Scotland is hailed as a rewilding example as it leads projects in the UK

Maerl and Sea grass (Zostera marina) beds, Orkney Isles. Photo credit: Richard Shucksmith/ scotlandbigpicture.com.

By Anders Lorenzen

Rewilding projects in the UK continue to go from strength to strength with more projects being announced.

The charity, Rewilding Britain, has announced the first-ever Rewilding Innovation Fund in the UK. Seven projects around the UK have been awarded up to £15,000 each – of those four are in Scotland – the least densely populated area in the UK.

The projects which have won funding are all locally-led and are land as well as marine rewilding projects across the country. The first official round came after a pilot launch earlier this year which the organisers hailed as successful. It focused on projects that either have a strong community element or are working towards improving people’s health and well-being. 

Of the seven projects, two are working towards marine rewilding in Scotland. One is the Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) charity. It is one of the leading marine rewilding projects in Britain, whose work has resulted in a stunning recovery of marine habitats around Arran and the Clyde. 

Innovative rewilding projects

Sara King, Rewilding Britain’s Rewilding Manager, highlighted Scotland’s achievements: “It’s wonderful to see so many innovative and exciting rewilding projects taking place in Scotland. We’re delighted to be able to use this latest round of funding to highlight rewilding projects that recognise the tangible benefits rewilding has on both individual mental and physical health, and also the wellbeing of our communities.”

Áine Purcell-Milton, Executive Director at COAST, added: “The actions to achieve rewilding of the ocean need to be fully supported and driven by the local community. This dedicated funding allows us to involve Arran residents in discussions and decisions about the seas that surround their island home, deciding on what’s important now and what to prioritise for the future.”

Two further projects in Scotland have also been highlighted by Rewilding Britain. The Talla-Hartfell Wild Land Area project, led by the Southern Uplands Partnership, and the Rewilding Ardura Community Forest project, led by Mull and Iona Community Trust. Covering 47,215 hectares in the central Southern Uplands, the Talla-Hartfell Wild Land Area project aims to increase rewilding and nature restoration in the area through working with local communities. 

The Ardura Community Forest, located on the east side of the Isle of Mull, was bought by community charity Mull and Iona Community Trust in 2019. The Trust is now in the process of developing its rewilding action plan, which seeks to protect, expand, connect and diversify the forest – making it accessible to the whole community through amenity opportunities including improving sustainable access, particularly for people with mobility impairments. Ardura Community Forest is also part of the Northwoods Rewilding Network, a Scotland-wide chain of landholdings committed to nature recovery.

In England, three projects have been awarded funding in this round. Spains Hall Estate in West Essex is working with the local charity Wilderness Foundation to support social prescribing and community outreach development as part of its near 500-hectare rewilding project. The charity Yorkshire Rewilding Network will be using its funding for further community outreach, including hosting a Rewilding Festival in Yorkshire next spring. 

A new landowner-led charity West Dorset Wilding has been awarded funding to further develop the charity’s rewilding aims and increase public understanding of rewilding and its wider benefits to nature, the environment and wellbeing.

In addition to the seven projects which have received funding, The Rewilding Innovation Fund is also supporting a feasibility study to assess the potential for seagrass restoration at Knoydart, a community-owned and managed estate. The charity says that habitats like seagrass are an amazing carbon store, the rewilding of which is a vital natural solution to help in the fight against the climate emergency. The Knoydart Climate Action Group will be using the funding to support training and survey equipment for volunteers, encouraging the community to discover an amazing rewilding project right on their doorstep.

Rewilding Britain opens the fund for several rounds per year, and the next opportunity to apply will be in early spring 2023. Projects anywhere in Scotland, Wales and England working to apply the principles of rewilding to benefit nature, climate and people can apply. Land-based projects need to be at least 40 hectares in size, while marine projects can be of any size.

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