Scottish valley
Chantel Brink
Chantel Brink
March 29, 2024 ·  3 min read

Before and after photos reveal stunning transformation of Scottish valley

How familiar are you with the term ‘rewilding‘? There are quite a few stories about inspirational folk cleaning up beaches. or brave scientists save endangered species by committing their lives to study them. Then some work hard on restoring ecosystems. Well, rewilding is a term we use when referring to those who work on restoring landscapes.

A glen in southern Scotland has now been brought back to life. It started with a dream and a plan that was first birthed in the 90s. In 1996, the Borders Forest Trust implemented a plan to restore the area. The changes are astonishing, seeing an entire ecosystem move back in. The once least populated area is known as Carrifran. It’s a 1,600-acre ice-carved valley in the Moffat Hills in the southern uplands of Scotland.

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Declared barren in 1996, the area is now thriving

On January 1st, 2000, the first few trees were lovingly planted, and fencing was erected to help keep deer out of the area. This gave the saplings time to strengthen their roots and grow to an acceptable height. Fast forward 22 years, and one would not believe the difference, with entire species now calling the area home.

Rewilding Carrifran, Scotland
Image Credit: Borders Forest Trust

Thanks to rewilding, the eco-system has bloomed

Native trees now cover the landscape, an array of species has returned, and the balance is slowly improving. According to Rewilding Britain, an entire population of some loved familiar animals now call Carrifran home. “Willow warblers, chaffinches, blackcap, long-tailed tit, siskin, lesser redpoll and tree pipit have returned to the valley. Foxes and badgers are now common, and otters, stoats, weasels, kestrels, peregrines and ravens are all taking advantage of the restored landscape.”

Read: This Man Is Cloning Old-Growth Redwoods and Planting Them in Safe Places

Rewilding Carrifran, Scotland
Image Credit: Borders Forest Trust

As well as a boost in biodiversity, the plant life from the rewilding project now aids in water retention and prevents run-off, which reduces the risk of floods. This also means that the landscape is again green and healthy, which reduces atmospheric carbon and fights a worsening climate crisis.

The woodlands in the UK face serious destruction from the overgrazing of sheep and local deer. Both species only target the young shoots of plants which means that they never get a chance to grow or regenerate. “The natural ecology has been degraded by centuries of grazing on fragile hill land”. Claims the Borders Forest trust about Carrifran.

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Rewilding Carrifran, Scotland
Image Credit: Borders Forest Trust

The project brought back trees and animal species that would once have inhabited the area thousands of years prior

Rewilding Britain spokesperson Richard Bunting told The Independent: “The stunning and ongoing transformation of the landscape at Carrifran Wildwood really is a beacon of hope. It’s an inspiring illustration of how communities and volunteers can make a tremendous and long-lasting impact in tackling the biodiversity and climate crises, and how nature can bounce back if we give it the chance.

Britain remains one of Europe’s least wooded countries, and we urgently need to turn this around. Carrifran shows what is possible. Native woodlands are returning thanks to a mix of tree planting and natural regeneration, and a renewed ecosystem is benefitting all sorts of wildlife while offering a cascade of benefits for people.” He added: “We need so much more of this in Britain so that we can ensure nature recovery across at least 30 percent of the country by 2030.”

It’s time we all stood up and did something. Not necessarily on such a large scale, but simply planting a native tree species in your backyard or throwing down native flower seeds every spring could do wonders for an area. Some nurseries even offer specials on native species and you could quickly find an entirely new ecosystem back in your area thanks to your hard work and dedication.

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  1. Rewilding: Before and after photos reveal stunning transformation of Scottish glen.” The Independent UK. Harry Cockburn. July 28, 2022.
  2. Twitter. Rewild Scotland.