A scheme that fostered a partnership between a public body and private estates to restore peatland at one of the highest sites in the UK has won an innovation award at the RSPB Scotland Nature of Scotland Awards. Cairngorms Peatland Restoration received the award, organised by RSPB Scotland, after its work at three sites including Mar Estate, a Scottish Land & Estates member, near Braemar in Aberdeenshire.
Supported by Scottish Natural Heritage’s Peatland Action restoration work, Mar Estate saw the restoration of 108 hectares of remote land. The estate is managed for sporting, forestry, and tourism with driven grouse and deer stalking taking place on or adjacent to the restoration site.
Working with Cumbrian-based contractors Barker & Bland, the estate saw the restoration of bare peat using heather and grass brash, dry heath and sphagnum mosses. This “living carpet” method, a first in the country, had only previously been used south of the border due to the different land and climate conditions but could now prove an effective restoration procedure for future Scottish sites yielding significant cost savings.
The reprofiling and revegetation of peat hags and erosion gullies was also carried out, again using a technique for the first time in Scotland. In total, 26km of eroded peat hags and gullies were reprofiled and revegetated, and 6.5 hectares of bare peat spread with sphagnum-rich brash in 2014 and 2015.
The project was managed by Stephen Corcoran, the Cairngorms Peatland Action Restoration Officer based in the Cairngorms National Park Authority, with input from Mark Nicolson, an owner of Mar Estate, and land agents Savills. Stephen Corcoran, the Cairngorms Peatland Action Restoration Officer, said the award recognises the collaboration between land managers, project staff and the contractors, and the commitment to trying innovative methods.
Stephen said: “I am delighted to receive the award. The success of the Cairngorms Peatland Restoration Project was only possible through the enthusiastic support of land managers and a dedicated project officer to manage the process as well as funding from Peatland Action.
Mark Nicolson, an owner of Mar Estate, added: “The work done with Cairngorm National Park Authority at Mar and other estates in restoring eroded peatland will hopefully be the forerunner of many larger projects if the Peatland Code enables carbon offset funding to be accessed, and we are delighted to be part of the team that has enabled innovative working practice to reduce carbon release, amongst a range of benefits, which also includes improving habitat for ground nesting birds on our prime grouse beat.
“To be recognised and awarded by the RSPB demonstrates that collaboration across the range of interests is not only possible, but also productive in achieving common aims.”
Photos courtesy of Stephen Corcoran.