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High School Collaborations - Supporting the next generation of trail builders.

Over the past year or so we have worked with young people in Badenoch and Strathspey, Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders in various ways and in differing models to meet the needs of each group and their desired outcomes. A really rewarding part of our regional team members work and is something that we will continue to develop going forward.

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Our Marc was made aware of issues of unauthorised and low-quality trail build at Cademuir Forest in Peebles. The issues were further compounded by the way in which these trails negatively interacted with other users of a very busy forest.

Forestry and Land Scotland local staff were aware that many of the trail builders were students in the local Peebles High School.

Marc approached Peebles High School to find a solution and to bring the young people into the conversation. As a qualified DIRTT tutor, Marc proposed that he re-packaged and cut-down the DIRTT Volunteer Dig Leader course and offered to deliver it with support from FLS Ranger, Andy Wardman.

The proposal to run this over several weeks was received with great enthusiasm and positivity from both the school and the young folks involved. The opportunity to both educate the students, outside of a traditional academic environment, and also for the students to be involved with and take responsibility for remedial works on trails they ride, was fully embraced.

We embarked upon a 6-week block covering Land Manager Responsibilities, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and our responsibilities under that Act. We looked at Trail Inspection Principles and a practical session where the students took those principles to identify the work required which included learning the safe use of hand tools, risk management and trail build techniques.

A highlight following the initial 6 week block was that the students were invited by the team behind the creation of the 2023 Cycling World Championships XC Course at Glentress to build a natural section of the course. Over a few weeks they diligently worked with Marc and the on site builders to craft a section that the worlds best riders raced and was viewed by millions across the Globe.

The short film explains this further. (Caroline's voice overlay necessary as this short film was first shown at the CWC Fringe Event Film night, Tales From The Trails, in Peebles)

We are now expanding our reach across the Scottish Borders working with Selkirk High School. Currently weekly sessions are underway at The Haining, with a group of all female riders, as well as repeating the initial course with young folks from Peebles High School mountain bike club.

Discussions are now ongoing with Galashiels Academy and we are working to gain land manager approval to do work on trails adjacent to the school. We are additionally exploring options to work with private land /owners and managers in these areas too and have been approached from further afield to support and guide similar projects across the UK.

Alongside these practical sessions we are working on a professional qualification in mountain biking with the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). To include a unit on Trail Inspection and Maintenance as part of a wide spectrum of units to be assessed by the SQA so that students can gain points for successfully completing this vocational qualification. Watch this space for more information on this piece of work later this year.


Building on the success of the original programmes in the Tweed Valley and Badenoch and Strathspey, this exciting new pilot project for Aberdeenshire offers young people a chance to engage in an industry led trail building academy programme.

Trail Academy: Aberdeenshire is aimed at young people aged 12-18 who mountain bike and have been, or have a desire to, build and maintain mountain bike trails.

This programme aims to increase knowledge and skills around trail building, provide insight into the process behind authorised trail building projects, highlight the importance of positive landowner and community relationships and look at how we build mountain bike trails in areas where there are protected species.

Trail Academy: Aberdeenshire is proving to extremely popular and was heavily oversubscribed. Our Aberdeenshire regional team are actively working to source funding to provide further Academy opportunities into the future.

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The Scottish Borders aspect of this work is funded by the UK government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is a central pillar of the UK government’s Levelling Up agenda and provides £2.6 billion of funding for local investment by March 2025. The Fund aims to improve pride in place and increase life chances across the UK investing in communities and place, supporting local business, and people and skills. For more information.

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