Golden Plover Award 2017 winner Fearann Eilean Iarmain was celebrated at a special event laid on by Lindsays at the Scottish Game Fair on Friday 30 June. The Skye estate saw off tough competition from two other finalists to win the award, which is jointly run by The Heather Trust and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) Scotland.
The Golden Plover Award is held each year to celebrate the very best of progressive, innovative upland management in Scotland, with a particular emphasis on balance and integration. Now in its fifth year, the Award was given a geographical theme in 2017, and applicants were sought from across the north Highlands and West Coast, including the Hebrides. There was a good level of interest from across the Gàidhealtachd, and the judges honed down the applicants to a final shortlist of three, with site visits carried out earlier in June.
Fearann Eilean Iarmain extends through the parishes of Sleat and Strath in the southern part of Skye and is based around a network of crofts, farms and hill ground with extensive areas of regenerated and native woodland. It is home to a wide variety of birdlife including breeding populations of hen harrier, greenshank, curlew, golden plover and white tailed as well as golden eagles, and work is actively undertaken to promote the conservation of many ground nesting bird species.
Tenant farmers and crofters maintain numbers of hill sheep and conduct muirburn in a co-operative arrangement designed to benefit all stakeholders. Cutting heather has been put forward as an alternative to burning where appropriate, particularly in the areas where blanket bog could be sensitive to burning. In keeping with Sir Iain Noble’s vision when he arrived on Skye in 1972, Fearann Eilean Iarmain is committed to supporting and growing the local economy and in particular the Gaelic community through the provision of year-round employment and career opportunities as well as continuing Sir Iain’s projects to develop affordable housing. A whisky company with international distribution, two small hotels of character and an art gallery are also part of Fearann Eilean Iarmain, with a new gin distillation project currently being developed, providing further new jobs. Fearann Eilean Iarmain continues with further business initiatives as well as developing a range of sustainable enterprises, which balance and complement one another.
The competition was extremely close and both runners-up were highly commended. Reay Forest in Sutherland is a traditional deer stalking estate that has made major investments and progress in renewable energy. The judges were impressed with the wealth of knowledge on the estate, and were encouraged by future plans for peatland management being considered as part of a Carbon Action Plan. Meanwhile, Ardnamurchan Estate on the West Coast has established a reputation for innovative deer management, and has been closely involved in the development of wildlife tourism in the area.
Having been presented with a print of a Golden Plover by the celebrated wildlife artist Colin Woolf, Fearann Eilean Iarmain gamekeeper Scott McKenzie commented on how important the award was to the estate. He said:
“It’s a real recognition of all our hard work. We have got a great set-up at Eilean Iarmain, and we’re always trying new things. This award goes to show what can be achieved when you work together, and we hope the Golden Plover will help to really put us on the map for the future.”
Photo shows (left to right): Adam Smith, Director, GWCT Scotland; Craig Jackson and Scott MacKenzie,
Fearann Eilean Iarmain; Michael Yellowlees, Head of Rural Services, Lindsays; Ian Coghill, Chairman,
GWCT; Richard May, The Heather Trust; Simon Thorp, Director, The Heather Trust.