Creating A Rewilding Network : Scotland The Big Picture

A chain of nature-rich hotspots bringing together a diverse group of estates, farms, crofts and community-owned land is to be created across Scotland with a new rewilding network launched by charity SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.

The Northwoods Rewilding Network will allow more of Scotland’s many smaller landholdings of 50 to 1,000 acres to play a bigger role in restoring and connecting rich habitats full of life to boost declining species, tackle climate breakdown, and create new opportunities for rural communities. 

Mixed wildflowers, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. Restoring wildflower meadows provides food and shelter for pollinating insects, the foundation of the food chain. ©

Northwoods will complement Scotland’s major landscape-scale rewilding sites by filling in the gaps in local areas and joining together a tapestry of smaller nature recovery sites and wildlife corridors.

The 12 initial land partners include farms, crofts, small estates and a community woodland covering 3,500 acres between them. The project hopes to expand to at least 10,000 acres within two years. 

James Nairne, Northwoods’ Project Manager explained:

“With Scotland’s nature in crisis, we want to harness the potential of smaller landholdings to come together. We need to scale-up nature restoration while highlighting the economic and social opportunities that rewilding brings for people.

“Despite their beauty and drama, many of Scotland’s landscapes have been in ecological decline for a very long time, with many species extinct and others once prolific now teetering on the edge. Northwoods will help turn this around.”

Dramatic evening light over regenerating pine woodland, Glenfeshie, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. Scotland is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, so native woodland regeneration is a priority across many Northwoods sites. ©

Research in 2016 estimated that only 28 countries out of 218 have lost more biodiversity than the UK, with Scotland faring only slightly better than the UK average.

Rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature – goes beyond protecting the fragments of nature now left. It restores vibrant living systems across woodlands, peatlands, wetlands, rivers, and at sea. 

Land partners joining Northwoods will work to an agreed set of principles covering issues such as:

  • establishing native woodlands
  • restoring wetlands
  • creating habitat for missing native species 
Ballintean Farm in the Cairngorms National Park began its rewilding journey 25 years ago and the landscape is now largely shaped and governed by natural processes. The accommodation lodge that sits within the rewilding reserve accommodates groups of outdoor adventure enthusiasts. ©

As well as enabling ecological change on the ground, Northwoods will develop sustainable nature-based business models, focusing on opportunities for local communities.

“We want to see vibrant, prosperous communities within nature-rich landscapes, as increasingly enjoyed across Europe,” said Peter Cairns, SCOTLAND: The Big Picture’s Executive Director.

SCOTLAND: The Big Picture has launched an appeal to raise £20,000 to help Northwoods develop over its first two years, with match-funding platform The Big Give to double every donation. The appeal can be supported at

See related article: Creating Bamff Wildland Using Conservation Grazing

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2 replies »

  1. Until something is done in Law to protect, Golden Eagles, Sea Eagles, Mountain Hares, etc, etc with severe punishments for owners and their land managers all these fine plans are pie-in-the-sky, sorry nice idea but it needs some backbone!!!!

  2. Really delighted to hear about this, after reading about the rewilding of the Knepp Estate, and listening to discussion here in the Borders about re establishing meadows and flood plains. It’s great that these ideas are being taken forward nationally.

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