Wild things: pioneering nature project to begin at Perthshire estate

Native pigs, ponies and cattle are set to join beavers and other iconic wildlife to live like their wild prehistoric ancestors among natural woodlands and rivers as part of a ground-breaking new rewilding plan at a Perthshire estate with historical links to Scottish royalty.

The project, the first of its kind in Scotland, is being put into action at Bamff Estate, near Alyth, which is no stranger to pioneering nature projects.

Bamff Estate consists of 1,300 acres of farmland, woodland, wetland and hills in the uplands of north-east Perthshire, on the Highland boundary fault-line.

It has been owned by the Ramsay family since the year 1232, after being gifted to an ancestor by King Alexander II of Scotland as a reward for saving his life.

Bamff Estate is spearheading a ground-breaking rewilding project to help boost diversity and benefit the environment on farmland in Perthshire

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Beavers have been living on the site for more than 20 years after being released as part of a private reintroduction scheme.

The latest plan involves the transformation of 12 fields, six woods and riversides into a connected nature-rich area of land.

Sheep have already been removed from the farmland in preparation for work to restore the area to a more natural state.

After a fallow year, this land will be linked to the woods and beaver wetlands to form a single rewilding zone – the first of its kind north of the border.

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Bamff Estate is no stranger to pioneering nature projects - beavers have been living in the grounds for the past 20 years as part of a private reintroduction scheme

Next steps include bringing in small numbers of native breeds of pigs, cattle and ponies to create a dynamic mosaic of diverse habitats through conservation grazing.

Eventually the animals will be able to roam freely across a 450-acre area, in an approach shown to be critical for nature to thrive.

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The new initiative, Bamff Wildland, is led by mother-and-daughter team Louise and Sophie Ramsay, who hope it will inspire other farms to bring in similar measures.

“Through a programme of careful monitoring Bamff Wildland will show what rewilding can do for our diminishing wildlife and for climate action on a Scottish upland sheep farm,” Sophie Ramsay said.

“As our climate destabilises and threatens human survival, and with heartbreaking accounts of wildlife numbers crashing internationally, farmers and landowners have a responsibility to respond to these twin crises.

“Rewilding is a powerful way of restoring nature to boost wildlife, soak up carbon dioxide and tackle climate breakdown impacts such as flooding and drought.

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“More ambition for large-scale rewilding on less productive farmland is needed now across the countryside.”

Future plans for Bamff Wildland include the creation of ponds, planting of native woodlands and wildflower areas and erection of platforms to attract breeding ospreys.

The Ramsays will continue to grow food crops at Bamff, while new walking trails are also being created across the estate this summer to add to existing public access.

The family is also interested in eventually reintroducing rare or locally extinct amphibian species such as the agile frog, pool frog, moor frog and great crested newt.

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They have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise at least £24,000 to kick-start the work.

More than 80 per cent of the target has already been pledged, with more than a week left to run.

Ms Ramsay added: “Our crowdfunder is also helping to demonstrate how public support for rewilding is growing.

“We hope this will encourage the Scottish Government to support widespread rewilding on marginal land across Scotland, to help meet our climate and biodiversity targets in a cost-effective way.

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“Every single donation will make a difference.

“It’s an opportunity for people to be part of a ground-breaking project to benefit nature, climate and people.”

More information can be found on the Bamff Estate website.

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