We were very fortunate to have spent last week trekking through the muddied peat of a Scottish estate, surveying peat depths (or sometimes worrying lack thereof).
Nestled on the Western coast of Loch Linnhe, the estate contains the full panorama of Scottish ecologies highlands, lowlands and lochs and the range of biodiversity that brings, from eagles to otters.
But like a lot of estates across the country, overgrazing by sheep and deer, left to roam free, has left its mark on the landscape. The owners and the latest leaseholders are interested in reversing this trend.
We were invited along with several experts, in a variety of fields, to survey the estate, discuss our findings and put together a holistic management plan to address the trend in ecological degradation.
Our role was to provide an overview of the peatlands and identify existing environmental problems, such as the 18th century peat drainage ditches, which are commonplace in historically farmed peatlands. We found that most, if not all, of the peatland is degraded and still degrading owing to the drainage infrastructure and lack of protection from overgrazing.
Although far out of our usual area of operation the estate’s desire (and ability) to focus solely on ecological value, coupled with its picturesque Scottish vista, provides an interesting case study with lessons we hope to be able to adapt to other farm settings.