I'm not 100% sure when and where it started but it seems I've always had a fascination for maps and old routes. I learnt some map reading skills when I was in the Cubs and then the Scouts - certainly enough to get around the countryside fairly safely - and I've explained in my blog about my A9 trip that my father would often point out some old routes he was aware of, particularly the "Wade" military roads. Most of that was forgotten about when i took up motorcycling, especially as access laws in Scotland means you are more-or-less limited to tarmac. However, when I started to get back into hillwalking it wasn't long before I found myself poring over maps, looking at the various black dotted lines and trying to interpret how they would traverse the terrain in real life. As a Munro-bagger, many of these old routes are only used as a way of getting closer to the final ascent, or as a way into somewhere for an overnight camp. After all, our ancestors were mainly interested in how to travel through the countryside, not how to get to the tops of all the hills.
That fascination also exhibits itself whenever I'm driving somewhere and I see one of the green-arrowed Scottish Rights of Way signs. I can never help myself from trying to work out where the path goes and what it might be like. Old railway lines and old roads also grab my attention whenever I look at a map and I am forced to ponder on what sorts of folk used them and why they are no longer in use. I have, at various times, harboured the notion of filming all the remaining Wade and Caulfield roads, probably from the saddle of a bike, and yet never quite got round to doing something about it.
Now, as I sometimes find myself with an excess of free time and considering what to do with it, I've started to think about how I could put it to better use. I'd thought about various volunteering opportunities before and been in touch with some organisations. However, one look at my skill-set and I'm soon asked if I could set up a website or do some other IT role. Frankly, and this might sound a bit selfish, I've no intention of getting back into that. So when I was thinking about it again those old green SRWS signs came back to mind and I got in touch with the organisation now known as Scotways. We had chat to discuss how I could help out in a voluntary capacity, seemed to hit it off fairly well (well - it's more map geeks, innit?) and I now find myself as a volunteer path surveyor for Scotways and the Heritage Paths website.
I really can't say how excited I am about this. I'll be walking and riding lots of routes, adding to the existing descriptions, adding new descriptions and taking photos as necessary. With my cycling background, I'll also be considering how usable they are by bike - and on horseback - with things like gates, fences and other obstacles to negotiate. So if you see me out and about, taking photos of random bits of track, or riding back and forth looking for some hard-to-find bit of a route, you'll now know what I'm up to!