Forestry Commission buys Rothiemurchus forest

The land acquired makes up part of the massive Caledonian pine forest. Picture: TSPL
The land acquired makes up part of the massive Caledonian pine forest. Picture: TSPL
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A MASSIVE part of the ancient Caledonian pine forest – described as the Crown Jewel of woodlands in Scotland – has been sold to Forestry Commission Scotland for £7.4 million by a Highland estate.

The Grants of Rothiemurchus, which has owned the land for over 500 years, has announced the sale.

Jon Lambert, of selling agents John Clegg and Co, said: “In national forestry terms, Rothiemurchus can be seen as the Crown Jewel, the best of the best.

“The forest and its setting produces stunningly beautiful scenery and is an internationally-recognised habitat for some of Scotland’s most iconic and, in some cases, rare species.”

Extending to over 5,700 acres, the ancient Caledonian pine forest is located on the edge of the Cairngorm Mountains to the south-east of Aviemore.

‘Proud of success’

Johnnie Grant, owner of the Rothiemurchus estate, said: “Rothiemurchus Upper Forest is exceptional, as for hundreds of years my family have actively enabled it to regenerate naturally and not allowed it to be ploughed or planted.

“It is a business as well as a sanctuary for wildlife which people can also enjoy.

“Over the last twenty years the Forestry Commission has been of great help to us in our enhancement of the biodiversity of the forest.

“We are particularly proud of the success of the natural regeneration, the habitat it provides for many endangered species and that since monitoring began, it has consistently been the most productive forest for Capercaillie in the country so fledglings have been moving to neighbouring estates to set up new territories.”

“The Upper Forest is now in its most favourable condition for hundreds of years and this is just the beginning of the change, so it is the right time to look to its long term future and we believe Forestry Commission Scotland are the right people to continue this work and care for it.

“For many years we’ve worked in partnership with the Commission who are our neighbours on both sides and we trust them to look after this wonderful place and ensure it remains an outstanding natural habitat.”

“This is just the latest chapter in a story of change and development on Rothiemurchus over the centuries. This sale will allow us to consolidate our position by diversifying and focusing on the parts of the Estate which are most likely to contribute to its success in the future.”

“Rothiemurchus has been this family’s base for almost 500 years. Three generations now live here and we care passionately about its future as well as the people whose livelihoods depend upon what is an important rural business.”

“We wish the FCS every success in its future management and will continue to co-ordinate with them for the benefit of nature and people.”

Mr Lambert added: “When I first met Johnnie Grant, I was deeply impressed by his dedication to caring for and improving the forest, his great knowledge, relentless enthusiasm and diplomatic and kind ability to work with the public, his staff and the external agencies who he worked with on a daily basis.

“I am delighted that agreement was reached to sell the upper forest to the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), an organisation the Grants are sure are best-placed to continue with the input the forest requires.”

News welcomed

Welcoming the new land acquisition, Environment and Climate Change Minister, Paul Wheelhouse said: “This is fantastic news - that this nationally significant move has secured one of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes for the nation to enjoy.

“It is a magnificent addition to the National Forest Estate and will allow Forestry Commission Scotland to enhance this environmental ‘jewel in the crown’.

“The Grant family has, for generations, carefully managed this stunning area of Scotland and the Forestry Commission will ensure that this high standard of stewardship continues.”

“The sale now brings into public ownership a significant area of some of the best native pinewood remnants in Scotland. The Commission manages other native pinewoods in the area so it will allow planning, working in partnership, and action to enhance this on a truly landscape level.”

Rothiemurchus Estate, of which the forest formed part, lies in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park.

Since the last ice age retreated 10,000 years ago, downy birch and Scots pine became the dominant species, tolerant of the climate and thin acidic soils over freely draining glacial deposits.

Upper Rothiemurchus Forest is a most important remnant of the Caledonian forests that previously covered much of the uplands of Scotland. Rothiemurchus Forest is the largest area of naturally regenerated ancient Caledonian forest in Scotland.

The Grants of Rothiemurchus have owned the land since 1540. Johnnie Grant and his son James the 16th and 17th generation, are the current owners and managers of the Estate.