Giving nature a helping hand
At Wildland we believe in nature’s own capacity to restore itself and appreciate that this is a project extending far beyond our own lifetimes.
The regeneration of this wilderness will demand timescales more likely to be enjoyed in our children’s lifetime than by us in ours, but we know that we can help create the conditions necessary to allow natural processes to gain a foothold.
It’s a simple fact that many estates across the Highlands have populations of deer far beyond that which the ecosystem can support. Deer browse young saplings before they have any chance to establish themselves. On land where our deer management is in hand, the regeneration of habitat and woodland has been nothing short of remarkable. The heart soars when the rebirth of these lands sees wildlife return. Sounds of rivers rushing and a sight of summer swallows swooping all suggests a soul stirring with eager vitality.
For those of us (those that have the desire to explore the world unknown) that grew up going out into the wilds of the world…we got into our souls a sense of beauty.
Philanthropist and conservationist.
Nature is miraculous in its ability to recover as soon as artificially high numbers of large herbivores are reduced. Seeds that have lain dormant sleeping in the ground for decades, wake and germinate. Saplings in check emerge. It is as if nature recognises a helping hand and somehow knows that this is its time.
Perhaps one day, this process of rehabilitation will be such that animals long absent from these lands – the lynx, the bear and wolves for example – may be able to return. While we will only support this if ways can be found for such species to coexist harmoniously with rural communities, exciting things are already happening. Hen harrier, goshawk and golden eagle are more and more a startling encounter across our wildlands. We have invested in our own satellite tagging to aid us in better understanding both the habits and reach of these iconic birds.
Projects elsewhere to reintroduce beaver, crane and storks demand our interest and we will get involved if it is appropriate. The romance of such ambition certainly serves to focus attention towards goals that are more achievable in the short term.
80% of the land across the Wildland holdings is now designated under the European Union’s Natura 2000 conservation standard. With regards to UK national designations, Wildland is rich with National Scenic Areas, Special Sites of Interest and Special Protection Areas.
One amazing fact to consider is that 20% of the world’s blanket bog is in the north of Scotland and Wildland is supporting a live bid for World Heritage Site status for its Flow Country holdings.
Working with local river and fisheries trusts, Wildland is dedicated towards projects giving fish stocks the very best chance to replenish in numbers.
Whilst verdant new growth of young birch, larch, alder, juniper and, of course, Caledonian Pine, alludes to the forests that once covered this land for as far as the eye could see, it’s not the end of a successful story. In fact, it is only the beginning. The root systems of these young trees soon begin to bind the land and reduce erosion, sustain a more natural river course, attract insects, and provide shelter for a far more diverse mix of wildlife.
Endangered animals – such as the red squirrel, pine marten, the iconic Scottish wildcat, capercaille and black grouse – should thrive again and as new woodlands across the estates connect, pathways are created for animals to breed. …and the cycle begins afresh. It’s not just these animals that are well known to anyone interested in Scotland’s wildlife that are increasing in numbers. Invertebrates such as the fresh water pearl mussel inhabit the rivers again, a sign that the water quality is improving too.
It’s not all science either. Conservation also calls for an artist’s eye; a visionary capacity to see the future and what can yet be.
To many, parts of the Highlands may look thick with verdant forest; yet these vast swathes of commercial conifers are monocultures: acre after acre and row after row of trees planted by man. …often ugly and unnatural.
On Wildland estates, through judicious felling and planting, we try to create a credible edge that serves to break up these plantings and also encourage new more varied woodland to enrich what is within; and, in time, replace it. Wildland has planted over two million trees across its estates, alongside thousands of acres of natural woodland regeneration. This in turn serves to provide a future seed source for planting in locations where natural local seed sources have been long lost. On the Glenfeshie estate, Wildland has already more than doubled its own part of the Caledonian Pine Forest to more than 1600 hectares of entirely natural tree growth.