River South Esk Catchment Partnership

The River South Esk catchment is the area of land drained by the river and its burns, including its lochs, groundwaters, wetlands, and the unique estuary of Montrose Basin.

This water resource is of immense value to a variety of users from the local community, to businesses, and tourism providers. 

It is a source of drinking water, irrigation for crops, watering for livestock, a valuable habitat for wildlife, and acts as a basis for tourism, recreation and salmon fishing.

Managing the catchment sustainably

From 2009-17 the River South Esk Catchment Partnership sustainability managed the catchment through the implementation of the River South Esk Catchment Management Plan (9 MB PDF).

The River South Esk Catchment Management Plan Review 2017 highlights the successful delivery of approximately 90% of actions, all contributing to improving the health of the catchment.

Catchment Management Plan 2 

The partnership aims to produce a second catchment management plan, to be delivered from 2025-30. A consultation process will begin in late spring 2024. Priorities and aspirations will focus on environmental, people and economic opportunities and may include: 

  • improving ecological connectivity 
  • riparian woodland expansion 
  • invasive non-native species control 
  • climate change adaptation 
  • peatland restoration 
  • natural flood management 
  • community resilience 
  • fish population monitoring 
  • community volunteering 
  • tourism 
  • economic development

These priorities are linked in many ways and a healthy river catchment underpins them all.

More information is available on the River South Esk website.

Delivering nature-based solutions

The Partnership’s members hold valuable skills and expertise that have enabled the delivery ambitious nature-based solutions focussed land use projects since 2019. This important work enables action to help address the climate and biodiversity crises.

River South Esk 2020 Source to Sea Challenge

The River South Esk Catchment Partnership was awarded £130,000 from NatureScot in the first round of the Biodiversity Challenge Fund in 2019. The project’s aim was to enable riverbank restoration and wetland habitat creation at five sites in Glen Clova and native broadleaf expansion in riparian and montane zones in Glen Doll. Ongoing monitoring will allow the Partnership to build up an evidence base showing the multiple benefits these small interventions can make.

Project summary

Restoring the River South Esk – A Nature Rich and Climate Resilient Catchment

The launch of the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund in Spring 2021 provided an opportunity for the Partnership to work with Angus landowners on a successful £140,000 Nature Restoration Fund development phase bid in 2022. Now complete, a £1.4 million delivery phase application was submitted in summer 2023 with a funding decision imminent. The project aims to deliver climate change adaptation and nature restoration in Glens Clova, Doll and Prosen. Key themes include woodland expansion, wetland creation and river restoration at a scale unseen before in Angus.

Restoring the Rottal Burn

The ‘Restoring the Rottal Burn’ project was awarded the UK River Prize by the River Restoration Centre in April 2023. The project is an example of what can be achieved when local partners, experts, academics and landowners combine their strengths for the benefit of the local environment, biodiversity and community. It continues to inspire new restoration projects across the River South Esk catchment and Angus.  River restoration specialists and a varied stakeholder network visit the site and witness river restoration as it evolves.

Not only has the project restored nature and contributes to local and global outcomes, it aids climate change adaptation and resilience, increased carbon storage, and provides natural flood management benefits for downstream communities and landowners.

Read more about the project on the Restoring Europe's Rivers website.

Wild South Esk

The River South Esk is home to home to some of the most varied wildlife in Scotland. The rivers in the catchment are a Special Area of Conservation because of their Atlantic salmon and freshwater pearl mussel. 

Years of human activity have changed the natural state of the river. Farming and forestry have altered or led to the loss of habitats, leading to a decline in the species they support. We're working to address these issues through nature-based solutions – an approach to conservation that aims to restore and work with natural processes.

More information on wildlife and projects is available on the Wild South Esk website.