Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups have provided outdoor education for a total of 2,413 children and adults up and down the country this year, to showcase the wealth of wildlife thriving on Scottish estates and to help young people discover the rural career pathways open to them.

Topics such as upland sheep farming, habitat conservation, peatland restoration, wading birds, bird of prey identification, deer management and grouse shooting as well as muirburn, vehicle maintenance, the outdoor access code, moorland ecology, fishing and game cookery were all on offer.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) donated £15,000 in legacy funding to the Estates that Educate project, which has enabled Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups to expand the programme and continue to offer a free experience to schools in several regions.

Mark Ewart, National Engagement Manager for Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups, said: “This has been an amazing year and the estates have stepped up again to show exactly what they do and why they do it.

“These open events are beneficial, not just for the estates themselves, but also for society as a whole and the next generation. If we want to protect nature, we need to understand and safeguard what we already have. For children watching a buzzard soaring high in the sky or identifying the distinctive tail of a red kite, that is invaluable.”

In the Grampian region, 220 school pupils visited Edinglassie Estate for two days of moorland skills’ demonstrations as part of the award-winning Estates That Educate initiative.

In Tayside 300 school pupils visited Abercairny and Findynate Estates, while there were separate events for Bertha Park High School and Breadalbane Academy. The Tayside and Central Scotland Moorland Group also organised a ‘Pluck and Prepare’ workshop for adults, introducing them to game cookery.

Deirdre Falconer, Co-ordinator of the Tayside and Grampian Moorland Groups says that closing the rural skills gap is vital: “In many areas of Scotland young people leaving school feel they need to move to urban areas for work, and this is a real threat to rural Scotland.

“By fostering a deeper understanding of the work undertaken by estates, we are not just preparing the next generation of land stewards but also cultivating a greater appreciation of our natural heritage. Rural estates are key driers of local economic activity and contribute enormously to the biodiversity goals set out by the Scottish government.”

In all almost 800 children will participate in workshops across Angus, Grampian and Tayside before the end of the school term.

The Loch Ness Rural Communities group also organised game cookery events for adults, as well as its popular ‘Hill to Grill’ sessions at Kilchuimen Academy.

In addition the Loch Ness group worked with the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET) to help school pupils to develop their knowledge of upland conservation, while there were also moorland safaris at Dunmaglass Estate, showcasing the rare wading birds such as curlew, lapwing and oystercatcher, that thrive on Scotland’s sporting estates.

Meanwhile, the Angus Glens Moorland Group hosted over 300 children at Glenogil Estate for their Estates That Educate programme where pupils were able to experience working life on a sporting estate. As well as organising a sell-out wader safari for adults in Glen Esk the group also assisted at Kinnordy Estate with the RHET.

Kirk Norbury, Co-ordinator of the Angus Moorland Group said: “The Angus Glens epitomises the perfect balance between thriving nature, local jobs and flourishing communities. There are nationally important populations of many moorland species – notably birds of prey such as the golden eagle, buzzard, hen harrier and red kite. So much so that estates in the Angus Glens have donated golden eagle chicks to other parts of Scotland to help establish breeding territories in areas where they remain rare. This kind of conservation success story is one that we should be teaching children and young people about – and celebrating.”

A local school teacher who attended the event at Glenogil Estate said: “The organisation of the whole day was extremely well managed, and each activity provided thought-provoking discussions and opportunities to learn. All the speakers were very knowledgeable in their areas and engaged with and answered the pupils’ questions very well. The experience pupils gained is so valuable to their learning and their life experiences. Some pupils commented that they wish to pursue careers in the industry.”

The Southern Uplands Moorland Group welcomed some 1,172 secondary pupils to its stand at the Border Union Agricultural Society schools’ day, an extraordinary showcase of the workings of upland estates in the south of Scotland.

The range of events and open days hosted by the moorland groups has played a huge part in opening up access to career pathways in the rural sector and has transformed perceptions about sustainable land management.

Jenny McCallum, co-ordinator of the Loch Ness Rural Communities Group, said: “Since the moorland education sessions, Kilchuimen Academy in Fort Augustus has announced it will now introduce a Gamekeeping qualification – the first school in Scotland to do so! Glendoe Estate and Glenmoriston Estate have offered to facilitate the practical elements of the course. We are delighted to see this positive development, which will help pave the way for those looking for a job in a rural area.”

The regional moorland groups have also had a presence at several high-profile rural shows, including the Royal Highland Show, the Scottish Game Fair and the Angus Show. This has facilitated engagement with hundreds of children and parents to promote the benefits of the Estates that Educate initiative.

The events would not have been possible if it were not for the support of the following organisations: BASC; RHET; the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT); Developing the Young Workforce (DYW); Countryside Learning Scotland (CLS); and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS).

Lianne MacLennan, engagement manager for BASC Scotland, said: “BASC’s Legacy Fund aims to support and encourage students wishing to develop their knowledge in conservation, land management or gamekeeping, so naturally we were happy to support Estates that Educate.

“Education is an important part of our ethos and to work collaboratively with the moorland groups on such a fantastic initiative has been a pleasure.

“With schools seeing cuts across the board, our funding played a pivotal role in getting the volume of youngsters to the estates, to take part in this free educational experience that the moorland groups offer.”