Friday, 17 February 2017

Workshop - Sleat, Isle of Skye - 16th February 2017

Some of the delegates
This second workshop was based at Sabhal Mor Ostaig, (the Gaelic College), on the Sleat Peninsula of Skye. Lady Lucilla Noble kindly allow us access onto Fearann Eilean Iarmain, her 23,000 acre estate on the Sleat peninsula, and Scott Mackenzie, the estate's gamekeeper, and his assistant Craig Jackson, acted as our guides for the day.  Malcolm Younger, who is a member of the Moorland Forum's Muirburn Group, carries out advisory work on the estate and was also present.  Sabhal Mor Ostaig provided excellent accommodation and first class catering facilities (it is highly recommended for a visit!).

Michael Bruce with leaf blower
Michael Bruce (Firebreak Services Ltd) and Graham Sullivan (SNH) represented the other members of the Muirburn Group at the workshop and we entertained 20 delegates that I have categorised as:

Grand Total

I welcomed the input from crofters at this workshop, as getting this input was the reason for holding one of the workshops in the north west.  I was keen to stress that the principal aim of the workshop was to establish what people in crofting areas want from the Code.  I see yesterday's discussion as the start of a dialogue that will aim to bring muirburn techniques up to date and make the Code relevant to all parts of Scotland.

The key points to take forward for further consideration include:
Scott Mackenzie holding forth
  • The revised Code must address crofting issues clearly.
  • Move the Code away from being just a 'club to beat crofters with'.
  • Facilitate better coordination and communications between the different interests.
  • A risk based approach to decide the size of the fire and the number of people required to burn safely.
  • A crofter employing bad practice to burn on common grazing puts at risk the payments from SGRPID to all shareholders.
  • There was support for the production of a small guidance card, but some people did not think it would serve any purpose.
  • Protection for otters and badgers.
  • Protection for drinking water supplies.
  • Funding for the establishment of a training or fire group.
  • Promotion of the completed Code to those who do not want to engage.
  • Neighbour notification requirements do not work well on common grazings.
  • Loss of fertility, particularly phosphorus, associated with regular burning.
  • The Code should be kept as short and simple as possible.
The next workshop will take place at Edinglassie, Huntly on 21st February.  The final workshop, to consider the feedback from the previous workshops, will be held at Battleby on 14th March.

See the draft revised version of the Muirburn Code at: 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Workshop - Tollishill Estate, Carfraemill - 7th February 2017

Some of the delegates on Tollishill Estate
My thanks go to our hosts, Northumberland Estates,  represented by Craig Dickman, the headkeeper, and to all who attended the workshop.  Carfraemill Hotel provided an excellent meeting room and kept us fed and watered beautifully.

In total, there were 23 of us at the workshop.  Anne and I were joined by Tim Baynes (Scottish Moorland Group) and Merlin Becker (GWCT) to represent the Steering Group.  This is the breakdown of delegates:

Steering Group

The aim of this workshop, and those that follow, is to gather the views of delegates about the revised Code.  We had a wide-ranging discussion in the meeting room and then on the Tollishill Estate, overlooking The Hopes Estate to the north.

Looking north onto The Hopes Estate
We covered a lot of ground during the discussion, but key points to take forward for further discussion include:
  • How to use the Code to encourage collaborative working across different land holdings so that coordinated management and burning plans are developed at a landscape scale.
  • Review the guidance in the Code that the minimum number of people in a burning team should be three - local experience in the Lammermuirs is that burning can take place safely with two people.
  • The guidance about the size of fire should be considered further - the limit of 50m width is not appropriate in all circumstances.
  • The practicality and benefits of buffer zones against watercourses.
  • There is support for the concept of publishing a small Guidance Card to cover checklist items.
  • There is an appetite for more technical information being made available.
  • It is accepted that there might be advantages from the development of some formal training & certification for muirburn, led by the industry.
  • Liaison with the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service was patchy.  Delegates were asked to follow the guidance in the Code but to provide examples of occasions where the guidance was not working to the Lammermuirs Moorland Group or to the Moorland Forum.
  • It will be useful to include details of burning & cutting equipment through the Code's website.
  • The 'cool burn' concept is understood, liked and applied by gamekeepers.
The next workshops take place on the Sleat peninsula on Skye on 16th February, and at Edinglassie, Huntly on 21st February.  The final workshop will be held at Battleby on 14th March, and this will aim to consider all the feedback from the previous workshops.

See the draft revised version of the Muirburn Code at: 

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

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