The 6,000 ha Mar Estate lies in the heart of Upper Deeside, integrating game and deer management interests with conservation, commercial forestry and natural woodland regeneration.
Between November 2014 and April 2015, the Estate has restored an area of 1.95 ha of bare peat and 4,530 m of eroded hags and gullies within a 164 ha block of moorland. This has involved re-profiling corroded hags and gullies with low impact machinery; spreading heather brash and reseeding bare peat areas form the final stage of the project. The project will prevent further erosion, improve water quality, develop the habitat for both grazing animals and ground nesting birds whilst enhancing the carbon sequestration ability of the moor.
Mar is also heavily involved in the conservation and monitoring of golden eagles and ground nesting birds. The Estate maintains extensive local community links and there is a community-led hydro scheme at an advanced stage.
Several designations exist on the Estate, including SSSI, National Scenic Area, SAC and National Nature Reserve, as well as the Cairngorms golden eagle SPA. Capercaillie continue to breed in the Knock Wood, as well as blackgame along the woodland edges. These important bird species and their leks are protected through predation control, the management of plant species and the use of soft net fences to reduce bird strike.
The estate's extensive forestry areas are managed with amenity and deer shelter in mind, along with the production of high quality timber.
The judges were impressed with Mar's commitment to peatland conservation, particularly in terms of the estate's ability to integrate this priority into the estate's wider management.
Heather Trust Director Simon Thorp said: "The Golden Plover Award is an excellent opportunity for grassroots, practical projects to receive some well-deserved publicity. Peatland restoration is starting to gain some real momentum as governments and communities begin to grasp the huge importance of healthy peat, and we were really impressed by the way Mar Estate has been working with a wide range of partners to implement improvements to the way the land is managed and maintained".
Mark Nicolson added: 'For some time I have wanted to do a major project with the National Park Authority, and peatland restoration funding by the Scottish Government through SNH seemed the ideal opportunity. Carbon storage is a topical issue, and to be at the forefront of innovation in techniques to achieve carbon sequestration at a landscape level is both worthwhile and exciting. A second project in Glen Ey has been completed, and I hope that the Peatland Code will price the carbon secured at a level which will enable land managers to attract carbon offset funding in order to undertake projects on a far larger scale'.