Sustainable Scotland: Nature takes its course as rewilding transforms former farm in Scotland's home of golf

An ambitious coastal rewilding project in Scotland’s home of golf is taking a big step forward after winning funding to expand its nature restoration vision.

Kinkell Byre, an exclusive wedding and events venue set in a converted barn on a former farm just outside St Andrews, has been awarded a grant of £55,314 from the Scottish Government’s Nature Restoration Fund.

The owners will use the cash to further their “holistic” plans to create a large, connected network of natural habitats on the 100-acre site, which was a working farm until just over two years ago.

It will support creation of new woodlands, hedgerows, wetlands and wildflower meadows, as well as conservation grazing and employment of a dedicated rewilding officer.

By improving the local environment, they hope to boost biodiversity and lure rare wildlife which had vanished from the landscape to come back.

The site, which includes 70 acres of grass fields and 30 acres of cliff, was previously used for a mixture of arable and livestock farming.

Now it’s on its way back to becoming a thriving wildlife haven, with more than 6,000 native trees already planted and 10 wetlands created.

Herds of beef cattle have also been swapped for a couple of Highland cows which will act as natural mowers to encourage the landscape to flourish.

Former farmland in Scotland's home of golf is being transformed into a haven for nature as part of an ambitious rewilding project near St Andrews, on the Fife coast

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Rory Fyfe, Kinkell Byre owner and project manager for the rewilding work, has big ambitions for the land, which hosts a mile-long stretch of the coastline that is part of a site of special scientific interest.

He is particularly keen to see species such as the corn bunting make a home there once again after being driven out due to unfavourable conditions when the land was farmed.

Others include bumblebees, butterflies, curlews, grey partridges, skylarks and meadow pipits, which are also currently scarce there.

Kinkell Byre

As well as helping reverse loss of biodiversity, allowing nature to re-establish itself will also improve the landscape’s ability to absorb carbon emissions and so help tackle climate change.

There are also plans to create a new onsite education centre at Kinkell in the future.

“The place is beautiful, but lacks wildlife,” Mr Fyfe said.

“We are hoping to bring back natural processes and native species.

More than 6,000 new native trees have already been planted, 10 new wetlands have been created and beef cattle herds have been replaced with Highland cows that will act as natural mowers at the 100-acre Kinkell Byre site

“Our big ambition is to create a network of connected rewilded areas.

“We hope by giving nature space it will do its ‘thing’ and allow the land to recover from years of intensive farming.”

He is delighted at the progress made at Kinkell so far, in just a short period of time.

The new grant, the company’s second from the Nature Restoration Fund, will enable the team to continue the good work.

“The Rewilding Kinkell project is already transforming our 100 acres of farmland, where biodiversity had been in decline for many years due to intensive farming,” he said.

“We’re now at a stage where nature is beginning to take its own course.

“We’ve created a richer ecology near St Andrews in which lost wildlife will return, biodiversity is improved and, through an increase in plantlife and improved soil, more carbon is sequestered from the atmosphere.”

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of government agency NatureScot, which administers the Nature Restoration Fund, has welcomed the project and its goals.

She said: “We are all now more aware than ever before of the urgency of the climate change emergency.

“But there is hope.

“By restoring nature, protecting and enhancing habitats and safeguarding marine life we can secure a better future for nature and for ourselves.

Scotland is taking action now to meet the huge challenges and pressures that nature is facing; it is individual projects supported by the Nature Restoration Fund that will make the difference and set us on the road to recovery.

“Climate change needs nature-based solutions, not only to help us reach net zero by 2045 but also to create a healthier, more resilient Scotland.”

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