2018 will be remembered for its terrible conditions for fishing and grouse, and some excellent stalking achievements in not the best year for red deer either.
We remain focussed on our aim to build on South Chesthill’s existing qualities as a top, traditional all-round Scottish sporting Estate, and ensuring the service we offer matches that. In many ways it is a “home away from home” for our tenants who we are delighted to welcome year after year.
In addition to ongoing minor property improvements, we aim to do more to improve our wildlife (more vermin control), the hill (more heather burning, a new regeneration zone, less grazing from neighbours’ sheep, bracken spraying) the walls (maintenance), and fencing (in particular the march fence with Ben Lawers).
Thank you to tenants and guests for your feedback comments and all of these have been reviewed and action taken in many cases – these comments are vital to help us improve so please do continue to email firstname.lastname@example.org with comments however big or small.
Following Kay Maceachen’s departure in August, Hamish Rae will be leaving at the end of February. Hamish has been an outstandingly patient and knowledgeable fishing ghillie, a skilful stalker, and a fountain of knowledge on nature, and will be missed by my family and tenants alike. Thank you Hamish for your contribution to the Estate and helping many hundreds of sporting successes over the years. I would also like to thank Susan Ahlheid who stepped into the Housekeeper role on a temporary basis.
I am delighted to announce that Ainster Smith and Liz Elworthy have accepted our offers for the Keeper/Caretaker and Housekeeper roles respectively. They will be moving into Keeper’s Cottage in March. They are moving to South Chesthill from the highly regarded Glenogil Estate in Angus, where Ainster was a senior Keeper and Liz looked after the houses. They are exceptionally high quality candidates and they greatly look forward to meeting our tenants and the local community.
Ben Campbell remains our estate Handyman, living at Dericambus, and Scott Nisbet, supported by John Sinclair, continue as our Factors. Debbie Beer will be continuing as book-keeper, and I would like to thank her for her excellent management of lettings since 2016, which she will be passing over to Liz in the spring.
Matthew Kerr from Roromore has settled in well as our farmer, managing our flock of 670 sheep. Last year we sold our cows as they were placing too much pressure on the low ground, resulting in a shortage of winter feed. This has meant that our sheep could be removed from the hill to the low ground for the entire stag stalking season. Unfortunately we still have too many of our neighbours’ sheep on our ground and this is high priority to address: we applied for an agri-environment scheme to help fund the cost of repairing the march fence with Ben Lawers: this was unfortunately turned down, but we will be continuing to try to find ways to achieve this project due to its significant impact on several of our environmental goals mentioned above.
Just when we thought the catch couldn’t get any worse than 2017’s disastrous 27 salmon, it just did! Due to no fault of our fishermen, who remained undaunted, we ended up with 20, the worst since records began in 1953. The incredibly dry summer of course didn’t help, and assuming more normal weather conditions next year we should see a recovery. I hope the sense of achievement for those fishermen who were successful was all the greater: I suggest you all get a T-shirt saying “I caught a salmon in 2018”.
The growth in the seal population could be a significant factor, but looking further ahead, the planned closure of the drift net fisheries in North East England in 2022 gives reason for optimism (18,000 salmon and grilse caught in 2017) and, more locally, the Lyon proprietors are hoping for a greater share of Tay District hatchery releases: this must be urgent now.
Thank you to those fishermen who have observed our new catch and release policy (do ask for details), and it is good to see that 18 of the 20 fish caught were returned safely.
We do have fishing available for this season. Historically not heavily let, April last year was our second most productive month and this year it’s great to see two weeks let: but two are still available, as is most of June and a single week in July.
Congratulations to all guests and stalkers on a good stalking season. We managed to get our quota of stags.
The hind season is ongoing. Our cull target increased last season, but has been reduced for the current season from 70 to 50, due to the hard spring in early 2018, so we are sorry if you missed out this year. However if you express interest for next year early, you will be high up on the waiting list. I do believe, despite the hard winter, that our hind population on the hill is at a healthy and sustainable level. This will of course be kept under review by the deer group and by us, and the balance struck between preservation of both our deer population and the environment.
2018 was as disastrous for the grouse population across Scotland as it was for the salmon. Whilst there’s always some excuse(!) this year it wasn’t rain or cold: the problem may have been that due to the drought, insect larvae didn’t hatch or died, which deprived the chicks of their vital food source in their first days of life. We did one walked up day, where no coveys, only pairs were seen, and took the decision, sadly, to cancel the remaining days. Thank you to those who missed out for your understanding, in the interests of preserving the breeding stock, and I hope we will have more luck this year.
Improving the grouse numbers is a high priority for the Estate. This will require more heather burning, more vermin control, medicated grit, and repairs to the Ben Lawers fence. I’m confident that we have the right ambition and determination to regularly achieve five or more brace per day, and that numbers can grow from there over the medium term.
We also have begun to seek partners for other activities on the Estate, which may be of interest to existing and new tenants alike. These include falconry, archery and artistic and health retreats. Our sporting tenants remain our core focus, but these activities can be a useful supplement in quieter times of the year.
Nature tours, bicycles, walks and an array of nearby activities (details on http://www.southchesthill.com) do, I hope, enable non-sporting guests and children to enjoy and feel part of the Estate in the same way that sporting guests do.
Bookings & Prices – 2019
Tenants have two months from their departure date to pay their deposit to reserve their week the following year; otherwise it is up for grabs. Please enquire about:
- Chesthill House: sleeps 16 but the dining room is better suited to 12 adults (plus children). Sunday to Sunday (short-stays bookable within three months). Six miles river for six/seven salmon rods, trout loch, stalking (stags and hinds), plus some walked up grouse. Price range for 2019 is £2,750 to £4,800 for the house, including VAT, excluding sport.
- Gardener’s Cottage: sleeps four. Sunday to Sunday (short-stays bookable within two months). Trout and salmon fishing and other activities can be booked as an extra, depending on availability. Price range £475 to £750, including VAT.
- Fishing only: fishing is sometimes available, when the accommodation is not let. Prices from £10 per day for trout fishing and £30-£40 per day for salmon fishing (reduced if you take more than one rod).
23rd January 2019