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St Cyrus nature reserve nets historic salmon bothies in fishery board deal

One of the St Cyrus bothies. Pic: SNH.
One of the St Cyrus bothies. Pic: SNH.

Bothies used by generations of fishermen on the Mearns coast are set for a new role after being landed in a £1 deal by national nature reserve bosses.

For hundreds of years, the two buildings at the northern end of the St Cyrus dunes were a vital base for local salmon netsmen.

They are now being lined up for a new community use after being acquired by reserve owners Scottish Natural Heritage from the Esk District Salmon Fishery Board.

The bothies could be used as an outdoor classroom, exhibition area, museum, bothy or shelter – all ideas which have emerged from a community consultation on the reserve.

St Cyrus NNR manager Therese Alampo said: “We’re very excited to now own the bothies and are open to ideas on how to use the bothies, as long as they complement the nature reserve.

“I’d like to thank the Esk District Salmon Fishery Board for allowing us to take over the bothies – for the sum of one pound.

“I’m sure we’ll find a great way to use them to benefit the community.”

Hughie Campbell Adamson, chairman of the Esk District Salmon Fishery Board, said: “The Esk DSFB was very happy to give these bothies to Scottish Natural Heritage.

“Coastal salmon netting played an important role in the local economy and as part of its culture, and its history and heritage should not be forgotten.”

In addition, another 1.7 hectares of dune habitat around the bothies will formally become part of the internationally renowned reserve.

For safety reasons the bothies are currently fenced off for condition assessment and asbestos surveys.

Two small outbuildings near the main bothies, believed to be an old well and generator shed, will be demolished as they can’t be re-purposed.

Their footprints, however, will remain to help document the human history at St Cyrus NNR. Restoration of the bothies will be dependent on securing external funding.

The bothies behind the dunes were used by fisherman to store their nets and equipment.

The areas of short grass adjacent to the buildings were the drying greens where nets were hung over stakes, like a giant washing line, to allow them to dry and for the fishermen to perform any repairs.

Fishing for sea trout and salmon has been practised at St Cyrus for hundreds of years, but expanded in the early 18th century when the industry turned to ice packing to preserve the valuable fish. Salmon fishing ceased at St Cyrus in 2009.

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