A small band of dedicated Scottish Land & Estates members gathered at Kinnox Farm, near Glespin, part of the Douglas and Angus Estates, for an excellent three part Walk & Talk event on the 22nd August.
Kinnox Farm is the base site of the Glentaggart Opencast Coal Site restoration which was the first port of call for the event. The group gathered outside the site office where they were greeted by Grant Conchie, Estate Manager who introduced the agenda for a day not set, before explaining the history of the Glentaggart site.
Operated by Scottish Coal from 2000, until the company went into liquidation in 2013. The site was leased by Scottish Coal, and on liquidation reverted back to the estate, who then sought restoration of the site using the £2.5 million bond. A plan for restoration by Hargreaves was successfully agreed and 1.8 million of the bond was released for the site restoration. The end result of this process however does not leave a landscape which can be readily be reinstated as agricultural or forestry. Much of the topsoil was peat and this was not used in the restoration, rather left with its new growth and ecosystem.
With this situation, a partnership with DIGIT Resource Management, a subsidiary of the William Tracy Group. The group were introduced to two DIGIT staff, who explained the partnership arrangement which exists between DIGIT and the estate. DIGIT use soil analysis to determine the most suitable mix of ‘waste’ products which will provide the suitable conditioning to create a sustainable and fertile soil across the site. Having heard the theory, the group then travelled up the hill to the end of the restoration site to watch the double-dig process used by DIGIT to introduce the soil conditioning, and incorporated into the soil, working with two large excavators. The onsite visit was very interesting as it gave a true impression of the poor condition of the soil before the conditioning, and only the occasional whiff of an unpleasant odour as the trucks passed, gave away what was being used for the conditioning. Having satisfied their curiosity, and having been suitably buffeted by the wind, the group left Kinnox and headed to Newmains.
The subject of interest at Newmains, was the estate’s 220kW Froeling woodchip boiler, which through a small district heating network is tasked with heating 11 houses and the estate office, all within the curtilage of the farm. Designed to provide heat with chip produced from wood from the estate’s forestry, the system has had some issue over its first few years of operation, and Steve Luker, from re:heat was on hand to discuss some of the issues which as consultants they have identified. The quality of fuel (as is often the case) was the most significant issue, and the group looked at the fuel storage and drying facilities. The drying floor is heated via the boiler, but some inefficiencies were highlighted by Steve. The new legislation around District Heating Networks, and also the local authority view of the rateable value of the boiler plant will also have a impact on the future of this plant.
The last stop on the Walk & Talk was at the Scrib Tree, the stylish Coffee Shop in the centre of Douglas village. The group were welcomed here by John Gold, who started the Scrib Tree as a joint venture with the estate. After being served delicious coffees, and equally good scones and cakes, John then recounted the journey which lead to the estate buying the derelict coal yard within the centre of village and then went onto building the new ‘longhouse’ style building on the site, and how the concept of the Scrib Tree evolved. Nearing its 4th year in operation, the Scrib Tree has a steady stream of customers, particularly around lunchtime, attracting custom from the surrounding area, some from the village and a significant proportion between passing traffic on the A70, and the M74 (a couple miles up the A70). After an involved and interesting question and answer session, the group thanked John for his hospitality, and also gave thanks to Grant Conchie who had organised such an interesting and diverse afternoon of activities.