A collaborative programme offering school pupils the chance to experience life in the great outdoors begins this week.
The Cairngorms Outdoor Adventure Programme is a joint venture by National Trust for Scotland, River Dee Trust, John Muir Trust and the Cairngorms National Park Authority, in conjunction with Aberdeenshire Council and Sportscotland.
The inaugural event, which began on Monday, May 28, will see 29 pupils from Banchory Academy, Mackie Academy in Stonehaven and Mearns Academy in Laurencekirk receiving John Muir Awards after taking part in five days of activities at Mar Lodge Estate, near Braemar.
The programme will give pupils the chance to learn about the local environment, local economy and employment opportunities. It is also aimed at developing an understanding of the people who live and work in the Cairngorm National Park area, and the variety of organisations which manage it.
Pupils will take part in a range of activities including mountain biking, fishing, mini Highland games, gorge-walking and animal watching.
The Cairngorms Outdoor Adventure Programme has received funding from the John Lewis Partnership and equipment from Tiso’s and the Glasgow Angling Centre. Managers from the John Lewis Partnership are also at the Mar Lodge Estate helping to coordinate the inaugural event.
Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education, Learning and Leisure (ELL) committee, Isobel Davidson, said: “We are delighted to see a number of our schools associated with this exciting new partnership programme in the Cairngorm National Park to experience the wonderful surroundings of Mar Lodge and the River Dee.
“Active Aberdeenshire, including Active Schools, is keen to see our residents enjoy the outdoors and different learning environments. The youngsters will learn about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and opportunities for careers and enjoyment in the outdoors.”
Alan Smith from the John Muir Trust said: “The pupils will be using the nationally recognised John Muir Award to learn about the special qualities of the Cairngorms National Park.”
ELL vice chair, Ron McKail, said: “Providing our young people with these opportunities in a challenging outdoor activity education programme in the Cairngorms is a tremendous personal experience for them.
“It will help to promote their self-esteem, make them more confident and develop their leadership and interpersonal skills.”
Dr Lorraine Hawkins from the River Dee Trust said: “We hope that this will allow the participating children to appreciate and understand our river and environment whilst having fun.”
David Frew, from the National Trust for Scotland, said: “The National Trust for Scotland are delighted to be able to host this event on the Mar Lodge Estate. The estate provides an amazing backdrop for the event and we very much look forward to working with the children and other organisations over the course of the week, allowing the children to experience all that this fantastic landscape has to offer.”