KIDS CHOSE GAME OVER GAMING

July 12, 2018

Over 100 children from towns and cities have been ditching phones and tablets to learn rural skills such as venison butchery and sheep shearing.  In the last few years Angus Glens Moorland Group has been hosting educational lessons for groups ranging from schools to Glasgow apprentices.  One hundred and ten kids have enjoyed 25 hours of free education from gamekeepers, shepherds and fishing ghillies, covering everything from roe deer butchery to managing predatory species.

As well as promoting active lifestyles and the hill-to-plate journey of wild food, the lessons have served as an antidote to sedentary hours spent by the children on phones and tablets.  Young participants from one school who were surveyed said they spent, on average, 31 hours a week in front of a screen, with one child admitting to devoting 8.5 hours a day.  And while most town dwelling participants had the countryside on their doorstep, the majority acknowledged they rarely got out to enjoy activity in the hills or to see the resident wildlife.  After learning directly from countryside workers, however, the kids demonstrated higher than usual levels of commitment, motivation and enjoyment; something noted by their teachers.

Last week, Angus Glens Moorland Group was shortlisted for a Developing the Young Workforce Dundee and Angus award for a work placement pilot with Brechin High School.  Their education work has been backed by partners, Scottish Youth and the Countryside Education Trust (SYCET), and kids on recent lessons got a chance to shear a sheep and shoot clay targets .  “I’d like to think these lessons will encourage the parents to be proactive in getting the kids out more,” said one of the teachers. “The kids really enjoyed the lessons. They were there every week, getting back late and putting effort into it.  While the kids were out learning on the local estates, it also gave the organisers the chance to see  how they were responding to a life spent largely outdoors.  One of the children is now considering a land based career, perhaps in gamekeeping.  During the sessions, it was interesting to see kids out of their comfort zones and gaining an insight into our roles in the countryside and life on a working sporting estate,” said Lianne MacLennan of Angus Glens Moorland Group, who developed the learning programme.  “There was one child who said, if they were hungry, they would just put something in the microwave, so it was good to be able to teach them about the health benefits of wild food, the management which helps produce it and how it is then prepared. The kids visited a game larder and saw demonstrations of roe deer butchery. They enjoyed a barbecue, prepared by Gamechanger BBQ, of slow cooked rabbit tacos, venison koftas and pheasant pitas. They experienced a more modern way of cooking game which helped to connect them to the food.”

Organisers were keen to offer the children a grassroots view of the countryside that did not shy away from realities.  “Some of the kids started off like blank pages but left with a better understanding of what happens in the countryside, from biting ticks to casting a fly to why a deer stalker will select an old or injured animal to control.  Because the lessons were entirely led by real working people, participants weren’t given a romantic view, but they seemed to appreciate that honesty more,” added Lianne MacLennan.

During 4 sessions with three local High Schools, topics such as species identification, deer management and heather burning were covered.  One of the pupils wrote that they got the chance to see things they would not normally encounter in the town such as the amount of birds and wildlife.

Another wrote that the lessons had made them more ‘mindful about wildlife’ and how ‘meat is prepared’.

GROUS MOORS MAY BE THE CURLEW'S LAST REFUGE

April 15, 2019

Over 100 children from towns and cities have been ditching phones and tablets to learn rural skills such as venison butchery and sheep shearing.  In the last few years Angus Glens Moorland Group has been hosting educational lessons for groups ranging from schools to Glasgow apprentices.  One hundred and ten kids have enjoyed 25 hours of free education from gamekeepers, shepherds and fishing ghillies, covering everything from roe deer butchery to managing predatory species.

As well as promoting active lifestyles and the hill-to-plate journey of wild food, the lessons have served as an antidote to sedentary hours spent by the children on phones and tablets.  Young participants from one school who were surveyed said they spent, on average, 31 hours a week in front of a screen, with one child admitting to devoting 8.5 hours a day.  And while most town dwelling participants had the countryside on their doorstep, the majority acknowledged they rarely got out to enjoy activity in the hills or to see the resident wildlife.  After learning directly from countryside workers, however, the kids demonstrated higher than usual levels of commitment, motivation and enjoyment; something noted by their teachers.

