Volunteer Action in Gameshope

“Help, I’ve got 22 volunteers from Germany, Spain and Scotland descending on the John Muir Trust site at Glenlude for 4 days next week and I cannot keep them all busy all of the time”. 10 days later, after a quick scuttle round to Corehead, Talla and Glenlude for spare tools saw me welcoming with open arms and no experience, 9 volunteers and 2 leaders to the BFT’s site at the Gameshope, in one of the wildest parts of the Scottish Borders.

Mercifully the forecast was good and the sun breaking through as group 1 tramped up the Gameshope valley.
First challenge, wade into the river, wellies provided, and reinforce the supports for the Mountain Bothy Associations excellent temporary bridge. After a couple of hours of enthusiastic heaving and grunting the 2 supports (gabions) were surrounded by a protective shield of hefty stones ready for next winter’s onslaught.
It’s wonderful what a bit of warm sunshine and a hot drink at the bothy did to refresh and revive everyone’s flagging spirits. Next to be attacked were the wooden rails and posts nearby. They were too much potential for firewood to leave standing. Lovely though a campfire is it’s too risky for new woodland and old bothies.
With hammers swinging, jemmy bars levering and saws slicing, short work was made of much of the woodwork.
Day 2 and group 1 got stuck into removing a nasty death trap of a redundant fence running alongside the river. But the day was so lovely and warm it was just too nice to be working, hence an afternoon nap for those who couldn’t stand the pace was irresistible.
And then the worst job of all, clearing piles of tangled, rusty wire and metal dumped years ago below the track.  11 pairs of hands made light work of this and within an hour so much had been cleared that we had time, just, to fit in a hill walk to the top of the Garelet where the full expanse of the Border hills was enjoyed by all those who made it.
Group 2 soon had the bridge back up and the rest of the wood near the bothy cleared away leaving time to visit the Wildwood at Carrifran whilst the weather still held.
But the second day for this group, and the last for the whole party, was wet, very wet and windy with it. Ugh! Nevertheless they tore into more of the redundant fence and were introduced to cutting a cross-drain in the track to stop it gradually washing away.  But by lunch time everyone was soaked to the skin so we beat a hasty retreat to the Gordon Arms for soup and hot drinks.
Back at Glenlude everyone had been enjoying a dry day, finishing off the ‘piece de la resistance’ of the 4 day work party, a beautiful dry stone dyke restoring part of the simple but huge circle of a traditional sheep stell.

By co-operating with the JMT site at Glenlude a huge amount was achieved in a very short time, a product of the enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers and all those concerned.  A big thank you from BFT to all.

Roman, one of the Spanish volunteers summed it up ” Thanks for a magnificent learning experience. I’ve learned that my limits are not in my hands but in my head”.
The European Youth Work Camp was funded by EWOCA – a funding programme in North Rhine Westphalia and Erasmus.

John Thomas. BFT Trustee and Volunteer