Scottish Natural Heritage has confirmed that the Heading for the Scottish Hills web-service will run again in 2013. The service, which is proving popular with over 14,000 page views last year, was expanded last year so that it covered 71 stalking properties in total.
The 2012 Heading for the Scottish Hills service (HFTSH) covered stalking properties in the Blackmount, Breadalbane and East Grampians deer management groups, as well as a number of estates that had been in the predecessor Hillphones service. Whilst this only represents part of the red deer range, participating estates tend to be in popular hillwalking areas that also have deer management pressure. The Breadalbane area was particularly chosen as an area with high recreational and deer pressure which could help to indicate the way the service would be used with future expansion.
The main feedback from land managers about the service was that the update process was easier last year than in previous years and the option to include more information with the general messages was welcomed. However, land managers indicated that this still needs to be quicker and more intuitive and that the service needs to expand to cover more of the deer range.
HFTSH received almost 14,000 page views over the 2012 stalking season. The service received positive feedback from walkers, for example 85% of the 114 respondents agreed that the general information provided for each estate is useful. However, walkers also felt that in order for the service to be successful, HFTSH needs to expand to cover a larger area and more detailed information is required. There was also increased demand for a service that can be accessed by mobile devices.
HFTSH 2013 and beyond
The present system could be substantially improved for hill walkers or land managers and made easier for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to maintain. Significant design changes will be needed to achieve this and to respond to changes in the way that people are using technology, for instance making it smartphone enabled. SNH will shortly be letting a contract to get advice on how the service could be improved and updated.
In order to free up time to develop a better service, HFTSH will not expand this year, but will start again on 1st July with the existing stalking properties information updated.
Hillphones were not promoted separately last year, but all the numbers were available through HFTSH. This arrangement appears to have worked well as an interim measure and will be continued.