Balmoral redundancies and big changes on way because 'King doesn't want to farm anymore'

The could be big changes on the cards at the Balmoral estate as King Charles makes changes from how his late mother ran thingsThe could be big changes on the cards at the Balmoral estate as King Charles makes changes from how his late mother ran things
The could be big changes on the cards at the Balmoral estate as King Charles makes changes from how his late mother ran things
King Charles’s Deeside estate appears to be at a turning point as he looks to break with tradition.

Jobs are at risk at King Charles Balmoral Estate as the Monarch considers a new way forward for his land amid claims he “doesn’t want to farm anymore”.

Four members of staff are involved in a redundancy process as plans are made to break up the Balmoral Stud’s herd of Highland Ponies with 20 Highland Cattle also to go. Three hundred sheep have already been sold, it is understood.

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The loss of the Highland Ponies is being particularly hard felt given the breed was trumpeted by Queen Victoria after she arrived at Balmoral and then nurtured by Queen Elizabeth II, former patron of the Highland Pony Society, who worked to conserve the species. Two mares are bound for the breeding programme at Hampton Court Palace with eight to be retained at Balmoral to bring deer down from the hill, a source said.

Speculation now surrounds the future of Balmoral, with claims some of the land could be broken up for starter farms or a rewilding project to improve biodiversity at the 50,000-acre estate which is managed in part for grouse and deer shooting. Balmoral sits in the Cairngorms National Park where a string of neighbouring estates work on nature restoration projects.

The source added: “Balmoral is changing. Apparently the King doesn’t want to farm anymore. The cattle and the ponies are such an iconic part of traditional Highland sporting estates and without them the estate is no longer traditional.

“The Highland Pony is a rare breed and seriously at risk - the Balmoral Stud nurtured by HM the Queen was a hugely important part of the breed.

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“Balmoral was the jewel in the crown of Highland Estates and now its rich cultural and natural heritage is now being lost.”

Sylvia Ormiston, the stud manager, is now involved in the redundancy process along with her husband Dochy, with the couple living in tied accommodation. In June, Princess Royal presented the couple with an award for their “exceptional contribution” to livestock breeding.

The King has faced calls to match decades of campaigning on the environment with action on his own land, particularly following his address to the COP26 summit in Glasgow in 2021 on the need for a “war-like footing” to tackle climate change. Naturalist Chris Packham is amongst those who have called for rewilding on royal estates but concerns have been raised about the impact on rural jobs.

Peter Cairns, executive director of rewilding charity, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture said: “I think it's fair to say that despite his widely applauded advocacy for nature conservation, King Charles has been historically resistant to change at Balmoral. Individuals and campaign groups have been quick to scrutinise how the land is managed at the Highland Estate, and to point out that the Victorian model of sport shooting that has persisted since the 19th century, no longer reflects societal needs and values.”

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A spokesman for Balmoral Estate said the Highland Pony breeding programme had “historically” been based at Hampton Court. A statement added: “During this period of transition the Royal Household is in consultation with staff who will be affected by the change.”