Restoring a Wooded Wilderness in the Southern Uplands
At a glance
Dumfries & Galloway
1st January 2000
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The Wildwood project seeks to re-create a valley of wooded wilderness in the Southern Uplands with the rich diversity of native species that existed there thousands of years ago before human activities became dominant. The 1500 acre valley in the Moffat Hills was bought through the hard work of a dedicated team of volunteers and the help of many generous supporters. On 1st January 2000 the purchase was completed, entry to the land gained and the first tree was planted at Carrifran. Since then over 600,000 native trees, all from local provenance stock, have been planted in the valley. The first ecological restoration project of its kind, the Carrifran Wildwood is hoped to be an inspiration and an educational resource to many over the next millennium.
The restoration of the Carrifran valley
The Wildwood project was conceived at the time of the first Restoring Borders Woodland conference, organised by Peeblesshire Environment Concern in 1993. The vision was to restore the ecology of one entire catchment in the Southern Uplands of Scotland to approximately the state it would have been in before people began practicing settled agriculture, about six thousand years ago.
The project was carried forward by the grass-roots Wildwood Group, formed in autumn 1995 and comprising about 40 people, mainly from around Peebles. Members helped to form Borders Forest Trust at the start of 1996 and four years later organised purchase of the Carrifran valley, with funds raised by public subscription, mainly from more than 600 Founders of Carrifran Wildwood. An informal association with the John Muir Trust was a key catalyst in the fundraising process.
The Wildwood project relies on input from volunteers and BFT staff, donations from the public through a Stewardship Scheme and on grant aid from organisations such as the Forestry Commission, Scottish Natural Heritage and grant making trusts.
The project is overseen by the Wildwood Steering Group, which includes key volunteers, while day-to-day management is led by the Site Operations Team comprising the Volunteer Project Co-ordinator and BFT’s Site Officer and Director.
Whilst much of the main planting has finished, there is still plenty of work to be done in the valley. We are currently focussing our efforts on ‘enrichment planting’, that is filling in the gaps of where we have had dead or dying trees, planting more shrub species such as hawthorn and hazel, re-introducing plants such as honeysuckle and ivy and continuing to expand our areas of montane scrub. We have become a visiting point for many universities and forestry colleges and their interest demonstrates the ground breaking nature of our work. However the idea is that the level of human intervention will be gradually reduced as the Wildwood gains its own momentum and becomes a functioning natural ecosystem. With the passage of decades, Carrifran will increasingly provide a haven for a rich array of native Scottish plants and animals, long excluded from these denuded hills.