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We spoke to Peter Magowan about his AIMSS service recently – here’s what he had to say…
So Peter, tell me a bit about yourself.
I’ve worked in outdoor education for many years. In a Scottish village called Applecross at The Venture trust, we ran 21-day development courses for 18 – 24 year olds coming through court systems. It was an old-school boot camp. It was great though, and very successful in attaining goals and helping folk move forward.
I also worked in Belfast with Challenge for Youth, again working with marginalised young folk and adults on probation-type programmes. Following that, I worked for the Education Authority at Ardnabannon as an outdoor instructor. I eventually took a redundancy offer and established the uplift service.
And where did you grow up?
I was lucky to grow up in Newcastle (all my family are still there) and have mountains, forests, etc, at close hand – it was great. I was never interested in football or any team sports, just the hills for climbing, walking and mountain biking.
Tell us a bit about AIMSS – where did the idea for it come from?
Having travelled extensively in mountain areas, I’ve seen similar services and always thought it’s what the Mournes needed.
And what sort of services do you offer?
Morning uplifts: 9, 10, 11am from Donard car park to Trassey and Ott. Folks can get on the bus at Trassey, Meelmore or Happy Valley and go on up to Ott. Then at 12noon, Carrick Little car park to Ben Crom reservoir, allowing for a one-way walk over Binnian. From 12.30 to 4/5 pm I run the shuttle bus between the Silent valley and Ben Crom reservoir.
I also uplift mountain bikers on the same run. The concept is PARK SHUTTLE WALK/CYCLE, so you park at the intended finishing point, shuttle to the starting point, and walk/cycle the planned route back to your vehicle. It makes walk logistics easier – no need for multiple cars blocking roads/gates. It also opens up more linear walks. For instance, I have a group booked in, picking up at Carrick Little, dropping off at Ott, walking to Doan then Ben Crom, over the reservoir, then up over Binnian, back along the wall to the car park and their cars.
Do you run it by yourself or do you have help?
Just me, myself and I!
And do you have a favourite place to walk/hike in the Mournes?
Bearnagh has always been a favourite – the secret is to not follow the wall, but to swing away out and traverse up to the summit. Commedagh will always be in my mind too as a few mates and myself were the first to carry mountain bikes (we think) to the summit and ride back down. We did it many times in the late 90s.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Meeting folks, having chats about the hills, the history of the area, townlands, etc.
Do you have any big plans in the pipeline?
Just to keep on plugging away at it, hopefully get more walkers converted from using multiple cars after walk transfers. I charge £3/5 PP depending on group numbers and/or the distance of the shuttle. £8 for bikers.
Any extra information you want to provide?
I’ve held an ML certificate since 1994 and have been leading groups around the Mournes ever since. So if folk are concerned about their walk plans/route, I am more than happy to help. Also, I always ask for folks to text me after they are off the hill, and there have been no issues.