Glenfeshie

A great example of rewilding a traditional sporting estate in the Cairngorms National Park

Glenfeshie
A naturally regenerating forest of Scots pine is expanding at Glenfeshie. Photo by Mark Hamblin /scotlandbigpicture.com

Glenfeshie represents one of the most dramatic examples of rewilding in the UK. Not long ago, it was a deer forest. Under traditional deer management, it emphasised the deer and not the forest.

The result across its 17,000 hectares was dying remnants of ancient Caledonian pine forest. High densities of deer were eating every tree seedling trying to grow here. In fact, it was here that Edwin Landseer painted his famous 'The Monarch of the Glen' oil painting in 1851.

Attempts to convince the private owners of the estate to save the woodlands had fallen on deaf ears for decades. Finally in 2004, the then Deer Commission for Scotland took action to reduce deer numbers at the request of the new Danish owners.

They deployed stalkers in helicopters to reach the furthest points of the glen and remove deer carcasses. This was the start of a concerted cull, which ten years on has resulted in a transformation of the ecosystem.

Scots pine, birch and juniper seedlings now carpet the glen. The woodland is creeping up the mountainsides after hundreds of years in retreat. The owners of Glenfeshie are now exploring the possibility of reintroducing the long-lost montane scrub habitats.

In time, the pine woods of Glenfeshie may connect with the regenerating woodlands of Abernethy to the north and Mar Lodge to the east. This would create a spectacular rewilded area right in the heart of Scotland.

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