Slieve League deserves better
Mountaineering Ireland’s commitment to the protection and
sustainable use of Ireland’s mountains has prompted two recent site visits to review
path work being carried out at Slieve League (also known as Sliabh Liag) in Co.
As part of a wider capital investment programme at Slieve
League, funded largely by Fáilte Ireland, Donegal County Council is leading a
project to carry out remedial works on the cliff-top path between Bunglas and
During the first visit on 27th August
Mountaineering Ireland raised concerns about the quality of the path work (most
of which was specified as stone-pitching) and an apparent lack of relevant
experience within the contracting team. Many aspects of the project are not in
accordance with the Helping the Hills guiding principles for the management of
upland path erosion (www.helpingthehills.ie).
Mountaineering Ireland recommended that work be halted
pending review. Donegal County Council then commissioned a report from Donegal-based
trails consultant Jeremy Smith who confirmed Mountaineering Ireland’s concerns.
Mountaineering Ireland also invited an internationally
recognised expert in upland path management, Dr Bob Aitken from Scotland, to
provide feedback and advice on the project. A second site visit with Dr Aitken
on 16th September showed some improvement, but overall the work did
not meet an acceptable standard. Mountaineering Ireland again called on Donegal
County Council to halt the work and to bring more relevant expertise into the
Despite these requests work is continuing. Slieve League is
an iconic landscape which we have a shared responsibility to protect for the
benefit of future generations. The quality of any remedial work at Slieve
League should match the quality of this magnificent landscape.
The skills and techniques to deal effectively with upland path
erosion and visitor management in sensitive environments have been developed
across Britain over the last four decades.
We are in the early stages of building a similar body of expertise in
Ireland. Through the Helping the Hills initiative Mountaineering Ireland has
been working with a number of other organisations to share experience and learning
in this area. In the meantime we shouldn’t accept a second-class solution for
Slieve League or any of Ireland’s mountains.
Helping the Hills
- The purpose of the Helping the Hills initiative is to advocate a considered,
quality approach to the management of upland path erosion on the island of
Ireland and to ensure that interventions do not detract from the character of
the upland environment. It is intended that Helping the Hills will become a
network of people and organisations sharing experience and learning in the
funding, management and repair of upland paths. Activities to date include
hosting two conferences, a study visit to the Lake District and the Yorkshire
Dales, and publication of the Helping the Hills principles to guide the
management of path erosion in Ireland’s upland areas. See www.helpingthehills.ie.