In December 2015 and January 2016, a series of storms and severe weather swept across Scotland resulting in a number of rivers reaching record levels, including the River Dee which overflowed causing significant damage to the surrounding environment and communities.
Following the storms, a group made up of staff from local estates, around 70 gamekeepers from the Grampian Moorland Group, the South Grampian Wildfire Group, and Forestry Commission Scotland all joined together to work as a team to help remove the debris and rubbish that was left behind in the wake of the floods.
Tourism plays a vital role in supporting many of the rural communities around Ballater, and it was imperative that the debris and damage from the flooding was removed in time to ensure visitors were able to return to Royal Deeside, and for the local businesses to make the most of the crucial tourist season.
By working together and pooling their resources and equipment, the group managed to clear mattresses, beer kegs, broken caravan bases and aluminium caravan sides, and all manners of debris and rubbish from the area surrounding the Dee in time for the 2016 tourist season. The operation took two days, and the support from the local gamekeepers and estates proved to be vital, with their vehicles and equipment playing an important role. A great deal of the debris was very heavy and in some very inaccessible areas, and without support from the local groups it would not have been possible to clear such a large area in such a short time.
Hans Mckenzie-Wilson, Head Gamekeeper at Invercauld said: “Obviously it is not long until the tourist season and that brings people into this area. The gamekeepers from the estates in the Grampian Moorland Group all wanted to do their bit to help.
“The local community has done a great job so far but no one can do everything and, even with the amount of people we’ve got here, I doubt it would even be finished in a week, it’s that bad.
Michael Bruce, Chairman of the South Grampian Wildfire Group said “A large part of the debris was deposited on the floodplain, often getting caught up in trees. It was clear the level of effort and type of equipment needed had to increase massively. My thanks go to all the estates and agencies making this vital contribution to the local community.”
Geva Blackett, Councillor for Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, was on hand to witness the effort. She said: “Gamekeepers have kept the countryside beautiful around here for generations and I am delighted, if not surprised, to see them taking part. I’d like to say a big thanks to them and the wildfire group.”
Images courtesy of Stevie Rennie Photography.