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Meet our new network of “landscape leaders”

Meet our new landscape leaders

We're excited to welcome the first round of "landscape leaders" onto our new Landscape Leadership programme.

All have diverse aims for their landscapes, but are united in their desire to restore climate and nature for Scotland’s future generations. The group collectively manage over 80,000 acres of land, and hope to bring about positive environmental change in Scotland at the biggest possible scale.

Participants in the 2020 Landscape Leadership programme


Thomas Bowser, Owner, The Argaty Red Kite Project

Tom Bowser

Argaty is a beef and sheep farm located between Doune and Dunblane. The estate is a mix of highland and lowland landscapes with a visitor centre and conservation projects that attract tourists, the most notable of which is the Argaty Red Kite project.

Through the programme, Thomas hopes to ensure the estate is a great home for wildlife while still producing food on the farm.

Jack Campbell, Estate Factor, Balavil Estate

Jack Campbell

Balavil is a traditional sporting estate undergoing a complete renovation and change in management style. The estate is always working to improve existing woodland and has plans for a landscape-scale woodland creation scheme.

Jack aims to show that estates can still operate in a traditional style while benefiting and improving the natural environment.

Grant Conchie, Estate Manager, Douglas & Angus Estates

Grant Conchie

The Douglas Estate in the Southern Uplands has mixed land usage for livestock grazing, a windfarm, a range of woodlands, and recreational access, with around one quarter of the land farmed in hand and the rest tenanted.

Participating in the programme will provide Grant with time to consider how the landscape across the estate can be improved, and to think about how to engage local communities.

Steven Dunion, Head of Forestry & Estate Operations, Cambusmore Estate

Steven Dunion

Cambusmore Estate is situated on the edge of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. Forestry is managed within a UK Woodland Assurance Scheme, while most of the open ground is let to livestock farmers. The estate also houses a quarry, a variety of SMEs, and a number of residential properties. Walks and bridleways are popular with local residents and tourists.

Steven hopes to be able to shape this landscape in a way that allows more of the land users to work in a collaborative manner.

Antony Gifford, Managing Partner, Kinnordy & Balintore Estates

Antony Gifford

Kinnordy is a lower-lying farming estate in Angus, with a mix of woodland, commercial forestry, and small hills. Balintore is an upland estate around a glen which is a mix of heather moorland, permanent grass for livestock, and commercial forestry plantations.

Through the programme, Antony intends to take a longer-term and holistic approach to planning the management of these landscapes.

Nicola Hunt, Programme Manager, Borders Forest Trust

Nicola Hunt

The Borders Forest Trust aims to restore the diminished native woodland and associated natural habitats in the Scottish Borders. The three sites Nicola manages cover more than 3,100ha and include a new native woodland, an upland hill farm, and an upland estate.

Through the programme, she hopes to bring together the aspirations of the individual sites into one cohesive plan that will deliver landscape-scale change.

Dr Jessica Lynch Maxwell, Project Development Manager, Loch Arkaig Pine Forest (Woodland Trust Scotland)

Jessica Maxwell

Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is an ancient Caledonian pinewood on the south shore of Loch Arkaig. The site is 2,500 acres and it sits within the Loch Arkaig catchment, which is over 80,000 acres. This wider landscape has a mix of private, public, community, and NGO landowners, and a number of different land uses including commercial forestry, native woodlands, upland grazing, deer stalking, and aquaculture.

Jessica hopes to develop a shared vision between these diverse landowners for the future management of the landscape.

Jim Mann, Founder, The Birch Syrup Company

Jim Mann

Jim is using a free-range herd of Mangalitza pigs to clear rhododendrons and thick bracken from a birch forest, tapping the trees and harvesting the sap to make syrup. He has proven that a profitable economic model can also help maintain native forest and plant new forest, and has recently attracted significant investment to enable him to take this model to an estate scale.

David Sumsion, Owner, Ardkinglas Estate

David Sumsion

Ardkinglas Estate is situated around the head of Loch Fyne. The estate business is diverse but includes woodlands, public gardens and walks, major commercial and residential lets, livestock grazing, a rock quarry, and a windfarm. The Tree Shop is a separate limited company with close links to the estate. Ardkinglas House has increasing use for workshops and courses as well as providing a venue for film shoots and weddings. May 2020 will be the third year for a major new event, Scapa Fest. Some changes to the more established estate activities are already underway, with others planned for the near future.

David is considering how to further increase use of parts of the estate for additional visitors, linked to conserving and enhancing the natural assets within the area.

Richard Williams, Land Operations Manager, The John Muir Trust

Richard Williams

Richard oversees the management of four estates for the John Muir Trust, including the Quinag Estate within the Assynt & Coigach National Scenic Area in the North-West Highlands. The Quinag Estate comprises a range of dramatic mountain peaks that run down to a sea loch, along which are small fragments of native Atlantic rainforest.

Richard hopes to creative new opportunities for people to live and work in the area, a more diverse landscape, improved woodland, and increased local food production.

More about Landscape Leadership


Our Landscape Leadership pilot programme, run jointly between Soil Association Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates, brings these ten participants together at four residential sessions in inspirational settings.

Starting at Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, part of the Buccleuch Estate, on January 27, they will learn about the potential of natural capital, how to manage large and diverse environmental projects, and how to work with others on a catchment scale. Other sessions will take place at Loch Lomond, Holyrood, and the Rottal Estate.

They will also receive leadership skills coaching, learn how to influence policy and how to plan for their landscape. Ultimately, they will form a network of like-minded individuals able to lead a movement towards sustainable land management in Scotland.

> Read more about Landscape Leadership