A VOLUNTEER group based in Stirling has won a prestigious award for significantly transforming path links in the local area.

Stirling Workstart of Forth Valley College has won the Path Skillz Group of the Year at the 2020 Paths for All Volunteer Awards.

The group of students worked tirelessly to clear a blocked path in Plean Country Park by chopping down overgrown branches and creating drainage areas.

Elaine Cuthill, lecturer and course tutor, said: "We are over the moon to have received this fantastic news. The students involved are delighted that their hard work and efforts have culminated in an award such as this."

Stirling Workstart were faced with all types of weather including heavy rain, wind and snow, but through teamwork and dedication the group were able to clear the path which is now usable for everyone.

Elaine added: "Our students face multiple barriers to learning including lack of self-confidence and self-esteem.

"With Paths for All we were able to set up a project that could develop communication skills, team working and problem solving skills.

"The project staff were very supportive and encouraged the students to meet their potential, leave their comfort zones and rise to the challenge.

"Knowing that the path is frequently used, particularly by horse riders, fills us all with tremendous pride. It took the students two whole days to clear the path in sometimes difficult weather conditions.

"We have noticed more people using the path which is amazing and we have received lots of positive feedback, making all of the student's efforts worthwhile.

"Seeing these young people grow in self-belief is the driving force behind why this group exists, and to be recognised on the national stage is a further example to the students why team building exercises can create great rewards.

"I am very proud of the Stirling Workstart students and would like to thank Paths for All for this great opportunity."

The Stirling group were commended at the first ever Paths for All virtual awards ceremony hosted by BBC's Scotland's Fiona Stalker on November 4.

Stirling Workstart were among 13 different winners at the 11th annual volunteers awards.

Ian Findlay CBE, chief officer at Paths for All, said: "Getting outside and going for a walk has been even more important than normal over the last few months for our physical and mental wellbeing.

"The invaluable work of volunteers' in improving the nation's physical, mental and social health is amazing, and even though we can't host our usual Volunteer Award event, we still wanted to celebrate the fantastic work that is happening up and down the country.

"Volunteers, like Elaine and the Stirling Workstart group have carried out tremendous work and adapted their work during the Covid-19 pandemic to reflect the changing needs of the Scottish public and for that we have to say a massive thank you.

"Their stories are always inspiring – and this year seems that little more exceptional."

Paths for All works with the Scottish Government and 30 partners to support and deliver national policies, such as the National Walking Strategy and other 'active travel' initiatives.

The charity awards thousands of pounds worth of grants to worthwhile projects that improve health, promote walking and improve environments for people to be active in.

To find out more about Paths for All's Paths Skillz project for young people visit www.pathsforall.org.uk/path-skillz-training