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Deer stalker drummed up boost for rural economy by providing opportunity to get up close to nature

Scottish Gamekeepers AJS96460389ssociation Chairman
Alex Hogg (left) and Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy
and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing, with award winner
Sandy Reid (third from left) and wife Mairi
at the trophy presentation.

 

 

 

 

A man whose vast knowledge of Scotland’s moorland species sparked a pioneering wildlife tourism attraction in Perthshire has landed a prestigious national award.

Sandy Reid (73), a deer stalker on Atholl Estates, was at the forefront of a move, back in 2005, to showcase the estate’s bountiful wildlife to visitors through a wildlife Land Rover ‘safari’.

Since then, Sandy has driven hundreds of visitors across Atholl’s moors to photograph iconic red deer stags, resident golden eagles and lekking black grouse.

It is a move which has since been rolled out successfully on other Scottish sporting estates, contributing to a burgeoning wildlife tourism sector worth £127 million a year to Scotland’s rural economy.

On Friday, the retired stalker’s vision was rewarded with the Ronnie Rose Trophy from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, named after the late forester, wildlife manager, MBE and author.

The silverware, which recognises years of dedication to conservation or education in game management, was presented to Sandy at Moy Highland Field Sports Fair by Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing.

Sandy, who led stalking guests on the 150,000 acre estate for 49 years before running the safaris, said: “The project has been really successful in terms of education and it is an honour to receive this award from the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and the family of the late Ronnie Rose.

“There are many people who do not know what goes on beyond the A9. They don’t see the vastness of the land and how it is managed every day to produce an income and biodiversity.

“On one of the beats at Atholl, we have 186 black grouse and I am able to drive within 20 yards of them to let visitors see the lekks. People love to see the red deer close up, in the early morning or at nightfall, and I’ve had people in the back seeing hen harriers stealing food from each other in mid-air.

“It’s a chance to let people see what really goes on, how abundant predators are legally managed by the gamekeeping staff to promote a balance. It is also a way to speak to people and explain things like why eagles need large territories to bring up young.

“I am glad there are more and more estates today taking people out on visits, that would not necessarily want to go game shooting, but want to see lots of wildlife close up.”

Despite a busy safari schedule, Sandy still ghillies for guests on the estate’s salmon beats and flanks on grouse days around Perthshire and further afield.

He started his career as a pony boy and kennel hand before becoming a stalker on the Clunes beat at Atholl.

Scottish Gamekeepers Association chairman Alex Hogg said: “Sandy stood out amongst all the nominees for the way he continues to impart his wealth of knowledge, particularly to those coming at countryside management afresh. People love to see the huge range of wildlife we manage in Scotland. They don’t want to look at pictures; they want to see the real thing.

“We are delighted to honour Sandy with this award, as part of our Year of the Rural Worker 2016 programme.”

Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing said: “Sandy Reid is a well-deserved winner of the Ronnie Rose Award. He has shown real dedication to sharing his vast knowledge of the countryside to educate people and allow them to appreciate our unique wildlife and landscape through his wildlife land rover safaris. These safaris encourage tourism which contributes greatly to our rural economy.”

 

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