Flows to the Future is an ambitious project which is restoring areas of blanket bog in the heart of the Flow Country that have been damaged by forestry planting. It will also promote and develop our knowledge about the role of peat and carbon storage, and involve and connect people everywhere with this precious habitat, delivering real economic benefits for one of the least densely populated areas in Scotland.
The project is being delivered by the Peatlands Partnership with the lead partner being RSPB (Scotland).
The project is far reaching, ambitious and aims to significantly increase the level of conservation management and promotional activities currently being undertaken in the Flow Country.
The project will:
- Restore 7 square miles of blanket bog habitat – removing forestry blocks, crushing brash and blocking furrows in areas where forestry has already been felled, and drain blocking, on RSPB Forsinard Flows National Nature Reserve.
- Create a viewing tower – the Flows Lookout – and boardwalk on the existing Dubh Lochan Trail at Forsinard.
- Develop five roadside interpretation sites across the Flow Country to give panoramic views of the peatlands and provide a trail for visitors to experience and learn about the peatlands.
- Update and improve the visitor centre at Forsinard, provide improved parking and upgrade the interpretation on the existing Dubh Lochan Trail.
- Increase the volunteering opportunities both at RSPB Forsinard Flows Reserve and elsewhere in Caithness and Sutherland, including provision of new volunteering accommodation in a new field centre at Forsinard.
- Establish a peatland science centre of excellence at Forsinard, through provision of a small laboratory and accommodation within the new field centre to facilitate further research on the role of peatlands as a carbon store and on peatland restoration and biodiversity. This will develop linkages with a number of universities to further research and international collaboration.
- Create improved and increased access, develop interpretation and learning opportunities for people across the Flow Country, including through a schools programme and community activities both at Forsinard and throughout Caithness and Sutherland.
- Provide remote learning/awareness raising opportunities – an interactive website, film, online landscape model of the Flow Country and carbon capture game, creative community arts commissions to encourage people to engage with the Flows through the arts, a travelling exhibition about carbon and peatlands.
- Promotion of the peatlands through a range of media.
The project started on 4 July 2014 and will take place over 5 years.
An economic impact study for this project was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. This outlines the potential significant benefits that will be delivered by on-going employment and tourism to the area.
The study identified that additional employment impacts include: up to 26 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) posts for the duration of the project and then 10.9 FTEs in future years. Anticipated Gross Value Added (the financial impact in addition to the initial investment cost) from the 5 year long project ranges from £740,000 in year 2, stabilising to £190,000 in the years continuing after the project itself has finished. Over a 30 year period, the Gross Value Added across Caithness and Sutherland is estimated to be £6.3 million.
Five staff posts for five years will be directly created by the project. These are a Project Manager, a Project Administrator (3 days a week), a Community Engagement Officer, a Learning Officer (3 days a week) and a Peatland Management Advisory Officer. There will also be five summer contracts for field ecologists.
Given their current experience in carrying out peatland restoration work, local contractors will be in a very good position to bid for and deliver the peatland restoration work. Construction of the field centre and viewing tower will also bring further spend that local contractors can benefit from. Additionally, it is anticipated that the field centre, once built, will create increased demand and opportunities for local services.
The project will use cutting edge technology to create an exciting interactive website that will be extensively marketed and promoted to new audiences via a travelling exhibition and schools programme.
The economic impact study anticipates that this project will lead to a doubling of visitor numbers to Forsinard.
Part of the project will also involve active promotion of the area through social media and a new multi-media website with a 3 dimensional virtual model of the Flow Country landscape.
Further information about the project is available at the Q&A page.
Support for the Project
The Peatlands Partnership is grateful to the following for funders for supporting the project:
The Tubney Trust
Further funding comes from the sale of timber which is felled and sold as part of the peatland restoration undertaken during the project.
The Peatlands Partnership is also very grateful to the many individuals, organisations and businesses across Caithness and Sutherland and also beyond who have show their support for the project during its development and who are working with the project.