12 September 2017 by Kathrine Payne
The beautiful Pentland Hills near Edinburgh are enjoyed by 600,000 people a year; with most visiting to enjoy the area’s 100km of scenic paths and trails.
Such experiences are made possible thanks to the hard work of a small army of path maintenance volunteers, including one very special 83-year-old: Arthur Mackenzie from Penicuik.
The Ramblers Scotland member never misses a path maintenance session – volunteering with Friends of the Pentlands as well as Lothian & Borders Ramblers’ Path Maintenance Team.
He says: “Nowadays, there’s such financial restraint that I feel that if we don’t volunteer then it just won’t get done. It’s important we maintain the paths because if they’re in a good condition, it encourages people to walk on them.
“We preserve paths, clear vegetation and do gate repair work. It’s really enjoyable work to be involved in, and I’d recommend it to anyone.”
Arthur is a well-known face within the Ramblers; walking regularly with groups in Edinburgh, Tweeddale and beyond. He’s living proof that age is no barrier to enjoying the outdoors. As well as maintaining paths, he also helps more people enjoy Scotland on foot by regularly leading walks himself.
“I’ve been with the Ramblers for so long, and I’ve gained so much from it, that I feel like I’ve got to give something back. Leading walks is my way of doing that. I’ve met so many people through Ramblers, and I’ve made even more friends since I started leading walks.
“I can’t remember when I first got involved with the Ramblers, it was such a long time ago, way over 20 years ago! I started off walking on my own and liked it, and then I joined Edinburgh Ramblers after seeing a flyer. My involvement has not decreased at all with age, and I still enjoy walking just as much as I did at the start.”
Arthur still helps compile walking programmes for Edinburgh and Tweeddale Ramblers groups, and supports the Midlothian Walking Festival, which has gone from strength to strength since launching a decade ago.
“Rambling has benefitted my life greatly. I have so many friends that I just wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for rambling. It’s my main form of enjoyment, and a source of work and activity. It makes you get out and about.
“I don’t see age as a barrier to taking part in rambling. As long as you’re fit enough and physically able to get involved, you should do it. My attitude is that I’ll do it for as long as I am able to.”
In 2003, at age 69, Arthur became a Munro ‘compleatist’, after summiting all 282 Scottish mountains over 3,000ft.
Unsurprisingly, he has had many great walking adventures, but one in particular stands out – a cloud inversion in the North-West Highlands.
“One amazing walking memory is when I climbed Liathach in the Torridon hills, which features two Munros. After making the long ascent in the mist with no visibility at all, we reached the top. Suddenly we were above the clouds and everything was crystal clear. We could see for miles around us. The valleys were full of clouds, and it was amazing.”
Arthur shows no signs of stopping, and is looking forward to creating many more wonderful walking memories – and paths – in future.
If you’d like to learn more about how you could volunteer with the Ramblers, click here.