River Dee project under the spotlight

Delegates visited various sites in the Braemar area improved under the project
Delegates visited various sites in the Braemar area improved under the project

An award-winning River Dee habitat project has been attracting UK-wide interest.

The Pearls in Peril (PiP) initiative was set up four years ago across Deeside to enhance wildlife locations, improve watercourses and help the freshwater pearl mussel to survive and thrive.

The River Restoration Centre (RRC) selected the project as winner of the UK 2017 River Prize in the Partnership and Multiple Benefit category.

RRC - the national advice centre for best practice river restoration, habitat enhancement and catchment management - and the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board recently invited delegates from throughout the UK to Braemar to visit sites where the river and its tributaries have been restored.

The occasion offered members of the RRC an opportunity to view first-hand the various schemes which contributed to PiP winning the prestigious accolade.

Since 2012, project officers have worked with farmers, estates and other land managers on Upper Deeside to achieve 67km of new native woodland and tree planting, comprising more than 110,000 trees, along the banks of rivers Ey, Clunie, Callater, Gelder and Gairn.

The final tree planting phase of the PiP project has been in response to damage caused by Storm Frank.

New trees have been established, with a species mix to match the strip of mature woodland which was washed away, opposite Abergeldie Castle.

On tributaries such as the Dess, Feugh and Tarland Burns, project officers have worked with farmers to protect watercourses from pollution by creating buffer strips along burns and ditches.

Nearly 40km of bankside fencing has been installed which, coupled with new water troughs and pumps, will keep livestock out of the burns helping to prevent poaching and erosion.

Steff Ferguson. of the Dee Salmon Fishery Board, said: “PiP has been a partnership project in the true sense of the word.

“Without the support of individual farmers and land managers, estate staff and foresters, government agencies and local authorities, conservation bodies and trusts, as well as excellent local fencing and tree planting contractors, none of these fantastic achievements would have been possible.”

The next phase of habitat work has already started, with the new Dee Riparian Habitat Project. It will help sustain the momentum of continued riverbank enhancement work.