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Climbing a-HED

It was clear from the get-go that I would end up pursuing a career in the natural sciences. My parents are full of stories of my fondness for the woodlice and worms I found under plant pots in our garden in Glasgow. Later, my mum – a mature student at the University of Glasgow, would take me to the Hunterian Museum, where I developed a fascination with the crystals and fossils on display.

This love for the natural sciences stayed with me throughout school and led me to study Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow, where I took courses on a range of topics from hydrology to paleoclimatology.

I started the degree with relatively little knowledge of the geography of Scotland outside the central belt, and Oban where I spent school holidays visiting my aunt. But with regular field trips to the likes of Ardnamurchan, the Isle of Mull, and the Isle of Raasay, my familiarity and connection to the highlands and islands grew, and I noticed I felt perhaps more at home there than I ever had in Glasgow.

Added to this, midway through my studies in Glasgow I discovered the world of rock climbing, after taking a job in the café of the Glasgow Climbing Centre. I found climbing – especially outdoors, to be an addictive combination of thrill and release, and a perfect escape from the busy student life of the city.

Finishing my Master’s at the end of 2019 I found myself at a crossroads, torn between pursuing a PhD. in Geochemistry and trying to forge a career for myself in climbing and the outdoors. The COVID-19 lockdown forced me to sit on this matter for longer, and in the depths of lockdown I stumbled upon a course in Ecological Surveying at SRUC. The course and the associated career prospects seemed to offer a marriage of the two worlds I felt passionate about – I could continue expanding my knowledge of the natural world while also getting to work outdoors in wild and beautiful landscapes.

The job with HED ltd. came up at the perfect time, and the company’s situation on the Black Isle could not have been more ideal a base for me. Living and working a stone’s throw from the mountains of the North-West Highlands and the Cairngorms is a huge perk of the job. Scotland has a huge amount to offer in terms of the outdoors, and having the means and the knowledge to access it safely sets you up for a lifetime’s worth of adventure – in my opinion and easy and cheap way of having a fulfilling life.

Awareness of the vast value of Scotland’s natural assets also highlights the importance of appropriate land management, and the careful mitigation of impacts from developments on the landscape and ecosystems they support. I look forward to helping the team at HED ltd. protect Scotland’s landscape from its wildlife to its waterways, ensuring many more climbers and hillwalkers can enjoy the highlands and islands as much as I do.

By Eilidh Milne


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