Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is reminding walkers heading for the hills this autumn to check ahead for possible deer stalking taking place on estates. It is also keen to hear from walkers about their experience of doing this and would like hill walkers to complete a short survey.
The busy stag stalking season which runs until 20th October and is at its peak around now, is also a popular time of year for walkers. Because of requests from walkers and land managers SNH developed the Heading for the Scottish Hills website with support and advice from the National Access Forum. Now in its second year, the pilot includes 45 properties in popular hill-walking areas, mainly in the Cairngorms National Park and on the west coast. The survey can also be found on the main page of the website.
The website includes general information about stalking, contact details for all properties, and detailed forecasts from a number of estates about where and when stalking will take place, as well as suggested walking routes. There is also information on responsible behaviour for land managers and walkers.
The Heading for the Scottish Hills website adds to the popular Hillphones service which was set up in 1996.
Fiona Cuninghame, SNH recreation and access officer, said: “This website is a quick and easy way to check that you won’t disturb deer stalking when you’re out for a walk this autumn. I’d encourage all those keen walkers out there to try the site out and let us know what they think.
“We had a great response from walkers to the Heading for the Scottish Hills website last year, and we’ve made a number of changes based on their comments. This is still a pilot site, and we’re looking to make it more useful next year, so we hope to hear people’s ideas on what to improve through the online survey.”
Hebe Carus, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) access and conservation officer, said: “It is great to see a significant increase in the area covered by the Heading for the Scottish Hills website, including a large proportion of the Cairngorms and some of the most popular hill walking areas in the west”.
Richard Cooke, chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups and convenor of the National Access Forum, said: “The number of people going to the Scottish hills for recreation has increased steadily over recent years and in some cases that can make it difficult for deer managers, particularly during the autumn period. There is no reason why both walkers and stalkers cannot share the hills but the need is for more readily available information so that all hill goers can take account of the needs of others. We see the development of the online version of “Heading for the Scottish hills” as being a really important step forward in that communication process and hope to see the scheme rolled out over the whole upland deer range as soon as possible.”
The website takes its name from the popular ‘Heading for the Scottish Hills’ book, collaboration between landowners and mountaineers, published between 1988 and 1996. The book provided hill-goers with a way to identify and contact some stalking estates to find out where stalking was taking place for the first time.