Nature conservation in Scotland

Marenani Nature Reserve

Nature conservation in Scotland

In Scotland Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation owns three natural areas – magnificent sceneries where the biological diversity as well as other natural values are developed and conserved by careful nature management.

Duration: Ongoing
Project background

The Aage V Jensen Foundation have three conservation properties in Scotland – Comer, Invertrossachs and Claonaig. Comer and Invertrossachs are located in Central Scotland within the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park and Claonaig is located on the west coast of Scotland on the Kintyre peninsula in Argyll. Each property has its own distinct special features and history that sets them apart but they are linked by the Foundations objectives for nature conservation and improvements to degraded habitats. On each Estate the term ‘conservation’ applies to areas considered worthy of preservation or enhancement of landscape features, ecology and habitats and it is the protection and development of these qualities as a whole that is intended to conserve the natural history, beauty and environment of these sensitive areas within Scotland.

Claonaig (4,000 ha) extends over the Kintyre peninsula south of Tarbert on the west coast of Scotland. Here you still find remnants of the old natural forest of oak, beech and alder, and more than 500 species of moss and lichen grow on the old trunks in the moist climate. In the clearings of the oak forest a wealth of butterflies can be found.  Only indigenous tree species are allowed to grow. Here the habitats of plants and animals are secured in a characteristic Scottish landscape for the enjoyment of coming generations.

Claonaig - history

Claonaig Estate was purchased by the Foundation in 1992 and is located in a dramatic and spectacular location with an open easterly aspect overlooking the turbulent waters of Kilbrannan Sound and the mountaineous ranges of the Isle of Arran. Claonaig forms an integral part of the larger scale landscape feature of this region and is the gateway to the eastern side of the Kintyre peninsula.

In the past Claonaig formed part of a much larger traditional highland Estate, located at Skipness. Skipness village is the principal residential area for the locality and has an interesting history stretching back beyond medieval times. In the late 1980’s Skipness Estate was divided into two seperate units with Claonaig consisting of two farms, Glenreasdell Mains and Escart Farm. Escart Farm is tenanted but still remains an integral part of the Estate. Claonaig has an area of 4000 ha and through changing farming practices in recent years has developed from being a marginal hill sheep farm with outcrops of riparian woodland and small mixed conifer plantations into a mixed agricultural unit of more varied habitats and diverse charachter. In the early years the Foundation undertook flaura, fauna and archaeological surveys to better understand and assess the more marginal areas of the farms that could be further developed and improved to reflect the Foundations aims and objectives for conservation and improved bio diversity.

During the mid 1990’s an area of the hill ground was approved for forestry and was planted sensitively with commercial and native woodland species in an open design plan to benefit the future natural development of wildlife and habitat networks. More recently a programme of purely native woodland development has taken place to further improve linkages between the lower lying riparian woodlands and the more elevated conifer woods. The farmland has with assistance from government bodies been supported to develop an integrated range of environmental benefits as the land holding supports a variety of habitats and species that are important for the development of local and national bio diversity. Future plans include moorland management, further creation of native woodland and other active management schemes within the agricultural ground to promote and improve habitats for insects, birds and mammals. The forthcoming Nature Plan will aim to bring past, present and future forestry and agricultural activities together into a coherent management strategy and also to understand future land use, forward planning and management between these different elements, as well as the shoreline environment which is unique to the Foundations properties in Scotland.

Written by Robin Dixon

Comer (2,500 ha) is a true Scottish highland area stretching all the way to the eastern shore of Loch Lomond on the north side of the almost 1,000 m high Ben Lomond mountain. This is the breeding place of the golden eagle, and flocks of black grouse seek shelter in the small forests. Mountain sides are grown with old oak forest mixed with holly, yew and ivy, and much attention is paid to  ensure the continued regeneration and spreading of the deciduous forest. One of Scotland’s most popular hiking routes, the “West Highland Way”, passes through the area along the shore of the lake.

Comer - history

Comer Estate is located in the shadow of Ben Lomond in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the east side of Loch Lomond in Central Scotland. The Estate lies within the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and covers approximately 2300 hectares, from the lower lying slow moving headwaters of GlenDubh and the Duchray Water to the elevated moorland and steep rocky slopes of the surrounding mountains.

The area has a long association with Scottish history, with the unruly Clan McGregor and Rob Roy at the fore front, immortalised by Sir Walter Scott after his visits to the Trossachs in the late 18th Century. Place names, such as ClachBuidhe (Klakby) and Ashlan (Askeland) give an indication of an earlier Viking era. The Estate, originally two hill farms, Comer and Cailness, was purchased by the Foundation in 1987. The area has maintained its integrity as a working farm but by changing farming practicies it has developed the property into a more diverse natural matrix of habitats. Comer on the Duchray Water and Cailness on east Loch Lomond side are connected by a winding hill track that runs through Gleann Gaoithe (the Windy Glen) for 8 kilometres. The two locations have unique and different environments; Cailness, which runs north to Inversnaid is situated on the loch shore and blends into the surrounding oakwoods that are rich in bio diversity and wildlife while providing a valuable amenity for managed public recreation. The oakwoods, in existence for some 7,000 years, have a long history of man management and would have been an important source of revenue – timber and coppicing for the charcoal and iron industry. The evidence of historical settlements along the loch shore indicates that there was once a thriving community associated with the loch side but now the woods carry a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ designation and are managed for conservation.

