2020 was an extraordinary year for everyone, and no less so for the team at South Chesthill to whom I owe a great deal of gratitude for their adaptability in the face of almost weekly changes to guidelines, legislation, and safety measures. Our 2020 season was of course heavily impacted with many tenants not able to stay, and where this was the case, we allowed deposits to be deferred to 2021. The sporting news is therefore thin this year but judging from the busy bookings calendar, there will be plenty of action in 2021 if the vaccine works its magic.
We remain focussed on our aim to build on South Chesthill’s existing qualities as a top, traditional all-round Scottish sporting estate. In many ways it is a “home away from home” for our tenants who we are delighted to welcome year after year.
The reduced sporting activity enabled time spent on improvements, including lots of tree tidying, fence repairing, vermin control (23 adult foxes shot plus cubs, a record since records began in 2008), and more heather was burned (over 100 fires) than any year in my memory – well done Ainster, try to beat it in 2021! Most significantly our 5km march fence with Ben Lawyers and the high ground at Roromore was replaced thanks to Ben Campbell and his team. This project was not helped by pandemic-related delays, the altitude (ranging from 1,500 feet up to 3,600 feet) which made for difficult weather conditions, the incline which necessitated helicopter drops, Scottish Natural Heritage restrictions over where they could drive quads and deer stalking preventing quick access. But they got it finished and it now forms part of a five year agri-environmental scheme to relieve grazing pressure on our hill (which includes a site of scientific special interest) by keeping neighbours’ sheep out. This, combined with our commitment to keep our deer density down, will help regeneration of flora and fauna on our high ground after many years of degradation.
I’m sorry to report that sadly Hamish Rae died on 19th December 2020 aged 51, after a short but brave fight against cancer. Our thoughts to go his family including Susan whom he married in December. Hamish was keeper from 2008 until February 2019 and many tenants will have fond memories of his patience on the river and skill on the hill.
Due to lockdown the salmon numbers are significantly down this year with 9 salmon caught between 3rd June and 7th October. The heaviest was a cock fish at 15lbs caught on the fly rod at Boulder Pool and Eugenia Ramsay caught her first salmon in Rock Pool on 7th October. All were returned safely: thank you everyone.
The only way is up! Let’s make 2021 a great year! There are positive signs and we do have fishing available, with gaps in April, May and June.
Again due to Covid we were restricted with the stalking parties able to come however a few managed to make it and between them and Ainster we managed to shoot 48 stags. The average weight was low at 12 stone 9lbs, but this was due to Ainster shooting some low-quality deer on the low-ground. The rut started in late September and stags were still roaring well into November. The season started slowly due to the lack of disturbance by stalking parties on neighbouring estates however the weather was generally kind to us and we didn’t lose any days to poor visibility.
Proud husband delighted to mention Arabella Ramsay shooting her first stag in October!
The hind season started well however the inclusion of Perthshire in tier 3 resulted in most of the bookings being cancelled. Luckily the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards were able to come for their training week which was successful despite challenging weather conditions in a very wet and misty early December.
We may have one week available with 5 stags (w/c19th September) and we do have hinds still available.
Thank you to those who missed out on grouse shooting in 2020, in the interests of preserving the breeding stock. Ainster will survey the population in the spring before we decide about 2021, but personally I’m hopeful that with the vermin control and heather burning, we could see some decent numbers. I’m confident that we have the right environment, ambition and determination to regularly achieve five or more brace per day, and that numbers can grow from there over the medium term.
Our sporting tenants remain our core focus, but other activities can be a useful supplement in quieter times of the year, so do get in touch if you are interested in running a photographic, artistic, writing or yoga retreat, fitness camp, corporate team building session or falconry course.
Nature tours, bicycles, kayaks, walks and an array of nearby activities (details on 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 – 2021
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). Annex bookable separately in the winter months. 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 2021 is £1,750 to £5,250 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 £500 to £810, 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).
19 January 2021