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Gamekeepers rewarded for community effort

Gamekeepers who rebuilt a storm-hit village were applauded at the first-ever Helping It Happen awards.

Gamekeepers who helped villages in Royal Deeside to recover from devastating flooding have been recognised for their community effort with a major award.

Around 70 estate workers and gamekeepers from the Grampian Moorland Group teamed up with South Grampian Wildfire Group to remove debris from the river Dee at Ballater so the village could prepare for the 2016 tourist season in the aftermath of Storm Frank. The storm battered parts of the UK at the end of 2015, flooding 300 homes and 60 businesses, causing millions of pounds’ worth of damage to dwellings and trade premises.

The keepers came to the rescue to help remove broken caravans and white goods from farmland, while heavy machinery from local estates was used to shift debris from waterways and surrounding trees.

Working with Communities accolade

The group was celebrated for its efforts, winning the Working with Communities award at the Spring conference of Scottish Land & Estates last week.

Collecting the award on behalf of the 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.

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

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

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Community spirit

The accolade was part of the inaugural Helping It Happen awards, which recognise conservation, innovation and community effort among Scottish rural businesses. The awards were organised by Scottish Land & Estates and sponsored by The MacRobert Trust.

Among the other winners were the East Neuk Estates, which received the Conservation Award for their work to save the corn bunting, one of the fastest-declining birds in England and Scotland by providing safe nesting places, insect-rich summer foraging habitats and winter seed as food.

Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone said: “Landowners and estates are often stereotyped as detached and remote from communities, and it is important that we continue to change that perception and show what has and can be achieved.

“Helping It Happen shows much of the unsung work that estates, farms and other land-based businesses undertake, and there could have been many more winners than those announced at the ceremony.”