MAR LODGE - Manoeuvres and Management

Since the last issue of Mountain Views, the Mar Lodge Independent Review Panel has reported its findings. The report itself is simply too long to be reproduced here, but can be found at

Some of the panel findings are controversial. For example, it recommends a “more integrated delivery of sporting and conservation commitments”, effectively giving sporting activities more profile, and the erection of a new strategic deer fence. Neither of these recommendations are something that we would support.

NTS staff at Mar Lodge have produced a detailed action plan, involving a suitable compromise for the way forward.

The Cairngorms Campaign sent in a detailed critique of the panel findings. They make a number of detailed points and also address the role of the surrounding estates.
However, we decided that the time for this type of input had gone by and took the opportunity to send the attached very general letter to Kate Mayor. As you will see, we chose to emphasise three points; the staff at Mar Lodge need to be supported, that now is not the time for a sharp change in direction in deer management policy and that importantly the surrounding estates need to share in the solution rather than exacerbating the problem.


Protecting the coastal and mountain environment of Scotland

National Trust for Scotland
5 Charlotte Square

23rd February, 2012

For the attention of Ms Kate Mayor, Chief Executive

Dear Ms. Mayor,

Mar Lodge Estate — Report from the Independent Review Panel

I’m writing to you as both a long time personal member of the National Trust for Scotland and as chair of the North East Mountain Trust. The Independent Review Panel has produced its report and the Trust has set out its response. The purpose of this letter is not to challenge either document but to urge you and your organisation to take the present period to reflect and steer future priorities without abandoning the original principles that drove management of the estate.

The work at Mar Lodge is, in many ways, pioneering and has already achieved major successes. The panel gives insufficient credit for this. This sort of pioneering work, by its very nature will need adjusting as time goes on. Corrections should be expected by everybody connected with the work. In no sense should such corrections be seen as negative.

The panel failed to focus sufficiently on the role of the surrounding estates. They have removed winter feeding ground but haven’t contributed to any efforts to mitigate the effects. Going forward, we believe that your staff at Mar Lodge need high level support in dealing with surrounding estates, who need to play their part rather than simply criticize the Trust’s efforts.

We fully support Mar Lodge estate continuing to be run as a traditional sporting estate but suggest that the panel gives undue emphasis to this aim in its report. We suggest that this aim needs to be set in the context of the aim to “conserve” the estate. 50 years ago, the estate was run as a sporting estate and yet deer numbers in the area were a lot lower than they are now. Sporting activities can be undertaken in conjunction with conservation and do not automatically require excessive deer numbers.

Constructing the major fence as recommended will require considerable funds. We assume that stiles and “grouse-proofing” will be included. However, no matter how well constructed the fence will create a hard boundary detracting from the landscape qualities of the area. We urge you to consider alternatives to both reduce the landscape impact and hopefully reduce the costs.

In the view of the North East Mountain Trust, it is vital that, at this point, the Trust stays the course. Corrections are a part of this but sharp changes are not. If you do stay the course, we can look forward to the creation of an example of what a well-managed Scottish sporting estate should look like.
Please continue to support your staff on the ground at the estate. They do an excellent job.

Yours sincerely,

David Windle


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