Wild Land Project

Ecological restoration at Bamff began in the early 1990s with the re-creation of wetlands through reverse drainage schemes and the planting of various native woodlands – from farm woodland schemes on the low ground to native pinewoods on the hill. This was followed in 2002 by the pioneering introduction of beavers.

Now, at the start of the 2020s, we plan to undertake a catalysed rewilding project to create a richly biodiverse area of wild land out of 166 hectares of marginal farmland and plantations.

The Wild Land Project area makes up the southern and lowest third of the Bamff estate which lies at around 600 – 700 feet above sea level on the highland edge. Fractures in the highland fault line run through this piece of land and it is mostly undulating or flat. Roughly half of this area is currently open fields – used for sheep pasture or for grazing cattle and to grow fodder crops, and half is woodland of various kinds, mostly plantations, some exotic conifers, some native hardwoods.

The long term aim is to allow the land to become self willed – a self regenerating mosaic of dynamically evolving habitats and their associated wildlife species. This will happen by putting nature back in charge and ultimately withdrawing the influence of humanity: to rewild.

At the outset, in recognition of the severity of the biodiversity crisis, we will apply specific targeted actions which are sensitive, appropriate and proportionate to catalyse this processes.

Bamff wild land map
map of the proposed wild land zone
old conservation map with satellite imagery
old conservation management map - with satellite imagery

These actions include:

  • Digging ponds and scrapes for wetland birds and other species.
  • Planting native trees (oak, hazel, crab apple, holly).
  • Planting hedges of thorny scrub (blackthorn, hawthorn, wild rose),
  • Planting riparian trees near waterways.
  • Planting many acres of wildflowers.

This will extend biological corridors and help to inter-connect habitat and improve the breeding and feeding grounds for many native species including, we hope, vulnerable ones, lost to our land in recent years, such as lapwing and curlew.

  • Bat houses will also be installed across the area to increase bat breeding and survival.
  • Hibernacula will be created for a range of species, including bats, hedgehogs and amphibians.
  • Invasive non native species will be removed.
  • Nesting boxes will be installed for a range of vulnerable birds.

These will give a boost to many struggling native species and increase their chances of survival.

The three beaver families already present on the land have created an extensive area of wetlands, consisting of around fifty dams and pools with their associated fallen and drowned trees, coarse woody debris in the water, and coppiced stems. This has already begun the process of catalysing the rewilding of this land in the riparian zone.

Many wetland species have already benefitted from this and every year more new species appear in the riparian zone and beyond. Common species also occur in ever greater abundance.

As an important first step, sheep will be removed by end of 2020. There will then be one fallow year with no herbivores present other than wild roe deer. The land will be fenced around the perimeter to enable future low level conservation grazing by cattle, ponies and pigs across the whole contiguous area.

Cattle, ponies and pigs are descended from native species and have grazing, browsing and rootling patterns that bring many benefits in low densities. A similar approach has been undertaken at the Knepp Estate in Sussex where it has been shown that by introducing a grazing regime that mimics primitive ecological relationships between herbivores and the landscape, it enhances and maintains dynamic natural processes. This can lead to a boom in many species, including rarities, some entirely unanticipated.

The Bamff Wild Land Project will be monitored, thus creating a demonstration in Scotland of the biodiversity and carbon impacts of this innovative style of management.

This website will document the outcomes of monitoring as they emerge, enabling data sets resulting from this project to also be used by others with an interest in rewilding.

poster from 2019 of rewilding in Scottish uplands
poster from 2019 depicting rewilding in Scottish uplands