The Estates that Educate initiative has returned for 2023 offering young people a hands-on experience of the variety of activities undertaken by Scottish estates to maintain the unique biodiversity of the uplands.
From the Southern Uplands to the Angus Glens, Grampian, Tayside and the banks of Loch Ness, nearly 2,000 young people will have taken part in a training session by the end of the year, gaining a valuable insight into rural careers and helping them connect with nature.
Lianne MacLennan, National Campaigns Manager of Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups said: “Many of these children and young people live close by but have never come up on to the moors. They don’t have that connection with nature that gamekeepers and shepherds do, who are lucky enough to be surrounded by this natural beauty all year round. Even just listening to all the different birdsongs or seeing a mountain hare for the first time is a valuable experience and helps them appreciate the species that make the moors their home.”
Activities on offer include: how to identify and record wildlife sightings, sheep shearing, feeding lambs, fishing, foraging, cooking and tasting game or venison, working with gundogs and with hill ponies, forestry and tree planting, deer management, repairing vehicles such as Argocats and 4x4s, building bird boxes, the Countryside Code, safety on the moors and wildfire prevention. John and Catriona Frankitti of Innes Ross will provide a foraging session, teaching the young people how to make nettle pesto and homemade ketchup from foraged berries. They will also provide samples of various types of venison and game paté, for the children to try.
Over 100 members of estate staff will provide a combined 3,800 hours of skills-based education. One session will outline the range of upland habitats and plant life, including sphagnum mosses, blaeberry and cottongrass, which are home to a range of important insects and pollinators. Lianne MacLennan continued: “This year the focus will be on reversing biodiversity loss by protecting the rare species we have here, such as Golden Eagle, Curlew and Lapwing which don’t thrive in many other places. Young people are particularly interested in peatland restoration and the work estates do to keep the peat in good condition to help store carbon, combatting climate change.”
The Scottish Fire & Rescue Service will talk about safety on the moors including the dangers posed by disposable BBQs, and the importance of wildfire mitigation. Tasks are tailored to the different age groups and primary and secondary schools are actively involved in devising the programme of activities in line with aspects of the national curriculum. The Countryside Code is another important element of the programme – teaching children about why farmers ask for dogs to be kept on leads in the spring and summer, to protect vulnerable ground-nesting birds and sheep with lambs.
Lianne MacLennan concluded: “There has never been a more important time to engage with young people and let them know how they can get involved in land management and conservation to protect the species and the countryside that we all love. Moorland management for red grouse helps protect other rare species and ensures Scotland’s beautiful moorlands are safeguarded as a globally important and rare ecosystem.”
The Estates that Educate initiative is run by Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups and supported by BASC Scotland, British Game Assurance, Countryside Learning Scotland, House of Bruar, Lyme Disease UK, No. 9 Chef Services, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, Scottish Land & Estates, Strathtay Sticks, and Taste of Game.