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Academy pupils helping Royal Dornoch Golf Club mitigate impact of flooding and coastal erosion from salt marshes


By Andrew Henderson

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Dornoch Academy is playing a key role in the expansion of an award-winning project aimed at protecting the town’s world-famous golfing links.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club is supporting pioneering work spearheaded by the Green Shores team at the University of St Andrews, supported by the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund, managed by NatureScot.

The Dornoch Firth salt marshes project is the only one of its kind in the Highlands, with additional sites on the Tay and Eden estuaries.

Dornoch Academy youngsters are teaming-up with Royal Dornoch greenkeepers to revitalise salt marshes on the shoreline.
Dornoch Academy youngsters are teaming-up with Royal Dornoch greenkeepers to revitalise salt marshes on the shoreline.

It began when Green Shores salt marsh specialist Dr Clare Maynard was invited by a teacher at the secondary school to speak to pupils about how the habitat has shaped Dornoch’s community.

“The team at Royal Dornoch Golf Club have been very supportive, as have the pupils and staff at Dornoch Academy,” said Dr Maynard.

“They are on an exciting research and development journey with us.

“The town’s wonderful golf courses wouldn't be there without the tides and wonderful sediment which created the links. The salt marshes by the Struie Course aren’t in great shape so we have been patching them up to mitigate the impact of flooding and erosion.

“There is already evidence that transplanting is being successful, helped by chestnut fencing which has been buried deep by the greenkeepers to tackle shoreline erosion.

“Their efforts have hugely reduced the wash out rate from winter storms and the latest funding has helped us buy another 2.5km of fencing for vulnerable shoreline.

“None of this would be possible without the input from Eoin Riddell, Scott Aitchison and the Royal Dornoch greenkeeping team and it has been lovely to see their efforts being recognised with sustainability awards from the golf industry. Ali Rennie at NatureScot has been a great champion for the project too.

“Academy pupils have been digging out donor plants on the salt marshes but based on our successful work with the St Andrews Links Trust on the Eden Estuary we were aware new plants would be required in huge quantities to make the project sustainable.

Dornoch Academy youngsters are teaming-up with Royal Dornoch greenkeepers to revitalise salt marshes on the shoreline.
Dornoch Academy youngsters are teaming-up with Royal Dornoch greenkeepers to revitalise salt marshes on the shoreline.

“On this scale – we are covering 1000 square metres on the shoreline – thousands of young plants are needed to give the natural salt marshes a helping hand to sustain themselves and flourish.

“With the completion of a new storm-proof polytunnel in the school grounds, thousands of saltmarsh transplants will be brought on. It will come into play for the start of the new school term and the plants will be ready for the spring 2025 planting season.

“The pupils will be out on the salt marshes again next year with plants they have grown themselves. The new polytunnel will offer even more scope for pupils keen on biology, geography and environmental sciences to get involved.”

Norman Ross, head teacher at Dornoch Academy, has welcomed the links forged with Green Shores and the University of St Andrews.

“The school is very keen on promoting the local environment, ecology and the sustainability message to our pupils, working within the community and partnering with other educational institutions,” he said.

“Quite frankly, we grabbed the fantastic opportunity extended by Clare and Green Shores.

“Biology teacher John Robinson and other members of staff have been closely involved.

“The school has garden grounds which were gifted to us years ago, but this tie-up with the university has encouraged us to take a fresh look at our facilities.

“Our old polytunnel was in dire need of refurbishment so this project has really spurred us on. The new tunnel is going to be a fabulous resource.

“The pupils will be closely involved in nurturing the young plants, in addition to assisting with the planting process on the salt marshes come the spring.”


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