Gamekeepers’ top award for flood effort

Gamekeepers assisting the post-flood effort on Deeside
Gamekeepers assisting the post-flood effort on Deeside

A group of gamekeepers who helped Deeside villages get back to a sense of normality after flood devastation have won a major award.

Estate workers and gamekeepers from Grampian Moorland Group, a collective showcasing work and community life in the Grampian mountains, gave their assistance to the massive community effort following Storm Frank.

Around 70 group members teamed up with South Grampian Wildfire Group to remove tonnes of debris from the River Dee at Ballater so that the village could prepare for the 2016 tourist season.

That effort has been recognised, with the group fending off strong competition to win the ‘Working with Communities’ award at the Spring conference of Scottish Land and Estates in Edinburgh.

During ‘Operation Clean-Up’, damaged caravans and white goods were removed from farmland.

Heavy machinery from local estates helped free items such as mattresses and beer kegs from waterways and surrounding trees.

More than 300 homes and 60 businesses were flooded during the winter storms, causing millions of pounds of damage to properties and business premises.

Collecting the award on behalf of Grampian Moorland Group, co-ordinator Lianne MacLennan said: “The critical thing, at a very worrying time for the community, was the small part the gamekeepers played in helping Ballater try to get back to some sense of normality, if it could be described as that.

“So many people lost so much through Storm Frank and it would have been even more devastating, at that time, if the village had missed out on tourism during the popular high season.

“The keepers were only doing what everyone else did - rallying around in a time of need.”

The award was part of the first ‘Helping It Happen’ National Awards which recognise conservation, innovation and community effort among Scottish rural businesses.

Tim Baynes, of Scottish Land and Estates, said: “The Grampian Moorland Group is one of seven similar groups around Scotland which play their part in strengthening the rural economy.”

Before the ceremony, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing delivered a keynote address on the land sector challenges of Brexit.

He highlighted the importance of field sports alongside farming, forestry and fishing – the four “Fs” which are key planks in the Scottish rural economy.