Lochrosque and Kinlochewe Estates are a family owned and run concern in Wester Ross extending to some 35,000 acres. We are a farming family and have had a presence in Wester Ross since 1961. As time has moved on, we have realised that integrated land management is key where a diverse habitat leads to diverse flora and fauna.
We run 1,200 North Country Cheviots and 40 Luing Cows on the high hills in the summer months. We also have salmon fishing, a small number of grouse, hinds and stags on the hill, and we let houses to tourists and country sports enthusiasts.
The estates are members of the West Ross Deer Management Group and work closely with SNH, contributing Scottish Government land management objectives and targets.
We have carried out native woodland reintroduction projects, and now have 1700 acres of native pinewood in 4 schemes, supporting a range of biodiversity.
We have also invested in green energy, with 6 different hydroelectricity generating schemes in operation with the maximum capacity of 3.3 MW.
Not only does this contribute Scottish Government climate change targets but has had a side benefit of allowing more salmon reach their spawning grounds. On one of the schemes the intake has a fish ladder and in times of high-water flow, the hydro is taking some of the weight of water away from the falls below, making it easier for the salmon to ascend.
On one of the catchments for our hydro schemes there was an opportunity to put up a small dam to store water to increase efficiency. At the same time the Scottish Government had also been promoting Peat Wetland projects with the principle objective of locking up carbon. We saw the chance to do both and use the peat wetland project not just as a carbon store but also to hold water on the hill for longer therefore increasing the efficiency of the hydro.
The mosaic of 3,500 mini lochans on a 400-acre site has created a biodiversity absent for decades.
This wetland creation acts like a filter and cleans the peat content from the water, reducing blockages at our water intake for the hydro scheme. Scottish Water, who we consulted with before the project commenced, also draw water for Achnasheen village from the same source and this wetland work has reduced sediment going through their filters and has also reduced the acidity of the water.
The reduced acidity also creates more insect and crustacean life in the river and consequently more food resource for fish and birds.
We entered the estate into the Agricultural Environment and Climate scheme, managing our sheep at specific densities and reducing deer numbers, whilst also introducing summering cows to specific areas to help biodiversity. At the same time, we have also embarked upon ditch blocking, filling in old open hill drains to slow water off-take from the hill and reduce erosion. This has also had an effect on ground nesting birds where chicks might have fallen into these open ditches and been unable to get out previously.
Reducing the stocking density will help the habitat support fewer but healthier deer especially over winter and reduce mortality.
We continue to look at all options to improve our capacity to hold as varied a wildlife as possible, helping Scottish Government reach some of their targets and keep some of the more traditional aspects thriving at the same time.