With so much negative and troubling events happening in the world at the moment, it’s hard to focus on the the constructive, the beautiful and the positive things in our lives. Apart from anything, events like the storming of the Capitol building in America are incredibly compelling, and with endless media coverage of Brexit, Covid, and climate change, small acts of positivity can feel like a drop in the ocean.
Still, I thought it might be a good time to share some of the good news and plans from our first re-wilding project, 48 acres of rough grazing land half an hour from Edinburgh, overlooking the Pentland Hills.
Five years into this land project, I still feel like we are in the early stages of rewilding, and having previously worked as a journalist (albeit more of a in-depth and grassroots journalist) it’s been a massive adjustment getting used to the different time-scales of land restoration and reforesting. What is great is that, after an initially massive investment of time and energy into the site – tree planting, fencing, access road construction, more tree planting, more fencing, weeding, mulching, planting hedgerows, and learning how to grow trees from seed – now, it feels like the natural re-wilding processes are now snowballing.
The 16,000 trees we’ve planted are growing well, and the removal of sheep from the land has allowed a massive explosion of wild-flowers and grassland recovery over the last two years – a much needed fallow period for an area that was permanently grazed for far too long without rest or respite. The tall grasses have created a better habitat for voles and other rodents, and the barn owls and other hunting birds we see on the site now, have clearly benefitted. You can feel the change in the land.
We continue to have ambitious plans for this site, and in the medium to long-term, hope to make it economically as well as environmentally sustainable. We have been granted permission for a small-scale glamping site with five yurts, a wild-swimming pond, and a cafe-restaurant. Those plans have been slowed down by the pandemic, but in the end that may be no bad thing. I’ve learnt not to be in a rush with this project – to enjoy watching the land, the trees and the grassland change over time – and to make space and time for nature to return.