Last week, Angus Glens Moorland Group was shortlisted for a Developing the Young Workforce Dundee and Angus award for a work placement pilot with Brechin High School.  Their education work has been backed by partners, Scottish Youth and the Countryside Education Trust (SYCET), and kids on recent lessons got a chance to shear a sheep and shoot clay targets .  “I’d like to think these lessons will encourage the parents to be proactive in getting the kids out more,” said one of the teachers. “The kids really enjoyed the lessons. They were there every week, getting back late and putting effort into it.  While the kids were out learning on the local estates, it also gave the organisers the chance to see  how they were responding to a life spent largely outdoors.  One of the children is now considering a land based career, perhaps in gamekeeping.  During the sessions, it was interesting to see kids out of their comfort zones and gaining an insight into our roles in the countryside and life on a working sporting estate,” said Lianne MacLennan of Angus Glens Moorland Group, who developed the learning programme.  “There was one child who said, if they were hungry, they would just put something in the microwave, so it was good to be able to teach them about the health benefits of wild food, the management which helps produce it and how it is then prepared. The kids visited a game larder and saw demonstrations of roe deer butchery. They enjoyed a barbecue, prepared by Gamechanger BBQ, of slow cooked rabbit tacos, venison koftas and pheasant pitas. They experienced a more modern way of cooking game which helped to connect them to the food.”

Organisers were keen to offer the children a grassroots view of the countryside that did not shy away from realities.  “Some of the kids started off like blank pages but left with a better understanding of what happens in the countryside, from biting ticks to casting a fly to why a deer stalker will select an old or injured animal to control.  Because the lessons were entirely led by real working people, participants weren’t given a romantic view, but they seemed to appreciate that honesty more,” added Lianne MacLennan.

During 4 sessions with three local High Schools, topics such as species identification, deer management and heather burning were covered.  One of the pupils wrote that they got the chance to see things they would not normally encounter in the town such as the amount of birds and wildlife.

Another wrote that the lessons had made them more ‘mindful about wildlife’ and how ‘meat is prepared’.

 ‘meat is prepared’.

GAMEKEEPERS SAY GROUSE MOORS ARE NATURE RESERVES 

July 12, 2018

Gamekeepers and land managers throughout Scotland have launched a new moorland wildlife campaign today (Friday 13th July) on the eve of the UK’s first ever Bioblitz tour.

 

The #WeHaveWildlife campaign aims to raise awareness of the plethora of wildlife thriving on Scottish moorland and counter the misconceptions that nature reserves and wildlife centres are the only places to find wildlife.

 

Chris Packham’s ten-day Bioblitz tour (#WeWantWildlife) will kick off in the Scottish Highlands, visiting various sites throughout Scotland as part of the UK wide tour, recording every plant and wildlife species seen along the way to set a nature benchmark for future audits. All forms of wildlife will be investigated in this snapshot of the countryside from flies to fungi, mammals to moths and birds to butterflies.

 

Managed moorlands have wildlife in abundance, from craneflies to adders, lizards, mountain hares and red deer, to wild plants including orchids, juniper and heather, to ground-nesting birds, owls and raptors.

 

A wide range of rare bird species including curlew, lapwing, black grouse and merlin are thriving on managed moors as a result of predator control and habitat managememt - not least the red grouse, the only species unique to the UK, found only on moorland.

 

Lianne MacLennan, coordinator of the Grampian and Angus Glens Moorland Groups, who is spearheading the #WeHaveWildlife campaign, said: “There is an abundance of wildlife throughout the whole of our countryside, with moorland in particular offering a rich biodiversity in which a wide variety of wildlife and habitat can flourish, thanks to the efforts of our gamekeepers and land managers.

 

“Disappointingly none of the Bioblitz sites being visited are on moorland, with the tour focusing around nature reserves and wildlife centres. We support the Bioblitz exercise in establishing a benchmark for wildlife however, moorland sites should have been included as part of this audit to gain a true picture of the wildlife we actually have around us.” 

 

GWCT’s guide to Conserving the Curlew (June 2017) showed that in areas where predator control existed, the curlew population increased by 14% per year.

 

A biodiversity audit conducted by the Game Conservancy Deutschland found 103 different bird species thriving on Glenogil Estate in the Angus Glens this year – an increase of 51% since 2015. The study also recorded a higher number of breeding pairs of golden plover found on Glenogil Estate than in the whole of Germany.

 

Gamekeepers across Scotland are also making concerted efforts to ensure the survival of the black grouse. In Strathbraan, Perthshire a 20-year programme of woodland planting, grazing reduction, rotational heather burning, predator and bracken control has seen black grouse rise from very low numbers to around 50 male black grouse in 2018.

