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Rottal sits in the heart of Glen Clova, the largest of the Angus Glens. The holding covers approximately 8,000 acres, from 800 to nearly 3,000 ft above sea level.

Rottal is a family-run business with a number of land and property-based enterprises including in-hand farming, nature restoration, sporting and fishing. All these activities are closely tied to the stewardship of the land, and that management is what motivates the family who live at Rottal and are involved in the day-to-day running of the business.

Our Landscape

Rottal is dedicated to managing its landscape to deliver climate resilience and to restore nature well beyond its own boundaries. It is doing this through a programme of freshwater and terrestrial habitats restoration from peatland restoration to creation of hedgerows, and by integrating its farm practices into the conservation management of its landscape for nature.

Restoring Freshwater Habitats 

 

 

Land management at Rottal focuses on the holding’s contribution to the resilience of habitats in the Glen. Rottal is defined by its freshwater habitats, from its peat bogs high on its upper slopes, to the majestic South Esk River that runs along its western boundary at the base of the glen. 

 

In 2012, in partnership with the River South Esk Catchment Partnership, work was done to remeander the Rottal Burn, a key tributary into the South Esk, just south of Rottal Steading. This now iconic project included the creation of 1,100m of new channels and backwaters, braiding the existing watercourse, as well as planting of over 2,000 native trees. The project has inspired a number of similar restoration projects across Scotland, in recognition of the impact of historic canalisation and removal of vegetation on the climate resilience of our river systems. 

 

Following the success of this project, Rottal continues to restore freshwater habitats on the holding and contribute to the health of the South Esk and the success of the wildlife it supports. In 2023, as part of a consortium of organisations including the River South Esk Catchment Partnership, the Esk Fisheries Trust, RSPB and neighbouring landowners, Rottal was awarded Nature Restoration: Transforming Nature funding from NatureScot to fund the development and delivery of a £1.4m project to restore other freshwater habitats. The largest project to be awarded funding in its round.

 

These plans include the de-canalising of the March Burn, the installation of large woody structures into the tributaries and main stem of the River South Esk to create in-river habitat diversity, and the creation of over 35ha of wetland on ground managed as pasture within the floodplain. The interventions will give the river more space and create valuable habitats for the invertebrate, fish and bird species in the glen. 

 

This project connects with the work underway on Rottal’s high ground to identify and restore degraded peatland habitats, historically impacted by deer and sheep, intensive management for sport and extreme weather. These restored peatlands will help slow the flow of rainfall off the hill and into the Esk catchment in which many livelihoods and habitats are vulnerable to the impacts of flooding, but also abate the offgassing of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from degraded and exposed peat soils. 

The project has attracted national interest, and the partners have been asked to present the plans at the River Restoration Centre Annual Conference 2024 in Llandudno, Wales, and present a paper to the CIEEM 2024 Scotland Conference (Reshaping Scotland: Nature Restoration in Action). 

Farm Management

We have a flock of Scottish blackface sheep looked after by our shepherd, spending the summer months grazing the hills and coming back down to the low ground for winter. Rottal takes an organic approach to farming and is applying for organic status in 2024. Since 2023, the farm enterprise has been transitioning away from sheep towards the use of highland cattle to support the regeneration of habitats at Rottal. Rottal’s farm enterprise will still have sheep, but it will focus on the role of different herbivores to support the resilience of the landscape to climate change and biodiversity. This means grazing in lower densities and in a more strategic way that manages livestock based on observed impacts on vegetation. To do this, we are using innovative NoFence technology to support the management of our Highland cattle in sensitive habitats without the need for more fencing. 

Deer Management

Red and fallow deer are an iconic feature of the landscape in the Angus Glens. However, without careful management, the impacts of deer grazing and trampling can be negative for habitat heath, vegetative diversity and the climate resilience of delicate soils. Rottal takes its role in managing deer seriously and works with neighbours to deliver a strategy for deer management that focuses on reducing deer numbers and allowing them safe passage through the glens at certain times of year to ensure their welfare.    

 

Woodland Creation

 

Resilient ecosystems have both structural and genetic diversity to support a range of niches and the biodiversity that thrives in them. At Rottal we are restoring the diversity of habitats by creating a mosaic of vegetative types. 

 

Different parts of the holding can support different plants, we are seeking ways to restore hedgerows and wildflowers to the pastures on the low ground at Rottal and use our farming practices to support the establishment of a mosaic of vegetation across the pasture and new wetland sites we are creating. 

 

Historically, the woodland in Glen Clova would have helped moderate the runoff of water from the hill, had a moderating effect on fluctuations of humidity and temperature in the Glen, and provided habitats for wildlife and sequestered atmospheric carbon. We hope to restore some of these processes. Led by the variable capability of the ground at Rottal to support different kinds of scrub and tree, we are exploring how a combination of planting and stimulation of natural regeneration can help restore these woodland and montane scrub habitats creating a greater diversity of vegetation in the landscape.

 

Renewables 

 

Sustainable development is at the heart of Rottal’s management. The family believes in creating resilience not only as a business but for Rottal to deliver what it can for the resilience of society and future generations. In 2008, Rottal built a 450kW hydroelectric scheme fed by Loch Brandy. This scheme captures the natural power of the water that runs across the property to produce energy that supplies enough power to the national grid to power ~500 homes contributing to the nation’s transition to green energy.

 

Research Collaborations 

 

Rottal is dedicated to data-led land management and is developing a full programme of monitoring to understand better the impacts if its interventions on the landscape and nature. These include fish and invertebrate monitoring of freshwater habitats, monitoring of restored peatland habitats to ensure they remain in a restored condition, bird and vegetation surveys, as well as terrestrial Invertebrate surveys. These different metrics help provide a picture of the achievements being made at Rottal for nature, and support Rottal’s ongoing management decisions.

 

Rottal regularly welcomes research groups to the holding to conduct research and collect data including groups from Dundee and Stirling University. They are collaborating with Abertay University over a longitudinal study over 10 year-long monitoring the impacts of the Rottal Burn restoration on the wider habitat. 

 

Knowledge Sharing  

 

Nature restoration isn’t an exact science. Rottal is keen to demonstrate what is possible and share its experiences of delivering nature restoration with other land managers and its community. Rottal takes its role as a steward of the ground seriously, but also as a pioneering voice in how land management can be approached to deliver positive climate and biodiversity outcomes through adaptive management while still supporting local rural economies as part of a just transition. 

Future Plans

Over the next few years, Rottal will deliver our Nature Restoration funded project, transition the farm business towards cattle, continue our ongoing peatland restoration works and develop plans for wider spread native woodland creation. There will be consultation processes relating to the latter which will be made public and advertised in the local community. 

Rottal are also working closely with Buglife to establish a Riverfly Group under their Guardians of Our Rivers project. We are therefore accepting expressions of interest in participating in a community-led citizen science group to undertake long-term monitoring of invertebrates within the River South Esk.

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