NEW cycling routes and a circular walk around St Mary’s Loch are some of the ideas being looked into to boost the valleys.
Revitalising the Ettrick and Yarrow Valleys project officer Julie Nock has won the temporary contract to take forward ideas from the project, which has been running for two years.
The new part-time development officer’s post is being funded by European and Lottery cash, part of the £67,000 TheSouthern reported the valleys had won last month.
She said: “I’m really delighted. A lot of the work I did last year is being carried forward in some way and to have the opportunity to develop that is great.”
The project comes to an end next month.
But one of its outcomes was last year’s community development plan, from which the regeneration project working group, made up largely of valleys residents, chose seven ideas to develop.
Ms Nock will be organising feasibility studies into each one for the community to make decisions before the latest funding comes to an end in December.
The projects to be looked at are: a Minchmoor to Yarrowford cycle trail; off-road cycle routes in Bowhill; a hydro scheme; a pilot creative residency related to James Hogg and/or William Johnston; a circular off-road walking route around St Mary’s Loch; signage, interpretation and marketing valleys tourism businesses and a toll road from the head of the Ettrick Valley to the A708 to link with Moffat.
Ms Nock said: “There are a lot of cycling initiatives in the Tweed Valley.
“It’s just over the hill and the idea is to try and bring some of that across into the valleys.
“We’ve got a lot of space for people to cycle in and some really beautiful routes.
“We have a huge amount of accommodation and reasonably quiet roads. It’s a great place to cycle and we can offer a large range of terrain.
“There are no specific maps of routes at the moment, we are just trying to open the valleys up for more people to visit and cycle.
At St Mary’s Loch, hikers can walk down one side of the water but not complete a circle around it. The community hopes to design a circular route, taking in Dryhope Tower and St Mary’s Kirkyard.
“There are some really spectacular views near Cappercleuch where you can see down to both lochs, “ said Ms Nock.
“We would like to put in a route that joins up the history and markets the businesses already there. It will be a good walk of about 12 km and there is lots of different terrain.”
The valleys’ tourism group has gained European funding and money from private individuals to produce a website for the area, which it hopes to make live in May.
That, with improved signage and interpretation boards, will help market the valleys, said Ms Nock.
Much of the area is a site of special scientific interest, but there is very little interpretation, she said.
“We need somebody to scope all that out and work out a plan for the whole area and how it could be better signed.
“The first step is doing a website so we are available to the world. The valleys are the hidden gem in the Borders, we keep our light under a bushel,” she added.
Ms Nock is optimistic.
She told us: “These feasibility studies will give us a better idea of what we could take forward. If we can develop tourism more in these valleys then everybody has an opportunity to make a better standard of living.”
In the meantime, the valleys’ community company is gearing up to take forward whatever work locals give the go-ahead.