you know on our web site and in our next newsletter.