Creating change is both an incredible privilege and an important opportunity. In the fight against the climate crisis and biodiversity collapse, the actions we take today not only impact us right now but can also create hope for the future. We understand change can be daunting, even scary, but we stand together at a pivotal juncture where we must accept the necessity of change be that in our approach to land use, tree planting, farming, and/or wind development.
We have the opportunity to Scale Conservation and redefine the relationship between people and the environment delivering a positive impact across 10 sites totalling almost 30,000 acres. But our approach for each site is different. And that’s how it should be, no two sites are the same, therefore no two plans should be the same. Each site holds a different geographic location, a unique landscape, specific habitats, and differing baseline levels of biodiversity on top of community, housing, tourism, and employment needs.
Now, while we know this is the right approach for us, it does make it a little more challenging to answer one of our most asked questions… ‘what are your plans?’. If you haven’t guessed yet, you won’t be surprised when you hear that the answer is incredibly different from site to site – we’ve said it before we don’t have the luxury of black and white, almost everything we do sits in shades of grey.
So, what does this mean and what does it look like? Well, for the first year (sometimes longer) we educate ourselves, investing time, energy and resource, both physical and financial, into the patient understanding of the landscape, gaining valuable ecological data, community knowledge, and history to determine our immediate and long-term steps. We need to allow for this time, not only to understand what is possible but also to give the land the opportunity to tell us what it needs, not the other way around.
Invergeldie is one of our incredible Scottish estates totalling nearly 12,000 acres. Creating a long-term plan for a site of this scale takes time and energy, consisting of a huge amount of unseen work that plays a vital role in our immediate changes and long-term approach. This includes bird surveys, soil sampling, peat probing, habitat mapping, community engagement, built property surveys, tenancy management, deer surveys, and farming research.
We are now approaching 1 year of our custodianship of Invergeldie, and wanted to share a little about our learning to date and our and thinking thus far.
Woodland Planting: We hope to plant an array of different tree species, from low-level shrublands to large native woodlands. But to do so, we need to have a fully developed tree-planting plan. Enter, Tree Story, our planting partners, based in Edinburgh, who help us determine everything from planting location, planting pattern (which we will always choose to be as natural as possible), tree numbers, and tree species, which for Invergeldie will welcome a large variety to help create a biodiversity focused woodland that provides lasting benefits for nature.
To help make these decisions Tree Story are in the midst of completing a series of species surveys, soil sampling, and planting assessments. We hope to have this information gathered and confirmed by the end of the year, to start a formal process in 2024 focusing on where, what, and when we aim to plant.
Habitat Restoration: At this stage, we are gathering information on the existing species at Invergeldie,including their variety and conditions and the history of the place to understand habitats now sadly lost…We’re learning about breeding patterns and grounds, potential migration routes, and the presence (or lack thereof) of rare and keystone species. The immediate biodiversity of any site is in direct correlation to the health of its habitat. In partnership with Tree Story, Galbraith and a number of external specialist partners understanding the current condition of the landscape helps us to develop our approach to habitat restoration, tree planting, and species reintroduction, peatland restoration, and hopefully so much more…
Farming: Invergeldie currently holds a farming enterprise that consists of around 2,000 sheep with an incredibly hard-working, dedicated shepherd living and running the farm from site. In the last 12 months we have spent time learning the ins and outs of this farming enterprise, inviting expert advice from Galbraith to gain a deeper knowledge of how we can incorporate farming into our plans at Invergeldie. Farming has been part of the estate for generations, and we hope to continue this in the future, but the land has been overgrazed by sheep and deer and we need to allow the land to breathe and heal, which means, changing our approach.
As a result, we have made reductions in the number of sheep across the estate and with time we hope to reintroduce cattle back into the landscape. By following regenerative farming practices, any activities we undertake to produce food will also aim to improve soil quality and provide a wider diversity of habitats, bridging the gap between conservation and farming.
Wind Development: One of the biggest drivers of biodiversity loss is climate change, and to us Scaling Conservation means tackling the root causes of this loss. We believe that we need to move to renewable energy, and that we cannot continue burning fossil fuels. Do we hope that developing a wind farm is possible within the estate? Yes, we do.
Wind developments provide hope for our future, and we are extremely excited by the prospect of there being a chance to have wind turbines within the landscape. Albeit one that is right for that location, thought-out, and with the environment and community properly considered. As we plan to be as transparent as possible with this project, especially to those local to Invergeldie, please be aware that we’re still in the very early stages of this development, understanding whether it is even possible to gain access on to and through the site for wind development.
We will be holding community consultations with our fantastic wind development partner Low Carbon to understand the thoughts and feelings of the local community at Invergeldie. We believe the benefits from this project are huge, both for the environment and the people; clean renewable energy, jobs to the area, income into the local economy, and connectivity across our site thanks to the access routes needed for the development.
Our Founder Rich Stockdale has written an article on our current approach to wind. The article highlights the internal struggles we face with these big decisions. We would recommend you read this should you want to know more about our approach to wind.
The Next 12 months
It’s important to note we know very little so far. The vision for Invergeldie is still only being mapped out and is likely to change (and change again) in the coming 12 months as we continue our data collection, understand our survey results, consider wind development, and refine our farming and tree planting plans alongside so many more possibilities in this incredible part of the Scotland.
We are always happy to hear from anybody who wishes to learn more about Invergeldie, we welcome your questions, feedback, and criticism. Our fantastic Estate Manager Tara Fraser, firstname.lastname@example.org is there to support, discuss, and answer any questions you may have.
Elly Steers- Head of Story Telling
Abbey Dudas – Engagement Specialist