WHEN he started out more than two decades ago, the area was one large wilderness with very little access for walkers.

But now, 22 years after beginning as a trainee, Bob Brown has overseen the restoration of a 14km path across the wild landscape on Torridon in Wester Ross.

He is now in charge of a 130-strong team looking after the route as Upland Path Manager for the National Trust, and has watched first-hand how the area has changed.

A magnet for climbers, hikers and walkers, Torridon is home to five of the conservation charity’s 46 Munros as well as a population of red deer.

The work that has been carried out to improve the footpaths across the landscape will help prevent further damage over time from a big rise in the number of visitors using the site.

High footfall, coupled with the extremes of Scotland’s weather, means footpaths can quickly become damaged and erode if not maintained and repaired.

This can cause ugly scars to form on these landscapes as, without clear pathways, walkers stray from the tracks and put the native flora and fauna at risk as the fragile surrounding ecosystem is damaged. It was hoped that the works at Torridon would be completed this month but the complexity of working on mountainous paths, paired with unpredictable weather, has delayed the effort until Spring.

Mr Brown said: “I smile every time I cross the first water bar I built.

“I’m incredibly proud to have worked on this project for so long and to have trained many of the people who have contributed to the work.

“Torridon means a lot to me, and I am pleased to be a part of a project that will mean people can enjoy it for years to come.

“I know that the work we have done so far will reduce any scarring on the landscape from walkers and mountain bikers and protect Torridon’s nature, beauty and heritage, for future generations to enjoy.

“We had hoped to be finishing up the works this month but the perfect pairing of Scotland’s volatile weather and the difficult terrain we’re working on has meant that we’ll now be looking towards the spring to complete the works in full.”

They have installed steps and drainage to replace eroded paths and reduce bogginess, to prevent people leaving them for dry ground and accidentally trampling the surrounding habitats.

All of this will help maintain the landscape for years to come, as the paths will ensure that future generations can enjoy the awe-inspiring landscape while limiting the impact from their footsteps.

Mr Brown became passionate about the work being done at Torridon after seeing the erosion on Ben Nevis because of so many walkers.

Similar work is also carried out at other sites across Scotland cared for by NTS: there are more than 400 miles of path spanning areas of Glen Coe, Kintail, West Affric, Mar Lodge Estate, Grey Mare’s Tail, Torridon, Goatfell, Ben Lawers and Ben Lomond.

At each site, path repairs involve using simple tools – spades, mallets, thick rubber gloves to protect hands and a lot of brute force - to dislodge rocks from their resting place while carefully manipulating the grass and moss around to ensure no lasting damage is done.

Some rocks used for repairs can weigh up to 250kg, requiring several strong arms to prise them from the ground and transport them to the path.

The popularity of Scotland’s best-loved mountains in recent years has led to rising concerns over the human toll taken on their paths, surrounding vegetation and the amount of litter left behind.

Last summer, NTS launched a “Love this place, leave no trace” campaign which aimed to remind visitors to minimise their impact on the properties and wild locations it cares for, including Glencoe, Ben Lomond and Mar Lodge Estate.

It followed a rise in anti-social behaviour which had impacted on long-term conservation projects, including fences and trees uprooted and used for firewood. Litter, animal and human waste has also been an issue, while there were concerns over livestock and wildlife attacks by dogs.

While earlier this month at Ben Nevis, a new registration system was launched for charity events in an effort to avoid overcrowding on the mountain, its access roads and car parks.

The human toll on the landscape can sometimes be even more devastating than damage to paths.

Last March fire ripped across a swathe of Ben Lomond which had been painstakingly cordoned off to allow natural species of birch, rowan and willow to regenerate.