Sunday 21 August 2022

BrewDog’s “Lost Forest” A Year On: Fencing Begins

The Burma Road

A year ago I wandered up the Burma Road in the Monadh Liath hills just outside Aviemore (see this post) to have a look at the Kinrara estate which BrewDog had recently bought with a view to restoring a “lost forest”. Nothing had happened then of course, the land looking much as it had for many years with lovely woodland lower down and a degraded grouse moor higher up. I did though notice some small pines and other trees poking up through the heather and commented that the forest would return on its own if deer numbers were reduced to stop overgrazing. 

The Burma Road

BrewDog however plan to plant over a million native trees in fenced areas and recently obtained planning permission for this plus a grant of over a million pounds from Scottish Forestry. BrewDog CEO James Watt defended the project in this post, with a letter from noted environmentalist Mike Berners-Lee backing him up.  However there is no mention of regeneration and Berner-Lees says that the aim is to create a “bio-diverse broadleaf woodland”. Given that there is relict Caledonian Pine forest here surely it is this that needs restoring, as Dave Morris pointed out in an excellent letter to the Herald newspaper quoted in this informative post by Nick Kempe on Parkswatch Scotland.  

A lone pine along the Burma Road. Seed source for the future?

As I climbed above the lower woodland I could see a digger high on the hillside and soon some massive fence posts running across the hillside. Piles of wire netting lay nearby. From an aesthetic point of view this fence will be an intrusion into an open landscape. I also wonder how many access points there will be – it will certainly be a barrier to wandering down anywhere from Geal Charn as I’ve done many times. 

The fence line marching across the hillside.

More significantly it will result in a forest one side and bare moorland the other, an unnatural straight line separating healthy and unhealthy ecosystems. I also wonder how the planting will be done. In an area close to my home planting involved digging with heavy machinery that destroyed many of the regenerating pines. 

Beside the Burma Road.

The views over Strathspey were dramatic with bands of cloud and rain sweeping across the land and bursts of sunshine lighting up different spots. Over there Wildland is allowing the forest to return naturally, making Glen Feshie an inspiring place, Now Wildland is extending this to the Glen Tromie and Gaick estates, supported by Forestry Scotland. It’s a shame Forestry Scotland didn’t advise BrewDog to do the same and that BrewDog didn’t ask Wildland for advice. 

Lairig Ghru from the Burma Road

Leaving aside the big important question of estate ownership, which is covered well on Andy Wightman’s blog, I’d rather see a planted forest on the Kinrara estate than have it continue as a grouse moor. Such a forest will be better for biodiversity. I’d rather see natural regeneration than planting though and whether that or planting I'd rather see a reduction in deer numbers than fencing.

I’ll be going back up the Burma Road to see how the work progresses and posting about this again.

The Cairngorms from the Burma Road

 Note: all photographs taken August 19, 2022


  1. That's a cracking photo of the Lairig Ghru Chris 👏. Natural regeneration over industrial-scale planting every time for me.

  2. The Brewdog planting is the latest example in a massive waste of public money by the Scottish Government. They should be funding the employment of more deer stalkers not huge tracts of unnecessary fencing and planting. Overgrazing is the problem on Kinrara. Natural regeneration of all the vegetation, including trees, the obvious solution. SG forestry policy is a disaster, using public money to do all the wrong things, completely failing to meet biodiversity and climate change challenges. It is a policy designed by corporate and landowning interests, aided by complicit officials and ignorant politicians.

    1. Dave has pointed out there's an error in his first line - it should be BrewDog.