Saturday 13 July 2019 saw 19 people meeting at the Allanaquoich Car Park on the National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate in the Cairngorms for a walk up Glen Quoich. Family and friends of former ScotWays Honorary President, Donald Bennet, had gathered with representatives of ScotWays and the NTS to formally open the replacement upper bridge on the Quoich in Donald’s memory.
The group walked up to the new bridge, where Ben Dolphin, a seasonal ranger for NTS and recently elected President of Ramblers Scotland, gave an outline of the history and conservation management of the Mar Lodge Estate. Jo Mould of NTS, Bob Aitken of ScotWays, and Donald’s son Alan described the importance of this bridge and how fitting it is as a tribute to Donald’s passionate and life-long contribution to access and conservation of Scotland’s countryside. After a toast to Donald’s memory, his widow Anne cut the ribbon to open the bridge.
Donald’s love of the outside wasn’t the only connection to this part of Scotland within the assembled group. The friends of the Bennet family included a one-time ghillie who had worked out of Mar Lodge in the 1950s and a lady whose brother-in-law had been Factor for the Swiss Panchaud brothers, the owners of the Mar Lodge Estate during the 1960s.
In December 2015 severe flooding hit this part of Aberdeenshire, and amidst great swathes of damage across the catchment of the Dee carried off the three bridges over the River Quoich. The National Trust for Scotland and the Cairngorm Club replaced the middle bridge at the Punchbowl restoring access to Allanaquoich. The new Donald Bennet bridge crosses the Quoich in its middle reaches and restores a circular walk which gives impressive views of the river’s scenic rapids, falls and characteristic punchbowls amidst fine pinewoods.
Donald Bennet was a Director of ScotWays from 1989, Chair between 1992 and 2000, and Honorary President between 2000 and 2004. He played a major part in developing ScotWays to its current level of activity and authority in the field of access influence. A passionate mountaineer, Donald was heavily involved in writing and editing Scottish Mountaineering Trust guides, including guides to the Munros and Corbetts. But he was also active in Mountaineering Scotland and as a member of the Countryside Commission for Scotland, helping to promote constructive new approaches to access. All this work earned him the well-deserved award of an OBE. When Donald passed away in 2013, ScotWays led fundraising efforts by the mountaineering and walking community which raised nearly £30,000 in his memory.
This is the second bridge that the Donald Bennet Memorial Fund has provided on the Mar Lodge Estate. The first bridge, where ScotWays provided the structural girders, replaced one destroyed in the devastating flash-floods of August 2014, close to Derry Lodge, and was installed in 2015.