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Restoring The River South Esk: 
A nature-rich & climate-resilient catchment 

Proposal for a Nature Restoration Funded Project 

Our vision for the River South Esk catchment is to create a nature-rich, ecologically connected, working upland landscape, from hilltop to riverbed. 

Our aim is to design a project that will increase the biodiversity value, climate resilience and ecological coherence of the River South Esk catchment. The project will deliver transformational change at pace in response to the ecological and climate crises. We hope that this project will be an exemplar of landscape scale change while benefiting land managers and communities in the upper River South Esk catchment. 

The River South Esk Catchment Partnership and landowners in Glens Doll, Clova and Prosen, have come together in a multi-stakeholder consortium to deliver habitat creation and restoration linked closely to existing Angus priorities, such as the Tayside Local Biodiversity Action Plan 2016-26.  

The proposal is for: 

  • <70 ha of riparian native woodland to be created through planting and natural regeneration  

  • 38 ha of dynamic, functional, and resilient wetlands to be restored to provide climate resilience and valuable habitat for the area’s important biodiversity  

  • 42 ha of mixed wildlife habitats will be created including scrub and wildflower strips 

  • 14 miles of new and restored hedgerows are proposed to increase habitat connectivity   

This will create a mosaic of freshwater, wetland, grassland, woodland and moorland habitats encouraging a diverse mix of wildlife in the area. The delicate ecosystem of the River South Esk would benefit from revegetation and in-river interventions to slow the flow, increase nutrients in the water and create shade to prevent the water from overheating. This will positively impact the river as a source of life, in conjunction with the habitats that lead into it and improve the river’s resilience to extreme weather while creating a naturalistic, structurally diverse, ecologically functioning lifeblood through the glen. 

The Project

To maximise the positive impact of interventions on Glen Clova’s natural environment, the project design will focus on connectivity of habitats, and species best suited to the area. By including creation of scarce habitats, such as montane scrub and low-lying wetlands, the project aims to contribute to the diverse mosaic of habitats in the glen, providing homes and food sources for a wide range of native species including Atlantic Salmon, Curlew, Lapwing and other wading birds and invertebrates.  

By encouraging the establishment of vegetation, we hope to not only create habitats for wildlife but also sequester carbon and stabilise riverbanks. Measuring baselines from which to monitor the impacts of these interventions will form part of the longitudinal work of the partner organisations in demonstrating the benefits of the project and ensuring they continue to provide positive environmental and ecological outcomes: 

Riparian Revegetation


The project seeks to deliver up to 70 ha of riparian native trees through a combination of planting and natural regeneration of woodland to create natural shade and bank stabilising.    


In-River Habitat Creation


As a result of the lack of riparian trees in Glen Clova, there is little in the way of natural large woody structures (LWS) in the river.  With this project, we propose to introduce LWS throughout 10km of river, co-ordinating with areas for riparian woodland creation. The LWS will deliver immediate benefits to the river for flood and drought resilience, biodiversity, river habitat creation for freshwater fish and invertebrates: when the LWS decay, the riparian trees will take over the role by introducing wood and roots to the river.  The development phase will undertake geomorphic surveys and identify potential appropriate sites for introducing LWS, being mindful of local Fresh Water Pearl Mussel populations and taking care not to disturb those habitats.  


The March Burn Restoration


The March Burn was straightened around the turn of the C19th. The straightened section is ~250m and has artificial embankments negatively impacting flood and drought resilience and the quality of in-stream habitat for salmonid fish and invertebrates. It is proposed to restore the March Burn to a more natural state by encouraging natural river processes to re-meander the burn and to reconnect it to its floodplain by removal or lowering of the embankments.  Not only should the survival of fish species improve, but the work will also increase the resilience of the burn in flood and drought conditions.  


The development phase will conduct surveys on topography and geomorphology to identify the most appropriate method to re-meander the burn, which may include removing artificial embankments and encouraging the burn to find a new course using LWS; or to create a new channel.  The types of permitting licences required will be dependent on the design option selected.   


Wetland creation 


The project seeks to reinstate 38 ha of wetlands in Glen Clova, increasing connectivity between the River South Esk and its floodplain to support Natural Flood Management and climate resilience. Historic maps indicate that in the 19th C the floodplain was very much as it is today. However, much older river features in the floodplain were detected from aerial photographs by an RSPB ecologist while scoping one of the proposed wetland sites at Rottal Estate. The wetlands will benefit the glen’s regionally important breeding adding bird population and other biodiversity. 


Montane & Diverse Scrub  


In recognition of the need for both species and structural diversity in habitats throughout the glen, the creation of 35ha of low-density early succession scrub habitat both on high ground and as managed scrubland on the low ground will provide vital habitat for birds and invertebrates, as well as contributing to climate resilience of the catchment.   


Pollinator Habitat


An area of the project falls within the Strathmore B-Line indicating an area in which pollinator habitat is poor quality and fragmented.  Where we plan to restore hedgerows and riversides, we also plan to incorporate 7ha of pollinator-friendly habitats too. These native plant communities will use local provenance to increase ecosystem diversity and function.  

Hedgerow Creation & Restoration


14 miles of new and restored hedgerows are proposed across both Airlie and Rottal landholdings to increase habitat connectivity and the climate resilience of the agricultural holdings, connecting mature trees spaced along field margins. This will contribute to a mosaic of habitats across the landscape, create homes and food sources for wildlife and encourage pollinators, boosting biodiversity.  

























































The project has been developed in conjunction with various organisations and individuals and continues to draw on their diverse expertise to ensure that it delivers the best possible outcomes for the community, wildlife and landscape in Glen Clova.  

The project is led by the River South Esk Catchment Partnership as part of a consortium of partners comprising: Rottal Estate, Airlie Estates, Clova Estate, Forestry & Land Scotland (FLS), Esk Rivers and Fisheries Trust and RSPB Scotland.  


Additional supporting partners include:  

  • Cairngorms National Park Authority  

  • Tayside Biodiversity Partnership  

  • Angus Council  


In addition, organisations including Scotia Seeds, Buglife, British Dragonfly Society and The Woodland Trust will be engaged during the project.  

This project is supported by the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, managed by NatureScot.

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Have your say..

Through community and stakeholder consultation we are keen to share the thinking behind the proposed interventions, and in turn, would like to receive your views and ideas relating to the Restoring the River South Esk project.


The community engagement period will run from 25th February to 16th April 2023. The outcomes of that process will help the project partners refine the design to incorporate into the application for delivery phase funding.


A public consultation event was held on Tuesday 21st March 2023. Over 20 representatives of the local community and interest groups came to discuss the project. 


If you missed the event but would like to offer your thoughts, or attended and want to get in touch, please contact Charlie Davis at .

There will be opportunities to get involved directly in monitoring the positive impact our interventions have on river wildlife. If you are interested get in touch with Charlie or Rebecca from Buglife at the email address below.

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