In the autumn of 2001 the heavily over-grazed hinterland of a local deer farm comprising 418 hectares (1100 acres) was put on the open market. The area of land lies adjacent to the 1300 metre iconic mountain of Schiehallion in undulating open country. The ground largely consists of heather-moorland with occasional boggy areas and contrasting limestone outcrops, an anomalous small Scots pine plantation, two burns (streams) running through it and the two hills, Dùn Beag and Dùn Coillich, the latter rising to 572 m.
At the time, the whole area was heavily overgrazed by sheep, deer and feral goats. A group of about 15 local people held a series of discussions leading to the conclusion that the area had great potential for community-based restoration, with the aim of creating a wildlife conservation area with observational and recreational facilities. Formal discussions took place with each of the 12 Community Councils in Highland Perthshire and 3 public meetings were held. The purchase cost of over £200,000 was raised locally and we took possession on 1st May 2002. Its purchase was the first community-led land buy-out in Perthshire and was made possible by great generosity from within Highland Perthshire.
Management aims and objectives
Through J & H Mitchell WS, Pitlochry, the Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust (HPCLT) was formed as a Scottish Charity and Limited Company, with the following objectives (which you can find laid out in full in the Memorandum and Articles).
- To benefit the communities of Highland Perthshire... through the sustainable use and management of land, water, habitat and wildlife.
- To promote and advance education... including the conservation, enhancement, management and responsible enjoyment of Scotland's natural environment... and to provide, administer and maintain facilities, projects and policies.
- To promote protect and conserve the biodiversity of Highland Perthshire for the benefit of its communities, its natural ecosystems and its wildlife.
We have a Woodland Grant Scheme in place, with the aim of re-establishing native woodland over about half the area. The whole area is fenced, previously to keep deer and sheep in, now to keep them out because they would eat young trees. In essence, it is our vision to turn the clock back to what this land might have been like, say, 300 years ago – a mosaic of mixed woodland, heathland, wetland and limestone edges and grassland, together with the associated wildlife. Thus we aim to create an environment for both wildlife and for personal well-being. In these goals we are sympathetically aided by our neighbour to the west, the John Muir Trust, which owns the eastern slopes of Schiehallion up to the summit, and has comparable aims.
In the process we aim to include as many members of the community as possible, particularly young people from the schools in Highland Perthshire and organisations such as Beavers, Cubs and Scouts. We hope that young people will come back to Dùn Coillich in 20 years time and be able to say "I planted some of these trees; I helped to create this marvellous place with its wildlife".
» Read more about the Highland Perthshire Communities Land Trust here.