Education programme for Speyside and other parts of Scotland gives insight to pupils about rural conservation and land management job opportunities
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CHILDREN from Speyside will be part of an extensive education programme about rural conservation and land management.
Primary and secondary school pupils in the Angus Glens, Grampian, Southern Uplands, Tayside, Strathdearn and Speyside will benefit from five consecutive weeks of moorland education sessions, which is part of a bid to tackle depopulation and fill the rural skills gap.
The students will experience first-hand practical demonstrations of the daily workings of a Scottish estate covering everything from upland sheep farming to river conservation, wading birds, working ponies, renewable energy, to deer management and game cookery.
Estates taking part in the programme include Dunecht, Dalhousie, Glenogil, Gannochy, Lochan and Logiealmond.
Lianne MacLennan, national coordinator of Scotland’s regional moorland groups, says the activities are designed in partnership with schools to engage the pupils but are underpinned by a serious aim:
“The Estates That Educate programme stemmed from the need to develop pathways to rural work. In many areas of Scotland young people leaving school feel they need to move to Edinburgh or Glasgow for work, and this is a real threat to rural Scotland.
"We want to ensure that rural communities survive and reverse the trend of rural depopulation. There are jobs in rural areas but young people often aren’t aware of them. This is a programme of hands-on taster sessions that children wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to experience.”
One session covers biodiversity, where the students will learn how to spot and record various species through sight and sound. Rare birds such as curlew, lapwing, redshank, golden eagle and buzzard are thriving in Scotland’s uplands.
The programme also explains the role of a gamekeeper, a ghillie and a shepherd, with demonstrations of working dogs, working ponies and sheep shearing. Students are able to try out fishing, how to set a fishing rod up and have a go at casting. They will also learn about tick management in the uplands and how to check yourself and your pet for ticks if you have been out walking in the countryside.
Vehicle maintenance is another popular aspect of the programme. Most estates typically use a number of 4 x 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 the countryside that we love. We are so lucky in Scotland to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery and an amazing variety of wildlife. Moorland management for red grouse helps protect other rare species and ensures Scotland’s beautiful moorlands can remain timeless and treasured.
“We also have the opportunity to educate young people about the venison and game that is on their doorstep as many of them have never tried game before visiting an estate. The chance to cook and taste game – and even see venison butchery – is an unusual element of the programme and a first for many of them.”
There are more jobs in the fishing and shooting sector in Scotland than those created by Amazon, the BBC, and the salmon farming sector put together – with 4400 direct full-time jobs and 13,100 full-time-equivalent posts.