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15 Apr 2021

Your donations at work

A rugged coastline with a calm sea at St Abb's Head.
St Abb’s Head National Nature Reserve
As a charity, the Trust’s vital work couldn’t be carried out without your support. Three Trust colleagues share how they’re making a difference where they work.

Ciaran Hatsall – Ranger, St Abb’s Head and Grey Mare’s Tail

We had a busy winter in the south of Scotland, with plenty of maintenance and conservation work taking place.

One of the main winter events at St Abb’s Head is the annual grey seal breeding season. Each November thousands of seals haul themselves onto the beaches to breed and give birth to their pups. Bex (our brilliant long-term volunteer) and I spent a lot of time monitoring the population and undertaking counts – a record-breaking 1,806 pups were born in 2020. All this will feed into national data, allowing us to track breeding trends UK-wide and monitor how grey seals are coping with mounting pressures such as loss of habitat and climate change.

A white, furry seal pup lies on grass and looks directly at the camera. It has big, round, black eyes, and long black whiskers.
Seal pup at St Abb’s Head

In addition to monitoring and reporting on our habitats and biodiversity, we carry out general maintenance to help protect the area and ensure access for everyone who wants to enjoy it. We inspect paths, fixing them where necessary, and if we discover rockfalls, we devise and undertake clearance solutions. Our habitat work has also continued, removing patches of gorse from the headland to make sure it doesn’t encroach onto the wildflower meadows.

At Grey Mare’s Tail, we’ve been keeping the area free from litter and making sure that increased visitor numbers aren’t impacting on the landscape. As lockdown lifts, we want to ensure our wild places are protected against increased footfall. Action plans are being put in place to help manage the nature reserve to benefit people and wildlife, with lots of exciting projects starting to take shape. We’ve also started to survey the area for alpine plants, which will provide us with essential data and help to conserve Scotland’s flora.

None of our rangers could do what they do without the support of our donors – thank you for your ongoing support. Come and visit when you can!

A classic view of the waterfall, with fresh spring vegetation transforming the landscape from dull browns to vivid greens.​
Grey Mare’s Tail

Antonia Laurence-Allen – Regional Curator, Edinburgh & East

Conservation work has begun on a selection of John Henry Lorimer paintings and some furniture at Kellie Castle in Fife. These objects will be part of an exhibition called Reflections – the Life and Work of John Henry Lorimer, which will open in November this year at the City Art Centre in Edinburgh. The exhibition is a major retrospective and will highlight the importance of Kellie to John Henry, which features in many of his paintings.

Self portrait of a man reflected in a small mirror on a wall, with a bunch of tulips on a small shelf below.
Self portrait, John Henry Lorimer

Conservation work is also being carried out across the region. At Gladstone’s Land in Edinburgh, specialist conservators have been uncovering and condition-checking the original painted ceilings they had previously protected while renovation works continue in the building. Meanwhile, thanks to a donation from the Edinburgh Members’ Centre, we’ve returned a recently restored 18th-century exquisite brass ormolu inlaid boulle table to the House of the Binns.

Patterned wallpaper uncovered on a wall at Gladstone's Land.
Uncovered wallpaper at Gladstone’s Land

On top of specialist projects, we’ve been carrying out post-lockdown tasks to ensure the continued care of our collections. Checking and eradicating any pests that eat our collections, such as woodworm or moths, is essential, as is checking and mitigating damage from protected creatures, like the bats that roost in our buildings.

The stories of our places are expressed through the collections they house and their interior decorative schemes, so it’s important we can pass them on to future generations. Thank you for helping us to protect and conserve our collections and places for everyone to enjoy.

Chris Wardle – Gardens & Designed Landscapes Manager, Aberdeen & Angus

The many lockdowns haven’t stopped our essential ongoing garden work – we cleared out sheds and serviced our machines in preparation for spring. Pruning and shrub renovation have been carried out and greenhouses cleaned (a good excuse to escape the snowy winter we had!). We’ve also been mulching and composting all the borders in our gardens, which takes many hours and happens in all weathers.

Every garden has its own quirks and there’s been a range of activity across the region. At Castle Fraser we tidied up the woodland garden ready for daffodil bulbs to be planted for spring displays. Over at Barry Mill we’ve been preparing the ground for Project Wipeout, which will remove invasive non-native species from the grounds to give our native plants a chance to thrive.

A mill is set in lush countryside under a blue sky.
The grounds at Barry Mill

More people than ever have engaged with our gardens over the past year and they provided vital green spaces for everyone to enjoy through lockdowns and restrictions. Our work has been supported by many – thank you for your gifts.


As a charity we can only protect Scotland’s heritage with the help of all our supporters. Find out about the many ways you can get involved with our work.

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