River Peffery catchment restoration project gets £1.2m boost with popular Dingwall park pond also poised to benefit
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AN iconic Ross-shire river will be at the heart of a £1.2million restoration project aiming to revive its fortunes and that of its wildlife.
The Peffery Catchment Restoration Project has been awarded £1.2m from the Nature Restoration Fund.
The project, led by Dingwall-based Lockett Agri-Environmental, will tackle a wide range of restoration work between now and March 2026.
The main aim is to restore habitats and natural river processes, resulting in increased habitat for wildlife and helping reduce downstream flood risk. It builds on the original re-meandering project which took place near Fodderty last year. Work will include tree planting and installation of leaky dams in the headwaters of the catchment, further river restoration between Strathpeffer and Dingwall. It will also turn the Pefferside Park pond into an attractive green space and haven for wildlife.
Hannah Humphreys of Lockett Agri-Environmental said: “We have been working in the catchment and developing ideas for projects for the last 12 months and it’s great to know that our plans are going to become reality. The river re-meandering we did at Fodderty last year has been a tremendous success. This is a chance to work at a catchment scale from the peatlands at the very top of the catchment to Pefferside Park at the very bottom.”
Richard Lockett said: “The project means working with farmers, crofters and estates who manage land in the lower reaches of the catchment as well as NatureScot and Forest and Land Scotland who own the upper reaches.
“We’ve been discussing ideas with landowners and river restoration specialists, experts from the Highland Council Flood Team, SEPA and the Cromarty Firth Fishery Board.
“We’ve also been talking to staff at Dingwall Academy about how to ensure that the project increases opportunities for young people to learn about nature restoration and natural flood management.”
Residents of Dingwall keen to hear about the ideas for the restoration of the Pefferside Park pond will be able to see draft designs over the next six months with a full community consultation next summer. It will give everyone with an interest in the park a chance to have their say.
Managed by NatureScot, the Transforming Nature fund is an element of the Scottish Government’s flagship £65 million Nature Restoration Fund. It supports large-scale projects with grants in excess of £250,000. In the latest round, the Peffery Catchment Restoration Project is one of 31 to have been offered grants totalling £7.6 million.
The Nature Restoration Fund helps to restore species and habitats, protect marine and coastal areas, eradicate invasive, non-native species and improve the health and wellbeing of communities. The projects are taking practical steps to help against the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss and restore Scotland’s natural environment.
NatureScot chairman, Professor Colin Galbraith, said: “Through the Nature Restoration Fund, we can support vital work to restore Scotland’s species and habitats back to being healthy, vibrant and thriving. Now more than ever, we need nature-based solutions to the climate-nature crises. It’s projects like this that can really help to stop biodiversity loss and enable us to move towards a nature-rich, net-zero future for everyone in Scotland.”
Gary Campbell of Docharty Farm, one of the farmers involved in the project, said: “One of our low-lying fields is getting wetter and wetter. Allowing the Peffery to flood into this field more often is a chance to create some great new wildlife habitat and help reduce downstream flood pressures”.
The project team are also going to be running citizen science monitoring projects.
This will focus on monitoring freshwater insects in the Peffery as part of the Buglife Guardians of Our Rivers project. Anyone interested in helping with this should contact Hannah Humphreys.
Hannah said: “The Peffery Catchment Project presents an opportunity for the community and government organisations to work together to restore nature and mitigate the effects of climate change. We’re keen to hear from anyone interested in the project including land managers and potential volunteers.”