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Letham Grange: How abandoned Angus resort became a lockdown nature haven for locals

Letham Grange wildlife
Louise Hamill.

Nature is taking over at an abandoned Angus golf resort.

The hotel at Letham Grange near Arbroath has long since closed and the estate’s two golf courses are now overgrown.

Letham Grange
The former Letham Grange Hotel.

But in the absence of people, bats, red squirrels, pine martens and an abundance of other species are taking over.

Local resident and wildlife enthusiast Louise Hamill is among those who have welcomed the new arrivals.

And, with plans being lodged for a major redevelopment of Letham Grange, she says it it time to speak up for wildlife.

“During lockdown, what happened is the land returned to nature,” she said.

“Lots of new wildlife and existing wildlife really started to prosper.

“No-one wants to stand in the way of progress but any progress has to be done sympathetically with the environment.

“Areas like this support a huge amount of biodiversity – birds, mammals, everything. It’s so important.”

Letham Grange a wildlife ‘haven’

Louise Hamill with one of her rescued chickens.

Louise is an animal lover who counts a few rescued chickens among her pets.

Her home is within the boundaries of the estate, which has around 140 houses on site, and she lives alongside Letham Grange’s bounty of biodiversity.

This includes mammals from foxes to stoats and, in the past, even otters.

There is also an abundance of bird life.

The cuckoo has been heard in the area. Louise has even seen a kingfisher in her garden.

Louise said the area was a popular spot for walkers during lockdown as well as being a “nature hub”.

She added: “It’s a haven for photographers, for people who love wildlife and people who love walks.”

What else has been seen at Letham Grange?

One mammalian visitor has been causing a bit of a stir – a pine marten.

Letham Grange wildlife
The pine marten at Letham Grange captured on camera by a local resident.

Pine martens crashed in numbers in the 1800s and continued to be persecuted by gamekeepers until quite recently.

They are now a protected species, with Scotland’s pine marten population estimated at just 3,700.

Louise says the appearance of the pine marten is an indicator that Letham Grange is a rich wildlife habitat.

And, according to the Woodland Trust, pine martens can prey on grey squirrels, helping to keep numbers down.

More research is needed, but the trust said it could be “great news” for red squirrels.

Could all this be about to change?

Louise with the derelict hotel in the background.

But things could be about to change at Letham Grange.

Hong Kong-registered Smartwill Investment has lodged a Proposal of Application Notice.

The proposal includes bringing the hotel back into use and building around 250 new homes on the estate.

Many of the new build houses would be on what was once a golf course known as the New Course.

The plans would see the redesign of Letham Grange’s Old Course, once dubbed the ‘Augusta of the North’.

Any new development would have to comply with Angus Council’s planning policy.

Under development plan policy, impact on habitats and species, protected trees, and open space needs to be taken into account.

Louise said: “It’s a sensitive area which has attracted and maintains a very diverse selection of animals.

“For me, it’s just a beautiful nature hub on the edge of Arbroath.

“Someone has to say there are protected animals here so let’s protect them.”

Frog ladders

A common frog.

Louise is no stranger to speaking up for wildlife.

Each year a “sea” of migrating frogs passes her doorstep.

“When frogs are migrating, our road is on the migratory path,” she said.

“It is crazy. It’s like a sea of frogs on the road. They will jump up on your legs.”

But she noticed some were falling down drains in the roadway.

At first she tried ‘fishing’ them out. Then Angus Council stepped in to help.

An intern at the council installed a ‘frog ladder’ so the creatures could climb out.

“Frogs can just use it as a ladder and climb up it. So can newts.

“Angus Council really came on board with that.”

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