Angus estate achieves coveted wildlife accreditation

Antony Gifford (Managing Partner at Kinnordy Estate) with the WES accreditation award

A RURAL estate in Angus is the latest landholding to earn prestigious international accreditation in recognition of their efforts in wildlife and habitat management and conservation.

Kinnordy Estate, a mixed estate just north of Kirriemuir, has achieved Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) accreditation. WES is a national version of the Wildlife Estates (WE) initiative and is endorsed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General Environment, whose objective is to protect, preserve and improve the environment for present and future generations.

Like all WES accredited members, Kinnordy Estate in Angus, is managed for a delicate balance between environmental, social and economic outcomes. With a mixed operation combining conservation, agriculture, deer management, property, forestry and let fishing and shooting, Kinnordy’s landscape is varied and interesting and offers a mosaic of habitat for a wide range of biodiversity. Currently partly certified organic across their livestock and 100ha arable, as part of their transition to more environmentally sensitive farming, their herd of Luing/Luing-crosses are already outwintered, significantly reducing inputs and leading to healthier stock.

Through a series of AECS initiatives, they have fenced off watercourses, created beetle banks, managed grazing for the benefit of breeding waders and lowland heath habitat and have provided wild bird seed for a variety of species.  Simultaneously, they have been relentlessly controlling grey squirrels, much to the benefit of the local red populations, and have significantly increased their volumes of deadwood to provide habitat for specialist fungi and invertebrates.

Over the last five years, they have planted 300ha of mixed species trees – 60% native and 40% commercial softwoods – to achieve the necessary balance of environmental and ecological outcomes. They are additionally in the midst of a sizeable hedge-planting operation. With help from their local rural skills school class and also AECS funding, 750 meters of new hedgerows across four sites have been established under the plans and are being added to annually.

Their most ambitious project to date is the re-meandering of 1km of the Quharity Burn which received funding from NatureScot’s Nature Restoration Fund in 2022. The work that was completed in 2023 involved realigning the burn’s channel and reconnecting it with its floodplain and tributary.

Antony Gifford, Managing Partner at Kinnordy Estate, said: “Achieving Wildlife Estates Scotland accreditation is a wonderful milestone and underlines the twin pillars of what we try to accomplish at Kinnordy – an estate business with a long-term view built for multi-generational sustainability and secondly, a keen awareness of balance that takes account of people, community, wildlife and the environment – not just economics.

“Our habitat and wildlife management has taken significant steps forward over the past five years but there is much more we plan to do soon. Being part of WES will help that process, not only by benchmarking what has and can be achieved but also by providing shared knowledge and best practice from other landholdings both in Scotland and internationally.”

Caroline Pringle, Project Manager at Wildlife Estates Scotland, said: “There is no shortage of environmental restoration work going on at Kinnordy – to the great credit of the owners and team.

“Given their further ambition to plant another 300ha of woodland, as well as further phases of the river restoration in planning, not only is it likely that wildlife will increase in abundance, but the estate will also build the necessary resilience into their ecological, economic and social environment to help with the challenges that climate change is presenting. We look forward to watching the landscape evolve and monitoring the range of beneficial ecosystem services that the changes bring.”

Achieving Wildlife Estates Scotland accreditation is a challenging process that asks farms and estates to demonstrate they are following the very best practice in wildlife and habitat management.

All types of landholdings, farms and estates can apply for accreditation and Scotland currently sits second in the league table of Wildlife Estates accredited land on 1.25 million acres, with only Spain ahead on approximately 1.6 million acres. Between them, WES accredited landholdings have stewardship of 97 nationally protected sites (SSSI, NNR) and 79 internationally designated sites (SAC, SPA, Ramsar etc).

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