The CHILDREN of Speyside will be part of an extensive rural conservation and land management education programme.
Pupils from primary and secondary schools in Angus Glens, Grampian, Southern Uplands, Tayside, Strathdearn and Speyside will benefit from five consecutive weeks of moorland education sessions, as part of a bid to tackle depopulation and fill the rural skills gap.
Students will experience hands-on first-hand demonstrations of the day-to-day running of a Scottish estate covering everything from raising mountain sheep to conserving rivers, waders, working ponies, renewable energy, to deer management and game cooking.
Areas participating in the program include Dunecht, Dalhousie, Glenogil, Gannochy, Lochan and Logiealmond.
Lianne MacLennan, National Coordinator for Scotland’s Moors Regional Groups, explains that the activities are designed in partnership with schools to engage pupils, but are underpinned by a serious purpose:
“The Estates That Educate program was born out of the need to develop pathways to rural work. In many parts of Scotland, school leavers feel the need to move to Edinburgh or Glasgow for work, posing a real threat to rural Scotland.
“We want to make sure that rural communities survive and reverse the trend of rural exodus. There are jobs in rural areas, but young people are often not aware of them. This is a program of hands-on introductory sessions that children would not otherwise have the opportunity to experience.
One session covers biodiversity, where students will learn to spot and record various species through sight and sound. Rare birds like the curlew, lapwing, redhorse, golden eagle and buzzard thrive in the highlands of Scotland.
The program also explains the role of a game warden, ghillie and shepherd, with demonstrations of working dogs, working ponies and sheep shearing. Students can try their hand at fishing, rigging a fishing rod and trying their hand at casting. They will also learn about tick management in the highlands and how to check you and your pet for ticks if you are walking in the countryside.
Vehicle maintenance is another popular aspect of the program. Most estates typically use a number of 4×4 vehicles and Argocats, so ongoing vehicle maintenance is required to keep an estate running.
Lianne MacLennan added: “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 countryside we love. . We are so lucky in Scotland to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery and an incredible variety of wildlife. Managing moorland for the willow ptarmigan helps protect other rare species and ensures that Scotland’s beautiful moorland can remain timeless and treasured.
“We also have the opportunity to educate young people about game and the game that is on their doorstep, as many of them have never tried game before visiting an estate. The opportunity to cook and taste game – and even attend a game butcher – is an unusual part of the program and a first for many of them.
There are more fishing and shooting jobs in Scotland than those created by Amazon, the BBC and the salmon farming sector combined – with 4,400 full-time direct jobs and 13,100 full-time equivalent positions.