Trust unveils loch restoration project

The Crannog is an important feature of the Loch of Leys. Picture: Go-View Media
The Crannog is an important feature of the Loch of Leys. Picture: Go-View Media

A restoration project has been prepared to preserve an historic loch near Banchory.

The Loch of Leys, to the north of the town, is currently designated a Site of Interest to Natural Science by Aberdeenshire Council.

Now the Leys Charitable Trust, established in 2006 with the aim of preserving and enhancing the unique characteristics of the loch, is embarking on a long-term plan to safeguard its many features.

The Crannog, a man-made island, has been in existence since at least the 13th century and was home to the Burnett family after they first arrived in Deeside in the 14th century before they built Crathes Castle.

The loch is also the site of an early 20th century rifle range which was used from the time of the World War 1 until after World War 11.

Drained during the 19th century, it developed into a wetland area and evolved to become a thriving area of open water, attracting large numbers of wildfowl and providing a nesting place for a large colony of black-headed gulls.

The Leys Estate, which takes in the loch, and trustees will be consulting with the local community and a number of authorities and other interested parties during the development of the plan.

The Trust says the scope and scale of the project will develop during the coming months and it will shortly be seeking the assistance of an individual to take the programme forward.

A number of key areas which would benefit most from the initiative have already been identified with the initial area being the rifle range, which stretched along the length of the loch.

Evidence still remains, with the target, butts and ammunition store in need of urgent restoration.

Some wildlife species which made the wetland their home have now left due to increased vegetation.

A recent report indicated it is possible to reverse this by removing sediment allowing open water to return, encouraging the growth of reed beds to provide habitats for rare and migratory species of birds in winter.