 

Wildlife Estates Scotland’s latest annual report also showed that eleven accredited estates reported the presence of golden eagles, with seven of these reporting 19 pairs. Eleven estates also recorded sightings of hen harriers with four reporting 18 breeding pairs. Buzzards were also reported on 20 estates, with a total estimated population of over 920 birds.

 

Gamekeeper, Garry MacLennan from the Angus Glens Moorland Group, said: “Bioblitz audits have become valuable tools for ecologists to get an overview of a site’s living species and we have been working hard with accredited scientists and research institutes to chart the array of species found on estates within our moorland group. We are committed in our conservation efforts and given the recent studies, it is evident that keepered ground is notably more successful for bird conservation than other areas.

 

“Mr Packham believes that nature reserves throughout the country are the only places to see abundant wildlife however, this is simply not true. There are many conservation success stories across Scotland’s grouse moors, not least the breeding success of some moorland birds and waders, including species of conservation concern such as curlew and lapwing. We would be delighted to welcome Chris Packham and his Bioblitz team onto our moorland to gain an understanding of the vast array of wildlife flourishing on Scotland’s moors.”  

 

Estates and gamekeepers across the country have been stepping up efforts to educate the public on moorland biodiversity through their #WeHaveWildlife campaign and encouraging all to get outdoors, take a walk on the ‘wildlife’ side and document the array of wildlife species spotted en route.

 

To download and print off a ‘spot the species’ form, visit http://tiny.cc/gmgspotthespecies

 

 

Take a walk on the ‘wildlife’ side starting this Saturday 14th July 2018!

 

#wehavewildlife #walkonthewildlifeside #hillwalking #familyfunactivity #countryside #wildlife #scotland #gmg

GAMEKEEPERS AND CHARITIES GAME FOR GIVING AT XMAS

December 22, 2016

Gamekeepers in Angus and Grampian have partnered with three family support charities to provide Christmas dinner with a difference for 87 households.  While turkey may be the traditional festive fare, ‘Game for Giving’ partnership is donating lean venison and fresh pheasant from the regions’ hills and woods to support vulnerable families.

Over the past week, gamekeepers and stalkers have been sourcing the Christmas game whilst undertaking estate duties, with rare delicacies such as woodcock and snipe set to feature, too.  Vegetables, crackers and sweets have been added to the parcels, ready for delivery to charities in Banchory, Brechin and Montrose, assisted by award winning butchers and restaurants.

The innovation is a collaboration between Angus Glens and Grampian Moorland groups, charities ‘Home-Start Deeside’ and ‘Just Play’ as well as ‘Christmas Day Community Meal in Montrose’.   In Grampian, hill venison has been donated by syndicate members of The Scottish Gamekeepers Association, who stalked the deer themselves, with pheasants and vegetables provided by Invercauld and Finzean estates. Home-Start charity in Deeside will distribute the yuletide parcels to families on Christmas Eve, carefully lardered and prepared by Sheridan’s Butchers in Ballater.

Yesterday, gamekeepers and helpers were packaging casseroles of Angus venison, pheasant, woodcock and snipe, sourced in Glen Esk, and prepared by Brymer’s Butcher of Brechin and Sinclair’s Larder in Edzell.  Complete with pre-cooked vegetables and recipe cards, the game casseroles will go to the families of under fives affected by parental imprisonment, an initiative supported by Scottish Government.  The food parcels will also be distributed at the popular Community Meal at the YMCA in Montrose on Christmas Day, which provides a cooked dinner for those eating alone at Christmas.

“The moorland group’s generosity is really appreciated. In fact we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of everyone in the local area, ” said Katie Baxter, a Community Member behind the Christmas Day meal in Montrose.  Last year, we had people from all walks of life at the meal, from elderly people who might have been alone or had family overseas, to homeless people grateful for some good food and company.   The Game for Giving idea will give people- who have maybe never tasted game or don’t know much about it- a new experience as well as tasty food.”

In Angus, game birds, venison and pheasants were supplied by Gannochy, Invermark and Glenogil estates.  Lianne MacLennan, Co-Ordinator of Angus Glens and Grampian Moorland groups, said: “It’s been great working with these charities, who do amazing work to help people. Some are doing this all year round, not just Christmas time. The food the groups have donated is local and fresh and we hope folk enjoy it. In Angus, extra pheasant breasts with game cooking cards have been put in the parcels as well, to encourage people to try cooking it for themselves, if they wish.”

