A SURVEY has been launched at a Wee County estate in the hopes of making the site more publicly accessible in the future.

A specialist team has started the first survey of the Mar Estate, which aims to also support moves to secure formal recognition and protection of key features.

John Erskine, the sixth Earl of Mar (1675-1732), made the estate one of Scotland’s earliest industrial improvement schemes, supplying fresh water to Alloa, which was, at the time, a new town.

The estate also provided energy for mills and breweries, powered a large wheel for draining coal mines and created a series of sluices on the foreshore of the Forth estuary to deepen Alloa’s harbour.

Work started on the scheme in 1701 and by the middle of the 18th century had succeeded in turning Alloa into an industrial powerhouse.

Margaret Stewart, lecturer in architectural history at Edinburgh College of Art, said: “The Mar Estate is a landscape of international significance but, inexplicably, no integrated survey of it has ever been undertaken by any official body in Scotland.

“It is one of the finest formal gardens and most sophisticated industrial landscapes ever created.

“There is still a huge amount of information to be recovered from detailed mapping and land surveying.”

The survey will focus on the northern part of Mar’s original plan and will include the Gartmorn hydraulic system, with its weir, aqueduct and reservoir and dam.

The survey also covers two circular plantations – Octagon Wood and Cowpark Wood.

These were designed in the fashionable French style which inspired the ideas for the dam and aqueduct, with the team keen to discover who planted them and when.

In 2021, Octagon Wood was severely damaged during Storm Arwen, with windblown trees restricting access to the public despite remaining open.

The plan is to replant the woodland with native trees to encourage regeneration and wildlife.

If the project is a success, it is hoped the team members will undertake a second phase examining the southern section of Mar’s plan towards the Firth of Forth, which was modelled on the parks at Versailles.

Researchers say the survey outcomes are essential for informed decision-making about how to regenerate the surviving woodland and hydraulic scheme.

They also hope the project will encourage new uses for the site and pave the way for improved leisure and study facilities.