Cairngorms Connect Venison Project

Scotland’s once-expansive Caledonian pine forest has drastically shrunk and become disconnected over the centuries, largely due to human actions. Today, only 1% of Scotland’s original pine forest remains. 

We’ve got ambitious aims to restore forests, in the hope that future generations will once again be able to experience a vast habitat overflowing with life: a place where people pause to feel peace beneath ancient granny pines whilst red squirrels forage overhead. Forests are also vital in the face of the climate crisis, and lock up carbon in their leaves, trunk, branches and soil.  

A key factor holding back forest expansion is browsing by deer, whose nibbling teeth mean young saplings have little hope of growing into forests. Whilst red and roe deer are part of Scotland’s ecosystem, an absence of predators means their numbers are unsustainably high, with negative consequences for deer who struggle to find enough food in the winter, and for Scotland’s woodland landscape which has little chance to regenerate. In the absence of natural predators, it is the responsibility of land managers to keep deer numbers at a sustainable level.  

Following decades years of deer management, Cairngorms Connect partners have seen the positive impact of deer management – there are more young trees visible on the forest edge, and the slow march of native woodland is now visible on the slopes of the Cairngorms.  

Necessary deer management also produces venison – which we believe should be a local, accessible, environmentally sustainable source of high quality and sustainable protein. People are at the heart of Cairngorms Connect, and at a time when people are becoming more conscious of their consumer habits, venison provides an exciting opportunity to involve new audiences in our habitat restoration vision. 

Cairngorms Connect Venison is on the menu at The Old Bridge Inn in Aviemore and for people who want to cook venison at home, Cairngorms Connect Venison can be purchased from the regularly stocked Balliefurth Farm Shop in Nethy Bridge and from RSPB Scotland’s Loch Garten Nature Centre in the Spring and Summer months.

Keep an eye out on our social media for updates on the Cairngorms Connect Venison Project. 

 Venison Masterclass by Rupert Shanks

Image (above): At a recent Cairngorms Connect Venison Masterclass, participants learned about venison from  local butcher, Oliver Wilson (left), and  local chef  Shonagh MacGregor (right) © Rupert Shanks

Feature Image: Cairngorms Connect Deer Stalker Jack Ward and dog Ruadh © Rupert Shanks



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