Following significant community engagement a new off-road accessible path network was developed by Forest Direct Ltd and Traquair Estate to give local residents in Innerleithen safe access to Traquair House and it’s grounds without needing to use vehicles or walk on unsafe country roads. The new path network extends through the estate reaching Traquair Village opening up previously inaccessible area, ensuring as many members of the community as possible were able to access it.
The existing access routes to explore Traquair Estate meant travelling on a busy country road or accessing local farm fields that were home to livestock. This path network has opened up areas that were previously inaccessible, which the local community are thrilled about. It is also one of the few paths in the area that has disabled access to the River Tweed, including a viewing platform. Engagement with local wheelchair users gave us the insight to make these features available.
Through engagements with stakeholders such a farm tenants, Scottish Forestry and the local authority, it was possible to secure funding to introduce new fencing that allowed the community to gain access to the Estate without causing any negative impact to livestock and local rural businesses. Making it easier and more enjoyable for our locals to get out into nature is a huge win for us, especially as it can only improve the physical and mental health of all those who utilise it.
There were a number of hazardous trees on the proposed route which Forest Direct Ltd were able to remove safely, and the timber was used to create interpretation and signage for those enjoying the paths. This project had been considered for a number of years but costs were prohibitive. It was not until we were able to access funding from Scottish Forestry’s WIAT scheme that were able to realise this project.
The scheme took two years to complete, with the path network finished just ahead of the pandemic. This resulted in a safe new environment for those accessing the great outdoors during lockdown. There has been a notable increase in footfall in the Estate thanks to the new path network, with over 1,000 local people taking up grounds season passes that has been sustained post lockdown.
Encouraging the local community to ditch their motorised vehicles was a key aspect to the introduction of the path network. As the country road was quite unsafe due to the amount of cars and mountain bikers now using the road so most people particularly families would use their cars to come and explore. We wanted people to leave their vehicles at home in a bid to be more environmentally minded and the introduction of the paths into the heart of Innerleithen and Traquair Village has meant that the majority of these visitors no longer require their cars to come and see us.