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“I felt my lungs inflate with the on rush of scenery-air, mountains, trees, people. I thought: this is what it is to be happy.”

Sylvia Plath – Poet.

As the Wildland initiative grows, it has the opportunity – and a responsibility it takes seriously – to become a force in the continuance and the prosperity of a rich and varied mix of communities. Some of these communities are steeped in tradition, others have been subject to the reductive impact of modern times and have seen the next generations drift away towards new lives in towns elsewhere.

Yet, as part of a process of open and ongoing discussion, exploration of opportunities that we can share in together and a commitment towards the investment necessary to effect positive change, we are sure that together we can deliver genuinely exciting and sustainable projects.

To distil our ethos with regards to what community means to us though, it might be easier to summarise Wildland’s focus to the following directives and values:

– a desire to support local initiatives, especially those that complement our own goals
– an appreciation of the land we own and its role as important recreational spaces for those that live near to us and those that visit from further afield.
– an opportunity to influence conservation on a scale unparalleled in the UK
– the educational potential of this unique multi-aspect project
– to create a unique tourism/accommodation resource that is quite distinct from existing offerings nearby
– to commence projects that are sustainable and which contribute to the local economies

Wildland has already worked with Up North! Community Development Trust to raise money locally to match funding from the Scottish government. A community chest was raised and has been used to fund small community projects which otherwise may not have happened. We are also to fund the purchase of a minibus for a local school group to ensure that can visit neighbouring communities for fixtures and travel further afield when the opportunities arise.

On Glenfeshie we have already seen the regeneration of in excess of 700 hectares of healthy natural Caledonian Pine forest which is in itself a contribution to our great open spaces that will continue to grow and even as it stands, benefit visitors to the estate for the next 300 years or more.

Castle Varrich, situated on Wildland’s Ben Loyal estate, dates from 1100AD and has long been little more than a fairy tale ruin standing alone, facing the heaving north seas. As a result of a project done between Wildland and Historic Environment Scotland, the walls of the castle were consolidated and a viewing platform accessed by a spiral stairway has been installed. Whilst this was essentially a project to repair a derelict monument on a Wildland estate it has rendered a decaying ruin an exciting destination for tourists for generations to come. Not just a valuable attraction in Tongue, it can become a key destination on the North Coast 500 route along our always dramatic and breath-taking coastlines.

There are a broad mix of people now working on the Wildland project; some are continuing to use skills honed across generations and are focused towards giving the land a chance to restore itself. Others are drawing on science and academic research that will help make the project sustainable; a fascinating mix of tradition and new thinking.

Alongside this, we have the means to invest in the communities we are part of (and from which many of our Wildland team are employed). We have taken ownership of a town’s one remaining Post Office and village store due to close and given it a new lease of life. We have taken on the restoration of a village church and restored it with the community in mind.

But above all though, it’s about people; traditional skills and attachments to the land. It’s about nurturing a new breed of individual passionate about the life and livelihood of these remote areas, crafts that we can bring to the attention of our guests and visitors. We actively source local goods and products and make a point of doing so whenever we can. We really do care about making relationships with the people and the place that are meaningful.