Can a barren Scottish glen be transformed into a nature-rich beauty spot where golden eagles, wild salmon, red squirrels, native trees and mountain plants once again thrive?

How should a scenic glen in Angus be cared for to bring the best outcomes for people, nature and the climate?

Glenprosen, a 3,500-hectare former sporting estate in Angus, came into public ownership 18 months ago in a deal costing £17.5 million.

Now Scotland’s forestry agency is preparing a masterplan to determine how best to manage and enhance the area. And they want your input.

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Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is aiming to restore the glen to its original glory to boost nature and help tackle climate change in a way that will benefit people.

The large size of the site means habitat restoration can take place at a landscape-scale, but the ultimate success of the project will depend on local communities and neighbouring properties.

It’s a long-term project which will take decades to reach fruition but could be transformational, according to FLS.

Christine Reid, Angus Glens programme manager for FLS, says it’s easy to think the estate – situated to the north of Kirriemuir – is already a pristine wilderness but this is far from the case.

“The glens are often described as unspoiled, and Glen Prosen has some very special species and features: golden eagles, pine martens, red squirrels and black grouse all live within its boundaries,” she said.

Glen Prosen, near Kirriemuir in Angus, may seem like a pristine wilderness but that's far from the truthGlen Prosen, near Kirriemuir in Angus, may seem like a pristine wilderness but that's far from the truth
Glen Prosen, near Kirriemuir in Angus, may seem like a pristine wilderness but that's far from the truth

“There are peatlands, wetlands, moors and grasslands.

“The mountain crags hold remnant populations of specialist plants that should be much more widespread.

“Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Areas add legal weight to the drive to conserve and recover these special species and habitats.

Nature is depleted across the 3,500-hectare Glen Prosen estate, which was previously run as a sporting business, but now there are plans to restore habitats and boost resilience against climate change in a way that will also benefit peopleNature is depleted across the 3,500-hectare Glen Prosen estate, which was previously run as a sporting business, but now there are plans to restore habitats and boost resilience against climate change in a way that will also benefit people
Nature is depleted across the 3,500-hectare Glen Prosen estate, which was previously run as a sporting business, but now there are plans to restore habitats and boost resilience against climate change in a way that will also benefit people

“But the truth is that Glen Prosen’s land and biodiversity are missing key components of a healthy ecosystem.

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“It will need years of concerted effort and proactive management to create an ecosystem that’s fit for the future.

“We must restore its natural character and increase its resilience to mounting threats like climate change, biodiversity-loss, diseases and invasive species.”

FLS already owns tracts of land in the area, including at Glen Doll and Glen Isla, so has experience of local environmental challenges.

This illustration shows how a stretch of river in Glen Prosen looks now – in a fairly barren landscapeThis illustration shows how a stretch of river in Glen Prosen looks now – in a fairly barren landscape
This illustration shows how a stretch of river in Glen Prosen looks now – in a fairly barren landscape

The body has already carried out some consultation with local communities and is now running a series of public events to give people an overview and invite feedback on the proposals.

‘Before’ and ‘after’ pictures have been created as part of the presentations, showing how the landscape looks now and how it could look after 10 years and 50 years if certain measures were introduced.

Local needs and lessons learned from restoration projects in other parts of Scotland will help define how the estate is managed.

“It’s a complex process that looks to balance habitat restoration with the needs and desires of people and businesses in and around the estate,” Ms Reid said.

“When we held community consultation events in Kirriemuir, Memus and Glen Doll in October 2023 local people told us stories of how salmon used to leap from the burns.

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This picture shows how the same river could look after 50 years if restoration work is carried out – a nature-rich environment with planting and features that help boost wildlife and tackle climate changeThis picture shows how the same river could look after 50 years if restoration work is carried out – a nature-rich environment with planting and features that help boost wildlife and tackle climate change
This picture shows how the same river could look after 50 years if restoration work is carried out – a nature-rich environment with planting and features that help boost wildlife and tackle climate change

“There was great concern at the loss of the treasured montane flowering plants and the lack of native trees.”

But there is plenty of evidence in the hills and land within and surrounding Glen Prosen to show improvements can be achieved, she says.

“This expanse of land doesn’t exist in splendid isolation,” she said.

“What happens in Glen Doll and Glen Isla, and on adjacent land held by other landowners, will affect the restoration of Glen Prosen.

“That’s why we are working with our neighbours and the local community on a landscape-scale land management plan.

“We’re also taking inspiration from projects across Scotland that show how nature can be restored, climate resilience can be improved and people can have beautiful outdoor landscapes to enjoy.”

She pointed at successful restoration projects, including Glen Finglas, owned by the Woodland Trust, and Mar Lodge, belonging to the National Trust for Scotland, as great examples of what could be achieved at Glen Prosen.

Creation of new woodlands will be a “huge priority”, she says, plus a focus on restoration of river banks to give wild salmon the best possible habitat to boost their survival chances.

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Glen Finglas, near Callander, was a neglected landscape that had been overgrazed by sheep for generations when the Woodland Trust took it on 25 years ago.

Since then more than 300 hectares of ancient woods have been protected, a further 80 hectares restored and 1,800 hectares planted with new trees.

“It’s an incredible metamorphosis,” she said.

“Anyone from Angus who wants to better imagine how abundant and healthy Glen Prosen could become should go for a walk around Glen Finglas.”

The challenges in Glen Prosen are similar but different – high numbers of deer make it difficult to establish native trees, so strict controls will be necessary.

“These wild monarchs of the glen have become so numerous they risk the woodland and moorland habitats on which they depend,” she said.

“We will continue our programme of deer culling, with all the venison being sold into the food chain, and will also need to fence deer out during the new woodland establishment phase.”

Riparian restoration, where trees and shrubs are planted along the banks of burns and rivers to create dappled shade and cool the water, will also be essential at Glen Prosen to boost breeding success of salmon and other fish.

“There is so much we can do in Glen Prosen using these nature-inspired methods,” Ms Reid said.

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FLS is a partner in Cairngorms Connect, the UK’s largest habitat restoration project, with a 200-year vision of enhancing habitats, species and ecological processes.

The team is excited about the collaboration and stresses the importance of supporting local needs.

Ms Reid said: “The Cairngorms Connect team calls it ‘a wild landscape in the making’.

“While we echo that sentiment across the Angus glens we need people to help us achieve our goals.

“We want to create jobs and help support livelihoods and communities through education, rural housing, businesses connected to the land and opportunities for ecotourism.”

Anyone who would like to get a closer look at proposals for Glen Prosen can drop in to Kirriemuir Town Hall today, between 12pm and 7pm, or visit the FLS offices at Glen Prosen this Saturday, June 15, and next Friday, June 21, between 10am and 4pm.

“It’s an exciting and ambitious project to be part of, and we are looking forward to the next stage and involving local people,” Ms Reid said.

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