A COUNTY estate has gained a prestigious award recognising its wildlife management and conservation efforts.

Hopes Estate, in the Lammermuir Hills south of Gifford, known for its grouse shooting, was one of four landholdings to gain a Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) accreditation at the Scottish Game Fair at Scone near Perth.

The accreditation was given in recognition of its ongoing work in wildlife management and conservation.

Originally accredited in 2013, Hopes comprises of 4,200 hectares, most of which is open hill and moorland.Over the past five years the estate has been heavily involved in peatland restoration and woodland creation.

It also won the Golden Plover award in 2016, one which celebrates the best of integrated, sustainable upland management.

The other estates to be accredited were Glenquaich near Aberfeldy; Allargue in Corgarf, Strathdon; and Threepwood in Galashiels.

WES is a national version of the European Landowners Organisation’s Wildlife Estates accreditation scheme which promotes best land management practice throughout Scotland’s farms, estates and other rural landholdings.

Since WES was developed by Scottish Land and Estates, more than 1.26 million acres of Scotland’s land has qualified for a certification.

In Europe, Scotland sits second in the league table of wildlife estates’ accredited land, with Spain just ahead on 1.6 million.

Dee Ward, Wildlife Estates Scotland’s vice-chairman of operations said: “Landholdings across Scotland are undertaking vital conservation work that goes above and beyond what would be expected of them.

“This usually comes at significant cost to the business but, more often than not, land managers see their role as custodians of their local habitat and want to help a rich array of wildlife to flourish.

“The Hopes, alongside Glenquaich, Allargue and Threepwood, are all diverse in how their land is managed but they have a common goal to play their part in Scotland’s conservation efforts.

“It is only right that their efforts are recognised through WES accreditation.”