The Game for Giving project has won the praise of North East Scotland MSP, Liam Kerr, who has visited some of the partner estates. “Home Start charity does a vital job supporting families in our community and I am aware Angus Glens Moorland Group and other moorland groups play a similar role.  This is a really good project which I fully support.”

GAMEKEEPERS TURN FASHION MODELS TO ASSIST SALMON RESEARCH

October 25, 2016

A group of hardy Grampian gamekeepers and their dogs have become unlikely local fashion icons in a bid to help research into the ‘king of fish’ on the River Dee.  Gamekeepers from Grampian Moorland Group and local ghillies ditched their camouflage at the weekend and took a turn at being catwalk models in a sell-out show in lower Deeside.

Accustomed more to tending game on the heather hills, the gamekeepers were given lessons in walking and turning for the gallery, which consisted of admiring members of the community and visitors.  Threatening to upstage them on the piazza were their working and pet dogs, resplendent in special canine fashion jackets.​

It now looks as if the hours in vogue, enjoyed by the keepers, their partners, and four legged friends, will raise a four figure sum for the River Dee Trust. The sum will go towards education and science on the famous river which was damaged by floods at the end of 2015, which washed away fragile spawning habitats and wrecked fishing huts.

The fashion show and Game Supper at a packed Finzean Hall was organised by local artist and trustee of the River Dee Trust, Mel Shand, with clothing supplied for the ‘models’ by Aberdeen outdoor clothing specialist, Country Ways.  Model Luke Liddle, a gamekeeper at Glen Dye, who took to the boards with his dog, Lola, laughed off his tag as a ‘natural’.  He has no plans- as yet- to ditch sporting guests and habitat management for haute couture.  “It was really good fun although it is not something us gamekeepers are used to. Our clothes are very much of the working variety, normally, and crowds of 100 people are pretty rare on the hills, unless it is a shoot day.  It was all for a good cause, though, and I think everyone had a fun night- but we’ll not be giving up the day job!”

 

Co-Ordinator of Grampian Moorland Group, Lianne MacLennan, who also did a turn on the fashion parade, said it was great to see the gamekeepers relax for a worthy cause, towards the close of another busy grouse season.  “It was brilliant to see the keepers out of their comfort zone and having a real giggle. Luke was very popular with the audience so he may yet have an alternative career.  The group, along with the rest of the community, joined in the efforts after the floods and they were really pleased to take part again. One of our members, Hedge Shand, supplied the fresh game for the meal and those who weren’t modelling helped with parking, piping and other essentials on the night.”

 

Earlier in 2016, 70 Grampian gamekeepers teamed up with community groups and South Grampian Wildfire Group  to help clear tonnes of debris that swamped local villages and farmland in the wake of Storm Frank.  Aided by machinery from local sporting estates, they removed parts of broken caravans, white goods and beer kegs from parts of the Dee and surrounding farmland on the flood plain.

 

Rosemary Michie, owner of Country Ways, said: “The evening was great fun and a super opportunity to meet so many people with a passion for the countryside. The models took it all in their stride – even the four-legged ones!”

GAMEKEEPERS TO HELP FLOOD-HIT BALLATER GET SET FOR TOURIST SEASON

March 01, 2016

Seventy gamekeepers rallied together to help a flood-ravaged north-east village, which felt the brunt of Storm Frank, prepare for the important tourist season by removing tonnes of debris from the River Dee.

GRAMPIAN GAMEKEEPERS ENROL FOR LIFELINE SERVICE

May 31, 2016

Gamekeepers and estate staff in the Grampian area are doing their bit to save lives by signing up for regular donations as members of the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service.  Over 20 gamekeepers, many first time donors, decided to volunteer after learning of accidents on the mountains where emergency supplies have proved vital.

CALL FOR CONTROLLED 'MUIRBURN' TO HELP PREVENT FUTURE WILDFIRES

May 14, 2016

Muirburn is often mis-understood in terms of its function, purpose and benefits to the landscape. This film will guide viewers through a brief understanding of muirburn from the very people who use it. Not only is muirburn essential for protecting our upland heather moors, amassing 70% of the world's habitat, it benefits an array of wildlife and is essential for the prevention of wildfires.

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