The the West Highlands which is a 50-square-mile

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Last updated: December 18, 2019

The area I have chosen as my primary focus for my study is Ardnamurchan in the West Highlands which is a 50-square-mile peninsula, and the main access route is a single track road for most of the way. Corrachadh Mòr is the most westerly point in Ardnamurchan and on the British Mainland.  However, as the area is relatively small the report will also look at land uses on the Isle of Mull.  Ardnamurchan and Mull are a 30-minute ferry journey apart from each other.

 Ardnamurchan is predominantly a farming community. Most of the villages are crofting townships, which means many people, as well as having paid work, will also work on a croft. Crofting is a unique way of life for people, particularly on the west coast of Scotland, and the Hebridean islands.Ardnamurchan Estate is one of the largest employers on the peninsula. They employ many workers to care for its cattle, sheep, forestry and other farming interests; the estate also hires people in its office and workshops, caretaking of the holiday cottages, and in the expanding biofuel operations. They employ stalkers who take clients out to hunt, fish or photograph the wildlife.

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Another significant employer is the salmon farming industry. There are three salmon farms along Loch Sunart, all of which offer year-round work for up to a dozen local people, while a new farm, serviced from Kilchoan, has been opened below Maclean’s Nose. The Isle of Mull is situated just off the west coast of Scotland.  Mull has an area of 338  square miles making it the fourth largest Scottish island and the fourth largest island surrounding Great Britain. There is a population of around 3000 people, and much of the community lives in Tobermory, which is the islands capital and the only burgh on the island until 1973.Agricultural SystemsArable Systems and Their ProductsMost of the land falls under LCA category five which mean it is only suitable for rough grazing, which suggests that the land has low agricultural value and the ground tends to be predominately used for cattle and sheep. Being in the Highlands where the land is less-favoured areas and classed as severely disadvantaged.  The soil in Ardnamurchan is mostly peaty gleys.

 There are significant rainfall and relatively low temperatures.  The poor weather conditions have very negative impacts on the land.  The land in Ardnamurchan is not suitable for a considerable amount of crop production, but hay and silage are produced during the summer months and is used as winter fodder for the cattle.

 Some of the lands are suitable for growing fruit and vegetables, and a few years ago a community garden was started which provides locals with fresh produce on a daily basis.  They grow a great variety of products such as apples, strawberries, lettuce and much more depending on the time of year.  The Economic Report on Scottish Agriculture (2016), shows that the land in Ardnamurchan has less than 0.05% that is suitable for growing cereals and potatoes.  There are a few small crofts which have been used previously to produce potatoes.  Livestock Systems and Their ProductsArdnamurchan Estates manage some 10,000 hectares of wild, rugged and spectacular ground on the Peninsula, much of which has limited value in an agricultural sense.

The land has been managed for generations; much less intensively now than in the past when the Peninsula supported many thousands of people scratching a living from the wet rocky soils and surrounding seas.  The Estates now run 2,500 breeding Blackface ewes and 300 Blue-Grey suckler cows the reason this is there coach of animals has a lot to do with the land only being suitable for rough grazing.  Lambs and calves are kept on the estate during the summer and autumn before moving to a farm on the Black Isle near Inverness. There are roughly 0.

1% of cattle per hectare in Ardnamurchan, and these are all beef cattle.  The sheep numbers are slightly higher, and there is 0.1 – <1% sheep per hectare.  Although the Estate runs the majority of animals on the peninsula, there are still some crofters who are relying on the income from livestock.  All of the animals are kept out on the hills for most of the year, but the cows are brought in for calving.  The sheep are kept out all year round and only get brought in for clipping, health checks and weaning.  The estate brings in contractors to help at the busier times of the year.

  Ardalanish is a working farm on the Isle of Mull. The estate covers about 1500 acres of wild and farmland, which provide food and lodgings for 60 to 70 heads of cattle and 300 head of sheep, mostly Hebridean for the wool, with a few blackface sheep which are kept as well. There are also horses found on the farm.  All the animals live out all year round and feed off the natural resources on the farm, except weaned calves and mothers-to-be who get a little extra silage to help fortify them. This approach means the animals eat a suitably varied diet and help keep the hills in decent condition.

Current Environmental ImpactEvery living creature produces greenhouse gases, these are gases found in the earth’s atmosphere, and they are created in nature and through human industry. Increasing amounts of greenhouse gases generated high temperature on earth. The number of greenhouse gases that agriculture and farming produce varies around the world and it is because each livestock production system utilises its resources differently.  Methane is produced from cattle, nitrous oxide from fertiliser and carbon dioxide is generated from tillage and machinery.To improve the cleanliness of the water, farmers could put up fences around all of the rivers and ponds etc. which are found on their property to keep livestock out of the water.

The livestock is likely to disturb the banks which cause the water to become dirty. The animals also leave waste in the water which adds excessive nutrients to the water like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The dirt and rubbish can pollute the water, making it unhealthy for fish and other aquatic species.

It is essential to protect water sources because they serve as a vital source of drinking water. Water from polluted sources can also run into the ocean and harm sea life. Current Agri-Environment SchemesAgri-environment schemes provide funding to farmers and land managers to farm in a way that supports biodiversity, enhances the landscape, and improves the quality of water, air and soil. In 2001, the Rural Stewardship Scheme (RSS) was set up in Scotland.  The scheme is controlled and supervised by the Scottish Executive for Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD).  Stewardship suggests caring and management of property for others.

