Four intrepid Scots in their 20s and 30s will embark on a range of conservation adventures in the Highlands, Trinidad, California and Newfoundland, thanks to a fund set up in memory of Bill Wallace MBE, an inspirational Edinburgh-based mountaineer who died in the Alps seven years ago.
Zoology student Rachel Forbes, who has had to battle Aspergers Syndrome, will join a Glasgow University Exploration Society expedition to Trinidad to research and help protect some of the island’s endangered species, including four types of marine turtle.
Another Glaswegian recipient of the grant, Steve Owen, has been funded to purchase specialised equipment to help him map the dark skies of north-west Scotland, which may be among the last remaining places of Europe unaffected by light pollution.
Stephen Bate, a Morayshire outdoor activities charity worker, suffers from a degenerative eye disease. To raise awareness of the condition, he will attempt a solo climb up the sheer granite face of El Capitan in the Yosemite National Park, California, even though he admits that he wasn’t very confident before starting his training with one of Britain’s top solo climbers, Andy Kirkpatrick. Stephen said, “I couldn’t believe it when I received the call to say my application had been successful. It will allow me to get some specialist equipment. I feel privileged to have the backing from such a well-respected organisation such as the John Muir Trust. I’m very much looking forward to getting my adventure in Yosemite underway.”
Michelle Melville, a Highland Council Countryside Ranger based in Lochaber, will undertake a skills exchange trip to Terra Nova National Park, in Newfoundland, which will include managing long distance trails across mountains and fragile habitats. She will also investigate the connections between the culture and folklore of Newfoundland and that of ancestors who were cleared there from Lochaber. Michelle said, “I’m really happy and excited to have been awarded a Bill Wallace Grant. I’m I am looking forward to seeing how Parks Canada staff work, sharing my skills of being a countryside ranger in the Highland and bringing back lots of ideas that will make a real difference to the conservation of Scotland’s wild places.”
The man who made these projects possible, Bill Wallace MBE, had been president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and a stalwart of the wild land conservation charity, the John Muir Trust, which runs the memorial grant.
Bill Wallace, who been president of the Scottish Mountaineering Club and a stalwart of the land conservation charity, the John Muir Trust, died in a skiing accident in 2006. In honour of his passion for outdoors adventure, friends, colleagues and outdoors organisations set up the fund in his name to help people get out into the wild places of the world, and make a difference to these places.
Toby Clark who manages the Bill Wallace Grant said: “We were delighted with the calibre of the applications this year, and wish all the best to Rachel, Steve, Stephen and Michelle. Bill was a man of action in the mould of the great Scottish wilderness pioneer, John Muir, whose 175th birthday will be celebrated next month. Both of these men would be delighted that their lives have inspired a new generation of conservation-explorers to follow in their footsteps.”