Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Golden Plover Award 2016 - the winner is announced

Winner: The Hopes Estate

Adam Smith and I are delighted to announce that The Hopes Estate is the winner of the Heather Trust and GWCT Golden Plover Award 2016. 

Adam and I would like to congratulate Robbie Douglas-Miller, his Gamekeepers: Ian Elliott and Julian Bond, and the farm manager Gordon Kerr, and we look forward to presenting the award to the estate at the Scottish Game Fair on Friday.  Sadly, Robbie Douglas-Miller cannot be with us, but the estate to be well-represented by the rest of the team.

Adam and I visited all four, shortlisted estates together during June, and some details we gathered during the visits are on the Award's website.

We were delighted by the standards of management we were shown and there was strong competition for the award.  There can be only one winner, but we would like to acknowledge the high quality of the other applications.

Sponsored by:

Scottish Game Fair

The Heather Trust will be appearing in strength at the Scottish Game Fair this Friday, 1st July.  Our chairman, Antony Braithwaite, Anne, Patrick and I will be there throughout the day and the highlight of our day will be the Golden Plover Award, which takes place at 4.30pm.

We do not have a stand, but if you are going to be at the Fair and would like to meet one, or even all of us, please let me know so that we can arrange something.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Golden Plover Award - update

Adam Smith and I have reached our decision and the winner of this year's award will be announced on Monday.  Deciding on the winner has not been easy previously due to the stiff competition, and this year has not been different.  However, we think we have a worthy winner.

Details of the four shortlisted applicants are on the Award website and all of them will be represented at the presentation of the Award, which takes place at the Scottish Game Fair at 16:30 on Friday, 1st July.

We are grateful for the support from a great many people who have shown an interest in this award, and the sponsorship from Lindsays.

Bracken: Frond or foe? - 09:30-13:30, 12 July 2016, Dinnet, Aberdeenshire

This event is being organised by the Cairngorms National Park Authority and will include some short presentations followed by equipment demonstrations. I am giving one of the presentations on behalf of the Bracken Control Group and PDG will be providing a helicopter demonstration. 

See the flyer for more details about the event and how to apply. 

Priority will be given to attendance by people from within the National Park.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Golden Plover Award - Judging in progress

A scene from the GPA tour 2016 - all in a day's work!
Adam Smith (Director Scotland for GWCT) and I have started our tour of Scotland to visit the shortlisted applicants for the Golden Plover Award. We visited Candacraig Estate in Aberdeenshire last Thursday, and then two estates on Friday: Cawdor near Forres and Phoines near Dalwhinnie.  We will be visiting The Hopes Estate at Gifford in the Lammermuirs on Thursday, this week.  

The visits have served to confirm that Adam and I will be challenged when trying to choose a winner, but we will announce this in the week commencing 26 June. We look forward to seeing representatives from all the shortlisted applicants for the award ceremony which takes place at the Scottish Game Fair on Friday 1 July, starting at 16:30.

HT Board Members at the GWCT Scottish Demonstration Farm

Looking down on the farm from Dinnet Moor
Adam Smith invited fellow HT Board members to visit the Scottish Demonstration Farm at Auchnerran that he runs for GWCT. Malcolm Hay and Dick Birnie joined me for this visit on Thursday, 9 June.  The farm is located north of Dinnet and is just outside the Cairngorms National park.  Adam gave us a tour of the low ground farm and took us up the hill onto Dinnet Moor to view the farm from above.

What to do with the boggy bits?
There is much more information about the farm on the GWCT website.  We were struck by the size of the challenge that GWCT has taken on, as there is a lot of work required to get control of the farm and then develop the systems to demonstrate the GWCT management techniques.  I believe it is just the right thing for GWCT to be doing and I look forward to providing any possible support in this venture.  As I have often said, we do not use demonstration events enough; here GWCT has gone one step further and they will be able to demonstrate their own management.  

From an HT perspective, the link to the adjoining Dinnet Moor is important.  It will allow the farm systems to work across the low ground - moorland boundary which is how similar farms operate in practice, and it also reflects the way that nature and natural systems work.

I will be back at Auchnerran on 12 July, when I am helping the Cairngorms National Park Authority to run a bracken control event.  Details about this event are just being finalised and I will add a post about the event shortly.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

England & Wales Wildfire Forum - appointed as Chairman

I attended the EWWF meeting that took place in Cardiff on Tuesday.  At the close of the meeting, Chief Fire Officer Alex Bennett formally stepped down from his position as EWWF Chair in preparation for his retirement from Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service, in early July 2016.

I am delighted to report that I was appointed as the new Chairman, with unanimous agreement from all those present.  Andrew Thomas, Assistant Chief Fire Officer of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, was appointed as the Vice Chair of the EWWF.

I believe that the threat posed by wildfire is increasing and therefore this is an important time for the wildfire forum, and I look forward to working with the Scottish Wildfire Forum and similar organisations that operate in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man.  I am pleased that Andrew Thomas  has been appointed as Vive-Chairman as it is important that good links are maintained with the Fire & Rescue Services.

I was delighted that following the recent transfer of responsibility for wildfire to their jurisdiction, The Home Office was represented for the first time at the Forum meeting.  We also welcomed the attendance from The Cabinet Office, which is an important link to maintain with regard to risk planning.

I look forward to working with the range of organisations that are represented on the Forum and I am grateful for their support.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Wildfire in Kirkcowan, Dumfries & Galloway

Photo: Scottish Fire & Rescue Service
I go away to Wales for a meeting of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum and this happens on my doorstep!  See the report in the Daily Record.

The rain that is now forecast for the second half of this week will dampen things down and it is maybe a good thing.  Not often we say that about rain, but vegetation has become very dry and although this year's growth is getting established on moorland, it has not yet greened up enough to reduce the wildfire risk.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Golden Plover Award 2016 - The Shortlist

A print of a Golden Plover by the renowned artist, Colin Woolf 
is awarded to the winner

Adam Smith and I have selected four estates to form the shortlist for the Golden Plover Award.  We will be visiting all four estates in the next 10 days to select the winner.  Full details of all the applicants will be placed on the Golden Plover Award website, after the visits have been completed, and we will announce the winner during the week commencing 27th June.

The award ceremony will take place at the Scottish Game Fair at 16:30 on Friday, 1st July.

To be eligible for the 2016 award, in addition to demonstrating innovative moorland management, applicants have been asked to demonstrate how they incorporate sheep farming into the management of moorland.

The shortlist comprises the following estates:

  • Candacraig, Strathdon
  • Cawdor, Nairn
  • Phones, Dalwhinnie and
  • The Hopes, Gifford.

Visit to College Valley, Northumberland

Invading Sitka Spruce in the shadow of The Cheviot

I was delighted to visit College Valley again, yesterday.  It was one of a series of visits as part of our Monitor Moors project that seeks to monitor the progress of a range of different moors throughout the country.

College Valley is going through a period of change with the removal of some woodland and a reduction in the grazing levels and it is facing a challenge from invading Sitka Spruce, the result of reduced grazing levels, being in competition with heather management.

What sets this estate out from others is that it is in altruistic ownership.  It is managed by a Board of Directors whose duty is to manage it in a way that increases its value as an environmental, social and economic place of excellence.  Therefore, it is managed for the benefit of all moorland interests and the estate is prepared to introduce novel management practices that other estates may not have not been able to consider.

I will be providing a longer write up in the Trust's Annual Report, this year, and there is a good chance that we will be holding the Trust's AGM in College Valley, in October this year.