Read all about it! Trust publishes moorland conservation success stories

While many of Scotland’s wildlife and nature reserves were closed through lockdown, conservation work continued on private land. Despite that, the men and women working hard to make our moorland thrive are often overlooked. Their untold stories are celebrated in a new publication from the leading conservation charity the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).

Alex Jenkins, Moorland conservationist

These case studies in the collection showcase what has been achieved in Scotland with passion, hard work and expertise. As many threatened species decline across the UK, these are tales of thriving populations of curlew, black grouse and birds of prey. Despite bucking the trend, these success stories are often overlooked.

Among these moorland managers is Edinglassie headkeeper Alex Jenkins, who has helped to transform the Upper Donside estate into a home for curlew and mountain hares. “It’s a success story for us” says Alex, when asked about the population of much-loved ‘blue hares’. He puts their numbers down to two factors – good habitat and predator control – and fits in with the wider picture in North-east Scotland where they are thriving despite range contraction elsewhere.

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On Deeside, Andrew Farquharson and his gamekeeper Allan Shand are working to recover numbers of golden eagles and capercaillie. This hasn’t happened overnight. Thirty years ago they decided to fence off a large area of ancient woodland, keeping deer away from the young Scots pines and allowing heather to flourish – all to the benefit of the caper. In total they have protected over 200 hectares of native woodland and plenty of birdlife is reaping the rewards of good management, with stable numbers of red-listed black grouse, a growing population of brown hares and birds of prey including merlin, goshawks, red kites and a resident pair of golden eagles.

Ronnie Kippen, Moorland conservationists

It isn’t just birdlife that is thriving. In Perthshire, reduced grazing has seen native plants reappear for the first time in decades, along with the insects they support, all thanks to Sir John Kemp-Welch and his former head keeper, Ronnie Kippen. They moved to drastically reduce the number of sheep and worked with the GWCT to devise a habitat improvement plan. Moving the flock off the hill completely in the winter has allowed heather and other plants to recover. Ronnie marvels at the difference it has made, recalling that “in the past, having deer and sheep on the hill in winter meant there was virtually no cotton grass, whereas now if you lie in the corries it is so prolific, its white tips look like driven snow”.

Every conservationist in this collection tells their own success story. There are also examples from south of the Border, where Neville Gill has made his corner of Northumberland a haven for black grouse, Tom Orde-Powlett is helping waders to thrive in Wensleydale and Geoff Eyre is restoring Derbyshire’s precious heather moors. You can also read how James Mawle is improving both land and river on his North Yorkshire family farm, Roy Burrows’ impressive conservation effort on the Summerstone Estate and the work done by George Winn-Darley has attracted 16 birds of prey species to the North York Moors.

This series of case studies was written by Joe Dimbleby, who is keen to break the stereotypical view of our uplands: “The stories of these conservationists show that, with the right approach, it is possible to combine thriving local communities with a productive countryside and the preservation of our precious heather moorland and its biodiversity.”

To read about these success stories, a limited number of copies are 
available online for £3.99 at https://www.gwctshop.org.uk/collections/whats-new/products/moorland-conservationists-the-untold-story . Moorland conservationists featured in the document are:

Andrew Farquharson and his gamekeeper Allan Shand

Alex Jenkins – mountain hares thriving in Upper Donside.

Tom Orde-Powlett – determined not to see Wensleydale’s waders disappear.

Geoff Eyre – helping restore the Peak District.

Andrew Farquharson – delivering conservation on Deeside.

James Mawle – reversing the fortunes of the river on his Yorkshire Dales farm.

Neville Gill – helping rare black grouse in their Northumberland stronghold.

Sir John Kemp-Welch and Ronnie Kippen – working wonders for waders in Perthshire.

George Winn-Darley – making wildlife accessible on the North York Moors.

Roy Burrows – leading a big-scale restoration project in Nidderdale.

Dr Dave Parish, head of Scottish Lowland Research, Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust

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