Comer and Glen Dubh has a more open aspect with Ben Lomond and moorland as its back drop and would have for many years supported many small farms and families before being let or sold off for sheep grazing at the time of the Industrial Revolution, with hill farming practicies changing little in the intervening years. As part of the early work undertaken on Comer by the Foundation a full vegetation survey was completed. This identified areas beneficial for farming, moorland management and woodland The Foundation on purchasing the Estate acquired a productive conifer woodland. With the assistance of a 20 year Forest Plan the commercial forestry aspect of the Estate will slowly and sensitively convert Invertrossachs back into a more natural woodland landscape. This will be managed utilising low impact management harvesting systems while maintaining continuous cover to create a moving matrix of mature mixed woodland, developing woodland, shrub habitats and open space over a period of time.

This supports the principal aims and objectives of the Foundation, to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage while developing and promoting bio diversity.expansion. Since then an ongoing programme of native woodland planting and regeneration has been undertaken in association with Forestry Commission Scotland. These woodland sites are becoming established throughout Comer and Cailness to create important habitat linkages from east to west. The enclosed wooodlands are now being managed to support the diverse range of wildlife within the Estate. The Estate has within its boundaries diverse and important vegetation habitats and many rare or protected species of insect life, mammals and bird life. Looking to the future one of the most important aspects will be monitoring ecological changes that have or may result from past, present and future management prescriptions. Currently a Nature Plan, in association with other conservation groups, is being prepared for the Estate. This will look closely at past, present and future management practices that will provide long term benefits to this unique and special environment.

Written by Robin Dixon

Invertrossachs (1,360 ha) is an area in Central Scotland, about 25 km east of Loch Lomond. The beautiful and hilly terrain ascends from Loch Venechar west of Callander with moorland, small lakes, a fine mosaic of forests and clearings favouring indigenous tree species. This is the southern border of the Scottish Highland. The hilly terrain and the natural streams provide fine habitats for both the white-tailed eagle and flocks of black grouse. A network of roads and marked paths facilitates public  access.

Invertrossachs - history

The first recorded mention of the Estate is 1466 when it belonged to the Earl of Mentieth. Archaeological remains however indicate occupation as far back as the Bronze Age. In more recent times Queen Victoria was a visitor to the Estate and this inspired her to acquire her own Highland Estate at Balmoral. The Estate which covers 1350 hectares was purchased by the Foundation in 1989.

The property is located on the northern slopes of the Mentieth Hills and epitomises many of the famous features of Perthshire. The Estate has varied and beautiful scenery on the shoreline of a fertile glaciated valley and is only a short distance from Scotlands principal residential areas. The underlying geology is significant in that the Highland Boundary Fault line, which divides Highland from Lowland, runs through the Estate.

Historically the land formed part of a much wider land-holding where the principal land use would have been agriculture. More recent use of the land has resulted in a mix of planted conifer and native broadleaf woodland areas, combined with heather moorland, fertile meadows and lochs. The combination of mixed woods, open areas and the abundance of water and wetlands on the Estate has provided a rich habitat for a diverse range of plant and animal life. The Foundation on purchasing the Estate acquired a productive conifer woodland. With the assistance of a 20 year Forest Plan the commercial forestry aspect of the Estate will slowly and sensitively convert Invertrossachs back into a more natural woodland landscape.

This will be managed utilising low impact management harvesting systems while maintaining continuous cover to create a moving matrix of mature mixed woodland, developing woodland, shrub habitats and open space over a period of time. This supports the principal aims and objectives of the Foundation, to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage while developing and promoting bio diversity. The location and setting of the Estate, within an hour of Scotlands two largest centres of population, means that the property has a high level of public access. In order to manage and control public access, in tandem with conservation, the Estate has taken measures to create designated footpaths and walks. This allows freedom of access and continued enjoyment of the countryside but also protects the natural resource from increased public demand and pressure.

The Estate now forms part of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park. The management team are working alongside and developing relationships with the National Park and its neighbours to help promote the wider aspects of the Trossachs Forest Alliance. The vision is to promote nature conservation and develop native woodland habitats over a much wider area to the east and west of the Estate. Within the boundaries of the The Estate there are diverse and important vegetation habitats with many rare or protected species of insect life, mammals and bird life. Monitoring the changes that will happen with the clearance of the conifer woods and other developing habitats will be an important management prescription for the future and to this aim a Nature Plan in association with other conservation groups is being prepared for the Estate.

Written by Robin Dixon