Mar Lodge 5-Year Plan & Vision

NEMT was invited by National Trust for Scotland to comment on their draft 5-year Plan & Vision.

NEMT commented as follows:

First, we fully agree that the changes that NTS have brought about are "remarkable". The woodland regeneration that you have achieved so far is a true success story. The future prospects indeed look good.

We encourage you to make the future vision a bit more ambitious. You might not get there but you might get further by trying. Could more be made of the woodland corridors linking very different parts of the estate and other estates? Such a vision could be very inspirational.

In contrast, the masterplan would benefit from more detail and firmer targets, as per below. The plan on page 11, shows two specific activities and four long general bars. More detail here would definitely help.

Surely mention should be made of the Wild Land Area status? Does more need to be made of its status as a NNR, possibly a specific section on "Nature Conservation"?

The Landscape
We are pleased to see that you plan to stop routine muirburn. This is another excellent step forward and we shall be very interested to see the results.

We don't understand what is meant by reconnecting watercourses with their flood plains. Surely, they are already connected? Maybe this could be made a bit clearer?

Financial Sustainability
We agree that this is an important objective and we support the key proposal of a visitor centre at the Linn of Dee car park. The plan needs to consider the impact of the proposed increase in visitor numbers. How will the less desirable aspects of increased visitor numbers be mitigated? Will there need to be an increase in the number of rangers? The number of camper vans is very likely to increase and will require additional facilities. Motor bikes are already seen beyond Derry Lodge and, again, numbers will only increase.

Similarly, the negative aspects of mountain biking can be expected to increase. Bikes are now the normal means of getting to Derry Lodge. Are there ways of discouraging them being taken further in?

Built Heritage
The document refers to plans to develop Derry Lodge as a "mountain bothy". We understand a mountain bothy to be a remote building, unmanned and with minimal facilities. We don't think that this what you're planning to create with Derry Lodge and suggest that you need to be very clear with your terminology to ensure that people all fully understand what you're proposing to do. There's an obvious risk that money spent developing Derry Lodge will fail to generate an adequate return and being very clear about the objectives will help to avoid this.

Deer Numbers
A major factor in what has been achieved so far is the management of deer numbers. We note the target of less than 1/km2 in woodland regeneration areas but suggest that a target of 5/km2 across the other areas is too generous. Sources in the Forestry Commission recommend a target of less than 3/km2 and Glenfeshie estate has an even lower target. Deer stalking can certainly be viable at a density of 3/km2, particularly over an area of more than 20,000 hectares.

We think that an important part of the experience of the estate is the sense of wildness, and being remote from civilisation. In order to maintain this important feature, great care needs to be taken in introducing any additional signage. We suggest that no signs are erected outwith the planted forest areas or the immediate vicinity of buildings.

The proposed use of local volunteers is a good suggestion. However, you will need to liaise with TMTP and JMT who both currently organise voluntary activities. The pool of local volunteers is limited and the type of activities on offer and the scheduling needs to be coordinated.

Stakeholder Relations
We're pleased to see that community relations have now been fixed but suggest that this should remain a key part of any 5 year plan. They can all too easily regress. The plan should contain ideas for maintaining good relationships. For example, specific initiatives encouraging visitors to stay in the local area using local facilities. We suggest that relations with neighbouring estates need to feature in the plan.

The proposed targets in Section 13 - Management Action Plan are loose and ill-defined. More defined targets, including more numbers, will help you to manage the estate. We hope that you find these comments helpful.

Dave Windle (on behalf of North East Mountain Trust)

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