Ecology & Education

The Findhorn Hinterland is a special place with a diversity of habitats and is a great environment to explore and learn about the natural life that exists on this part of the Moray Firth coastal plain.

The area as shown on the Hinterland map, is located east of the Village of Findhorn and to the north and east of The Park Ecovillage, home of the Findhorn Foundation community.

Ecology

The Hinterland area has a diverse and interesting landscape with a mosaic of different vegetation types ranging from maritime heath, open shingle areas, shifting sand dunes, natural grassland, dense gorse and on its southern edge a fifty year old pine plantation. Both the flora and fauna of the area reflect this diversity with species such as red squirrel, sparrow hawk, roe deer, tawny owl, crested tits, crossbills, creeping ladies tresses and fly agaric being present in the woodland and others such as hare, short eared owl, common lizard, marram grass, bell and ling heather being found in the more open land.

More details about the biodiversity on the land and recommendations for its management can be found in the Draft Biodiversity Action Plan and associated map produced by Sean Reed a local professional ecologist.

Butterflies and moths, which are good indicators of biological diversity, abound with a species list for the area including tortoiseshell, small heath, speckled wood, scotch argus and 6 spot day-flying burnet moth. (Further information on the natural diversity of the area can be gained from the National Biodiversity Network Gateway by looking at information from the NJ06 ten kilometre square.)

Of particular interest are the nutrient poor heaths and shingle areas that are a rich environment for lichens with 149 different species recorded. The area is now recognised as a site of National Importance for lichens following the Findhorn Dunes Trust Lichen Survey in 2008 that detailed 145 taxa.  Members of the The British Lichen Society visited in 2010 and added further records. The plantation also supports a range of lichens and this may diversify as broadleaf trees are established and offer new lichen habitats.

Most of this land requires some form of land management to maintain and improve the diversity of the landscape. This is particularly true of the once impoverished plantation of pines which is being thinned and transformed into a natural woodland of native, broadleaf trees and Scots pines and is beginning to acquire a typical Scots pine forest fauna and flora.

Local volunteers are carrying out a red squirrel survey monitoring both numbers and nesting sites of this small but important population.

In the lichen areas management is as simple as encouraging people to keep to the obvious tracks and paths to avoid trampling pressure which can have a serious effect on lichens and fungi and keeping the spread of non-native lodgepole pines at bay. Ponies are kept on the land to help manage the grassland and limit the spread of gorse as well as providing some income for the conservation work of the community group.

The original funding for the land was provided by a generous grant from the Scottish Community Foundation. The details of how the land is managed in the southern part of the area is set out in the joint management plan drawn up between the Findhorn Hinterland Group and the current owners, Duneland Ltd. The Findhorn Dunes Trust whose land is in less need of direct management owns the land to the north. The extent of both these areas of land are shown on the Management Plan Map.

Education

The Hinterland is increasingly used and valued as an educational resource by local schools, conservation and youth groups and Eco-village training courses. Students from Scottish colleges and universities and international institutes also visit the site. In 2009 Hinterland hosted a ‘Creative Sustainability’ camp for a group of 30 young people from 5 European countries. Forest School programmes delivered by Wild Things, a local environmental educational charity, have been particularly popular with older pupils from Kinloss Primary School who can access the area by bike.

There are regular nature walks, open to all, about birds, trees, butterflies, edible plants, lichens, botany and red squirrels.

A small demonstration Edible Woodland Garden was established in 2014 by the Findhorn Hinterland Group on the SW corner of Wilkies Wood near the Whisky Barrel houses. This long-term project, which creates a productive space for both people and wildlife and with much potential as an innovative educational resource, is being further developed by the trust. Regular gatherings and happenings taking place here. The trust also has a small apiary attached to this project and practical sessions with bees are offered – further information can be found under Bees and the Findhorn Hinterland Trust.

Monthly work parties give the local community the chance for a ‘hands-on’ learning experience about conservation and management of woodland and other environments. For the more technical work in the forest involving timber felling and the production of firewood a team of local people have been trained in chainsaw skills and first aid practice.

 

Findhorn Hinterland Trust, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC045806
228 Pineridge, Findhorn, Forres, Moray IV36 3TB