The National Trust for Scotland is combining Caledonian pine forest restoration with traditional sporting management
Mar Lodge is a 29,340-hectare estate within the heart of the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. It encompasses ancient pine forests, blanket bogs, moorlands and high altitude plateau. Four of the five highest peaks in Scotland are here.
Mar Lodge is home to golden eagles, capercaillie, dotterel, snow bunting, pine martens and much more. The wildlife has survived despite the pinewoods suffering from centuries of sheep and deer browsing.
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Then 15 years ago the Trust began an intensive programme of deer culling in the eastern part of the estate. The aim was enable trees to grow again by establishing deer populations to a level the land could naturally support. Traditional deer management continued on moorland in the western part of the estate.
The results have been impressive. The estate now has 200 hectares of regenerating woodland. Pine and broadleaf seedlings have sprung up all across the sides of the river and lower slopes of the regeneration zone. In time, the tree line will move uphill restoring ecosystems long lost.
NTS is encouraging this process by small-scale trials of scarification, use of pigs and unfenced pioneer planting. Native plantations on the estate are being rewilded through thinning, creating dead wood and connecting ancient woodland fragments.
It carried out the most significant track removal and restoration work in the UK when it restored the bulldozed landrover tracks up Ben a'Bhuird and Glen Derry to footpaths.
In time, the pine woods of Mar Lodge may connect with the regenerating woodlands of Abernethy to the north and Glenfeshie to the west. This would create a spectacular rewilded area right in the heart of Scotland.