In spring, this land reverberates to the sound of bubbling curlews, drumming snipe and squadrons of trumpeting migrating geese. In summer, owls and foxes hunt for voles; bright red rowan berries attract migrant redwings and fieldfares, and in winter, buzzards quarter the fields in search of an easy meal. With expansive views to the Cairngorm mountains, we feel very fortunate to live in such a place.
But after two decades of looking out on these fields in front of our house, on which a summer flock of sheep feasted, we came to realise that this land could be so much more. It had been functioning way below its ecological potential for years and actually, much of the wildlife we’ve been privileged to watch, occurs on its periphery as a consequence of a neighbouring wetland reserve and pine plantation.
In 2019, an opportunity arose to purchase the land and so we took the plunge and became owners of 50 acres of grazing pasture in the western Cairngorms. The blank canvass of those bare fields was daunting, but we knew that here was an exciting opportunity to reinvigorate the ecological vitality of these humble acres. Encouragingly, whilst the land had been ploughed, fertilised and cropped, the soil is in pretty good shape with a healthy population of earthworms as testified by the hundreds of molehills that dot the fields.
With ownership though, comes that slightly uncomfortable expectation ‘to do something’ with the land. But what exactly? There was of course, the option to do nothing at all and let the land ‘rewild’ naturally. Given the luxury of scale and ‘reservoirs of nature’ nearby, this would have been the logical choice, but our land is small and to be honest, we are impatient for change and want to see things happen in our own lifetime. So, we decided to kickstart the ecological restoration process through a series of rewilding actions to expand existing habitats and create new corridors for wildlife to roam.