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Reflections from the edge of the National Park

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In the fifth of our monthly articles from the Dee Catchment Partnership, we hear about the Partnership Chair’s three-week adventure undertaking a fundraising walk around the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park.

Reflections from the edge of the Cairngorms National Park

22 days. 260 miles. 20,000m of ascent, and a 20 kg backpack carrying food and shelter. Hundreds of thousands of footsteps, and over £12,000 raised for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. The numbers speak for themselves. But Will Boyd-Wallis’s epic fundraising walk, in which he circumnavigated the entire Cairngorms National Park in just three weeks over May and June this year, was about more than just numbers.


Will, who is Head of Land Management for the Cairngorms National Park Authority, and also chairs the Management Group for the Dee Catchment Partnership, chose to raise money for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust because his mother has struggled with the condition for many years. He saw his unusual challenge as a means of understanding the lesser-known fringes of the Park he is employed to look after. “I felt that going round the edge of the Park would offer a completely different take on things – off the beaten track and into unexpected places.”


His unique route choice gave him new perspectives on land use throughout the catchment. In places he found that the boundary delineated entirely different land uses, resulting from different ownerships on either side, but what struck him most was just how much of the ground is managed. “There is hardly any ground left untouched. I had a strong sense that some places deserve to be left more as nature intended. I was often high up in the headwaters, and my overall sense was that there is huge potential in our catchments but we also need to take care.  We need to give as well as take from the land.”


Striking the balance is about compromise, as Will explains: “Caring for our catchments relies on active land management but it’s important that we also create sanctuaries where natural processes can prevail.  The fantastic work in the upper Dee catchment to restore riparian woodlands is a perfect example of where nature is being given a helping hand; trees provide shade to cool the burns in summer and improve the habitat for many species both on the land and in the rivers.”


Any low points in the walk were outweighed by the highlights, as Will explains: “It was tough at times but when you spend three weeks moving non-stop, nomadically across a landscape, you do start to feel very strongly connected to it and very close to the rhythms of nature. I never felt alone, in the company of mountain hares and red deer, with curlew, golden plover and eagles always calling and watching over me. 


“I loved the contrast of the open hill and the joyous birch woods in the valleys. Alongside the wonderful wildlife, it was people who made it for me.  I’m hugely grateful to all the many who supported me either in spirit or in person along the way and for all the incredibly generous donations to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.”


Will’s fundraising page is still active – to donate visit:


Previous PIPER articles can be viewed here.




Suggested photo caption: Will Boyd-Wallis of the Dee Catchment Partnership, walked 260 miles around the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park to raise money for The Cure Parkinson’s Trust.


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Sally Wallis

07961 980152

013398 85436