A swan has appeared at the big pond. We go down to have a look; a silhouette across the water; a grey-blue apparition among the flotilla of goosanders and mallards. The sun glitters on the water. Flora and I set about investigating the details around us. Norway spruce cones, half chewed by squirrels, loose pieces of moss, bits of dead grass, sticks covered in lichen. She wants to drop them all in the water, so we carefully negotiate the gorse and squash into the soft ground. Up close, you can see last year’s waterweeds – horsetails and bog bean, about to rebound. A freshwater snail swims along languidly.

Beavers manifestly increase biodiversity. Research done at Bamff in this same pond concluded that the presence of beavers increased aquatic plant species by 33% and beetle species by 26%. The research concluded:

“Put simply: anyone can build a pond – but if you want a really great pond, ask a beaver.”

It was beavers that inspired us to go further. Our efforts at encouraging nature to return before that were not total failures, but nothing had as powerful an affect as the beavers. They completely reimagined our straight, narrow drainage ditches, damming them over and over in tiered ponds, making space for creatures to come into being, to live and grow. A primordial soup.

Beavers play a vital role in progressing Bamff’s ecosystems (Photo by Dave Maric)

At the end of December, we released twelve fields from conventional agriculture (organic sheep farming). To this, we will add six woods and our beautiful beaver territories, in what will in time become a contiguous 450 acre zone. After a fallow year, we plan to introduce small numbers of pigs, cattle and ponies of native breeds. Like beavers, these species play a critical role in restoring biodiversity. Their grazing, browsing and rootling disturbs ground, making space for other species to emerge from our grassy swards. The more slightly different conditions you have in an area, the more species, whose seeds wait in the seedbank, or are carried by birds or mammals, can find their moment. The more variety in plants and fungi, the more species they can support: insect, bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian. And wild land is not one static end we are driving towards: it is dynamic. It is always becoming. Shape-shifting, rearranging itself in space and time, an unrepeatable dance.

The future looks bright (Photo by Dave Maric)

Boringly, the main – and significant – cost we face is for our perimeter fence. This will enable us in time to remove our internal fences and let our beasts roam freely through the terrain. It will create connection between our heavily demarcated areas. And then we’ll need cattle grids so no one leaves a gate open on the drive as they come in and lets the livestock out. Beyond infrastructure are a whole number of interventions that might seem contrary to the self-willed idea of rewilding, but in these times of rapid biodiversity loss, we feel it is worth speeding processes up, by enrichment planting and pond excavation; and creating homes, like nesting boxes, for vulnerable species. And beyond this, there is a suite of species we would love to bring to Bamff, like missing amphibians and reptiles. Sadly, none of our infrastructural costs, and very few of our proposed interventions, qualify for government funding in Scotland. Rewilding is not yet recognised here as a legitimate and urgently needed ‘land use’. Perhaps the term ‘land use’ gives us a clue as to why. Many farm payments specifically guard against what is called ‘land abandonment’. Rewilding is not land abandonment, but it is about allowing natural processes to reignite, and perhaps this is too far, philosophically from the mentality of dominion and control that for so long has invaded the minds of white men.
A month ago, in a spirit of hope and trepidation, we launched a crowdfunder. We hoped people would show support, not just for us, but for the principle of rewilding. We’ve been absolutely delighted and so encouraged by the outcome. We not only met our first target but now, with two days to go are well within sight of our stretch target. All of the money we raise will go towards our work helping Bamff to live up to its wild potential.

As our deadline fast approaches, we would be thrilled and exceptionally grateful if you helped us to go out with a bang!

Want to donate and be part of Scottish rewilding history? Follow this link to find out more!