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Helping young people understand the need for peatland restoration was the aim of a successful outing for Golspie High School pupils to Dalchork Forest last month, thanks to our North Region and NatureScot.

The day on-site was part of a larger project, supported by the Developing Young Workforce (DYW) co-ordinator for the school, which as well as exploring the science of peatland restoration also highlights this form of conservation work as a rural career option.  

“I really enjoyed being outside and learning about land management in the real environment, not in the classroom. One day I would like a career in this area so it was great to see what a day as a forestry worker might look like.”

Said Harris Nicholson who is pictured below.

 A group of school kids on a peatland

(left to right): Ben Morris, Noah MacDonald, Harris Nicholson, Allan Sneddon.

The 28 pupils worked in two groups at different sites. They spent the day with their sleeves rolled up and stuck in to some site condition assessment, peat depth surveys and removing naturally regenerating trees from rewetted peatland.  

The groups swapped half-way through the day so that each group got to experience both elements.

The students really enjoyed being outside and learning in person how we are restoring the land, one pupil even said that he is excited to bring his children back to the site and show them the trees he planted.

“It was great fun getting hands-on with the nature around us. The tree planting was my favourite. I would recommend this to my family who are great nature lovers.”

added Carrie Torres also pictured below.

A group of school kids on a peatland

(left to right): Alethea Pappas, Olivia Gibbs, Carrie Torres.

Peatland restoration is going to be a big part of Scottish conservation over the next few years and a great opportunity for rural employment.

FLS Peatland Programme Forester, Susan Nicol, who led one of the groups, said;

‘There aren’t enough people who are trained in doing the work. That’s why we got together with NatureScot to develop this pilot project, to introduce pupils to the concept, science and practices of peatland restoration and to explain the types of work available in this field and the skills required to do those jobs.    

“The day went really well and all the people involved enjoyed it. I think a few of them were quite taken aback when they discovered how deep peatland can be!  

“We’re looking at roll this out to high schools across Caithness and Sutherland. It’s a great way to help young people become more aware of the opportunities open to them in rural areas.”

Although the pupils spent some time removing non-native tree species from the bog, the main focus was on peatland survey work and planting the right trees in the right places - native trees alongside a burn in a more appropriate location.

Carrying out a ‘peatland site condition survey’ involved looking at positive and negative indicators and taking peat depths to assess the condition of the peatland. 

Careers in peatland restoration will be the focus of Peatland ACTION input to an industry day to be held at the school shortly. Becky Shaw, NatureScot’s Peatland ACTION Workforce Development Manager said

“Restoration in the vast peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland will provide opportunities for people with a wide range of skills – everything from highly-skilled machine operators, to peatland scientists – all of which are involved in reducing carbon emissions and improving biodiversity.”