Farmers are now the caretakers of the countryside, managing and protecting it for human enjoyment but also to maintain and restore the rich biodiversity of species and their habitats. This scheme is followed in my chosen areas.Potential Future Developments Based On Land-Use FactorsThe estate is a significant employer; however, this is likely to change with potential future developments.  These developments include increased mechanisation, use of GPS and automatic systems. There will be less demand for labour which will affect some sectors less than others, for example, the livestock will always need workers but will all of the improvements that are continuing to be made less will be required.Non-Agricultural Land UseLand Use 1 – Renewables Biomass is a material made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and it is often used to describe products such as logs, wood chip and wood pellets. It is considered a carbon neutral and sustainable source of heating and electricity production.Ardnamurchan Estate now uses biomass boilers to provide heating for their hotel, castles, distillery and the holiday homes.

 It is proving to be a great success and has significantly increased employment. The distillery is powered entirely by renewable energy and is one of the greenest whisky distilleries in the world.Hydroelectric uses the power of water which flows downhill to turn a turbine, and this creates electricity. Hydroelectricity is the oldest form of renewable energy generation in the UK and generates significant amounts of the country’s power.

 Argyll and Bute have a considerable amount of potential hydro thanks to a very high annual rainfall average.  In Argyll and Bute, almost 70% of the total renewable energy generation is from hydro sources.  The Garmony Hydro is a 400kw hydroelectric scheme found on the Isle of Mull at the Allt Achadh Na Moine River. Green Energy Mull (GEM) is an Energy Supply Company. This company will eventually own and operate the hydroelectric system and any net profits at the end of the financial year from running the hydro scheme will then be donated to the Mull and Iona Community Waterfall Fund which is a registered charity.

 Hydropower provides a clean fuel source and does not pollute the air.  It is a renewable power source and is available as needed.  Hydropower impacts to water quality and flow and can cause low dissolved oxygen levels in the water.  These plants can be affected by lack of water because if there is not enough, then they are unable to produce electricity.  New hydropower facilities are likely to impact the local environment and can compete with other uses for the land. Land Use 2 – Sporting and RecreationThe Tour of Mull is a closed road rally event held on the island every October. While some well-off competitors benefit from superior cars, the locals benefit from their knowledge of the roads.

Since 2005, it has been sponsored by Tunnock’s, the biscuit manufacturer located in Lanarkshire. The rally provided many benefits for the island as it brings thousands to the island which creates lots of money but it also has caused negative impacts such as damage to the roads. There is a cycling club on the Isle of Mull and the Cross at the Castle cyclocross event is held every year at Glengorm Castle. Mull Runners organise a half marathon and 10K run each August, and it is run between Craignure and Salen.

 Rugby is played at Garmony, and every year the Mull Rugby 7s Competition takes place rugby club.  There are a few golf courses which are found in Tobermory, Craignure and on the Isle of Iona.  Mull Highland Games are held each August in the grounds of Tobermory Golf Club.  Events include Heavy Weights, Light Field, and Highland Dance.

There is also a swimming pool found at the Isle of Mull Hotel, and there are tennis courts located in Tobermory.  Although having all of these resources does have positive impacts it can also cause many problems.  These facilities use up a lot of space which causes issues such as loss of habitats and wild land.

 It can also lead to declining biodiversity.Land Use 3 – TourismTourism is significant in both Ardnamurchan and Mull, and both are also well known for the spectacular unspoilt countryside. Accommodation in both places varies from campsites, Bed and Breakfasts, guesthouses, hotels and self-catering accommodation to suit all budgets and preferences.  There are spectacular views and lochside locations, and there are activities to suit everyone from walks and cycling to fishing and kayaking.  Tourism is significant because it provides jobs for local people and income for the local economy; it helps to preserve rural services like buses, village shops and post offices and it also increases the trade of local crafts and food. The main attraction for tourists is the scenery and wildlife, which means there are pressures to conserve habitats and wildlife and damage to the landscape can be caused. A lot of the jobs are mainly seasonal and local goods can become expensive because tourists will pay more which makes things difficult for locals.

Land Use 4 – Forestry Ardnamurchan Estate has nearly 2,000 hectares of woodland and commercial forestry. Hundreds of acres of forestry have been kept as part of the estates land management plan.  They receive the support of government schemes and use that to improve native woodlands and wildlife habitats. The commercial forestry is crucial for the biomass-fueled heating which the estate now uses for staff accommodation, holiday lettings and the other businesses too.The forests in Mull provide some lovely places to see the island’s abundant wildlife.

The trees hide some historical features too, from standing stones to abandoned villages and atmospheric graveyards.  Almost six years ago a small community took over the management of a large area of Forestry Commission plantation. Funding, support and advice were provided by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise Board, and this has been strengthened by a grant from the Scottish Land Fund.  The Forest Association has quickly got down to work. In November 2012 it was well advanced with the harvesting of a substantial area – more than a third of the total area of 650ha – of Sitka spruce, larch and lodgepole pine. Using contractors Tillhill Forestry, the wood is expected to go primarily for pulp but will also help supply the firewood needs of local people. It is a massive operation and grants have been needed to construct temporary forest roads to enable the extraction of the timber.  A Forest Design Plan was created to guide the replanting of the forest, and it will include more native species and open space.

 The scarcity of affordable housing will also be addressed.  Developing renewable energy resources, mainly micro-hydro power, to meet local needs and contribute to action to tackle climate change is a priority. 

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