From Hill to Grill

Glen Urquhart High School pupils participate in a unique project taking their learning beyond the classroom and into the hills of the Glen Affric Estate.

Industry news
Published: 23/04/2023

For three weeks in March, S2 and S3 pupils from Glen Urquhart High School took part in a trailblazing project kindly funded and supported by Forestry & Land Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Soirbheas and Trees for Life. It took their learning across the curriculum out into their local community, applying it to the real world of work and exploring first-hand the land-based job roles, history and culture of those living and working on the Glen Affric Estate.

Designated as a Caledonian Forest Reserve, a national scenic area and a national nature reserve, Glen Affric is an area of immense natural beauty and as well as experiencing the traditional industries which historically have been a source of income and livelihood in the area, pupils got to learn how geography has shaped the Affric landscape, how history has influenced human activity and more recently how the digital revolution and business management are key to future maintaining and managing the natural environment.

The whole concept was a culmination of many months of planning with Developing the Young Workforce Inverness & Central Highlands bringing together several partners and employers who worked as a core team to inspire the young people and bring their learning to life.

Dr Linzi Seivwright from Caorann Ecological Consultancy who set the scene for the project and provided overall support said:

"It is vitally important that young people have the opportunity to connect with nature. Our aim was to help S2 and S3 pupils engage with and understand the natural environment around them - not just for the considerable health and well-being benefits that this can bring but also to introduce them to healthy, sustainably sourced food as well as the range of valuable career possibilities available to them in their local rural area".

Through a series of visits to the Glen Affric Estate pupils took part in several activities which included shadowing deer stalkers in managing the resident deer and carrying out habitat impact assessments to identify plant species as well as assessing grazing pressure. Members of the Affric and Kintail Land Management Group including North Affric Estate hosted the school and its pupils over several days, providing an immersive and hands on experience. Estate team member Chris Macleod demonstrated the skill of butchery and gave pupils an understanding of both the anatomy of the Affric’s deer and how they provide a sustainable food source, transforming deer carcass to venison products.

Pupils were also accompanied by Mark Hamblin from Scotland, The Big Picture and got to use cameras to photo ‘shoot’ the deer high in the Affric hills providing a pictorial reference to their experience.

In the lead up to the project, Adder Business Ltd visited pupils to deliver a masterclass on marketing and branding to prepare them for their final task which was a Dragons Den meets MasterChef team competition to prepare and cook the best (and tastiest!) venison burger and venison sausage and prepare and present a marketing plan to take to market. The venison was very kindly provided by Ardgay Game, Scotland’s premium supplier of Venison and Game.

William Fraser, Property Manager, Kintail and West Affric at The National Trust for Scotland said,

“It is important as we contemplate landscape scale habitat restoration, that we consider the local communities that have coexisted with nature in the Highlands for centuries. The young people of today are our future, and we hope by engaging with them through the Hill to Grill Project, that we have provided an inspiring insight into some of the career opportunities that might be available to them as they plan their futures.”

Back at school, the final day of the project was hugely impressive with both the Business Management and Home Economics rooms a hive of activity that resembled an industrial workplace rather than a place of learning.

After 3 hours of work, the pupils finally presented their culinary creations to great acclaim. The standard of craftsmanship, attention to detail and creativity was truly amazing and it was extremely difficult for the judges to pick a winner, although everyone enjoyed the tasting. It was then the turn of pupils to pitch their marketing plans to the Dragons and it was clear to see they had taken much from their business mentors. Difficult judging led into a celebration, with students receiving just acclaim and some fantastic prizes.

David Humphris, Guidance Teacher at Glen Urquhart High School said:

“On two cold crisp days in Glen Affric, we enjoyed the beauty of the natural surroundings as we learned about deer management, estate management and explored how food makes the journey from the hillside to the kitchen and onto our plates. On our return to the school, the pupils used their catering and business skills to produce wonderful venison burgers and sausage rolls to be judged by amongst others, the full-time chef from the Glen Affric Estate and much happy eating was enjoyed by pupils and staff alike! We really hope that this partnership can be built upon and that Hill to Grill can happen again with a new set of S2 pupils next year!”

Ashley Woodhouse, Developing the Young Workforce school co-ordinator at Glen Urquhart High School concluded:

“The project was a huge success, not only did it achieve its aim of raising awareness of jobs, the land and nature-based industries and the importance of the food chain, but it served to inspire the students in so many other things and prove that interdisciplinary learning in a work relevant environment, where young people and experienced practitioners work/communicate together can be highly inspiring, educationally valuable & immense fun for everyone.”

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