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Integrated land management is centre-stage during Deeside Walk & Talk event

Representatives from local estates, land agents and rural professional services were amongst those who gathered on Tuesday morning at the Potarch Café and Restaurant, recently refurbished by Ballogie Estate to attend the latest walk & talk event organised by Scottish Land & Estates and Wildlife Estates Scotland
The event was kindly hosted by Malcolm Nicol, Managing Partner of Ballogie. Enjoying the fare laid on by the Potarch Restaurant, guests first heard from Malcolm, who described the geography of the Estate and its main assets, covering moorland, forestry, farming, sporting and tourism. He emphasized how important he feels WES accreditation is in order to demonstrate the benefits of an integrated approach to management on the property.
Ross Macleod from WES confirmed that careful linkage of the Estate’s assets had been key to its successful application for accreditation. He outlined the origins of WES as a European initiative, with the further overlay of Scottish best practice guidance and legislation giving shape to the assessment process. 
Ross then talked about the benefits of accreditation and the importance of being able to show that a property has achieved independently assessed certification. He also commented that it provides an evidence trail for due diligence. He further mentioned that data gleaned from individual applications is aggregated into annual reporting, which provides a wealth of detail on overall condition of designated sites, species trends, conservation projects, employment, access, communication and education. Ross identified the increasing value of the annual report as a means to demonstrate what well-managed properties can deliver with regard to species, habitats, conservation and the public interest.  
Peter Littlejohn, Ballogie’s Head Ranger, then described the Estate’s game and deer management activities, and this work as part of integrated management. Singling out the importance of best practice in line with guidance codes and legislation, Peter commented on how proud Ballogie is to have achieved WES accreditation. 
A short walk from the Potarch Café found us on the banks of the River Dee, where Ballogie’s Head Ghillie, Sean Stanton, spoke passionately about ensuring that the River and its environment is carefully managed for future generations. In particular, he stressed the importance of engaging with the local community and school children to build understanding and appreciation of the Dee. He too noted the significance of integrated management across the Estate. 
We then took a short drive to examine woodland management in a Scots Pine stand at Torquhandallochy, to the west of Potarch. There, we discussed the history of forestry on Ballogie, site suitability for appropriate tree planting, continuous cover management and deer control.
We then drove up to Balnacraig, from where we got a clear view of the moorland, the considerable woodland coverage, arable fields and grazing on haugh land next to the River. Putting this vista in context, Malcolm again underlined the importance of close integration of the Estate’s assets. A lively discussion ensued, which concluded with the thought-provoking challenge that land managers need to find ways to deliver economic return from environmental stewardship.
We adjourned back to the Potarch Café for a very welcome lunch of soup and sandwiches, where we were able to chat further across a range of subjects. We are extremely grateful to Malcolm, Peter and Sean for sharing their enthusiasm for Ballogie and their commitment to WES accreditation! 

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