Alec Finlay: Day of Access

Alec Finlay, our artist in residence, recently organised a series of access projects for people with disability, chronic pain, or constrained walking.

alec access blog

Day of Access fulfils a dream of mine, to gather a team of partners who will support people with constrained walking, allowing them to once again reach wild places.

From these shared experiences we will create a series of place-aware maps and written descriptions which show that disabled access benefits everyone.

I’ve been delighted by the support the project has received already from John Muir Trust, Forestry and Land Scotland, and other partners, and look forward to working with new organisations to make the 2020 project a great success.

Day of Access is a collaborative project. One recent walk was guided by Tamara Colchester, a writer and forager. She runs plant listening.

The Versus Arthritis group from Elgin, which receives support from Paths for All, joined Tamara at Culbin Sands, a fascinating landscape of shifting dunes and woodland, near Findhorn. 

Foraging is a way to focus people’s interest on a small landscape, ensuring that a short walk can be rich with details. At Culbin the highlight was the Autumn harvest of fungi. You can read about the event here.

Another recent Day of Access event took a group of young people with mental health issues to a very different landscape, the shale bings of West Lothian.

The guide on this occasion was Rob Bushby, who used to work with the John Muir Trust, and now supports young people to take part in Duke of Edinburgh activities. 

Although the bings are vast human monuments of industrial spoil, they have been slowly greening with native flora, some of it rare. You can read more about the event here.

The idea is that the initial programme of events will act as an inspiration for people of all abilities to visit these locations, using some of the material we produce as a creative guide, and that more estates and organisations will share their landrovers and expertise, to help people who can no longer walk in wild places recover a sense of belonging. 

The Day of Access project blog also contains posts on other innovative approaches to disability, walking, and not-walking.

These include the species compass, a simple way to think about ecology and sense of place, and the proxy walk, where one person who can walk goes somewhere for someone who can’t.

Alec is currently planning a series of access events as part of the Braemar Mountain Festival, with the support of the Fife Arms, in early March 2023. There are limited places; if you are interested in attending, please contact