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A L L A DA L E Wilderness Reserve

Restoring the Balance of Nature

Ten Yea r s On

A Vision

Fo r e w o r d “I’ve been on both sides of the debate about land use in the Highlands. In the early 1980s my family invested in commercial forestry during which time I learned about deer management and grew to love these wild uplands. Over the following decade, however, I came to understand that the ecosystem of the Highlands was broken; the natural forests were gone, the soils depleted and large predators were extinct. When I acquired Alladale in 2003 the aim was to repair

some of that damage by restoring the native flora and fauna and provide environmental education rather than focusing on the activities of a traditional sporting estate. This publication lays out what has been achieved during the last decade and what our plans are for the future. Of course none of this would have been possible without the dedicated support of our staff, stakeholders and partner organisations. To all of you, I am very grateful.

We live by a simple ethos here at Alladale: Leave the land in a better condition than you received it�.

Paul Lister, owner of Alladale September 2013

Ten years of inspiration

Ten years of achievement

What has been done • 800,000 native trees planted • Peatland restoration • Outdoor education for 1,600 local children • Deer management • Red squirrel reintroduction • Wild boar research • Highland cattle initiative • Renewable energy and self-catering lodges • Wildcat conservation • Increased public debate over rewilding


Working towards our aim of extending forest cover, we have planted eight hundred thousand native trees.


he ancient forests of Scotland have been shrinking for the last 4,000 years. First a cooler and wetter climate, then the axe, fire and livestock reduced natural forests to remnants scattered across the landscape. Along with the forests went much of the fertility of the soil, leached out by heavy rainfall. The hills turned sour. So far over 600 hectares (ha) of new woodland - 800,000 trees -

have been planted. They will, in time, provide the seed bank for wider natural regeneration. The species mix includes Scots pine, birch, juniper, oak, rowan, alder, willow, aspen and holly. Much of this work has been funded under the Scottish Government’s Rural Development Programme. Alladale Wilderness Reserve is also working with Highland Birchwoods to expand coverage further, which will include more wildlife food sources such as hawthorn and hazel. Restoring its woodland is

central to the vision for the Alladale Wilderness Reserve. Trees provide the foundation for everything else: Humus to enrich the soil and a home for the fungi, plants and insects that are the building blocks of a sustainable ecosystem.

“The way we manage land at Alladale is complex and exciting. The biggest kick for me is seeing the return of roe deer, squirrels and black grouse.” Innes MacNeil, Alladale Reserve Manager.

Peatland Restoration

To further our land management aims, we successfully trialed a peat restoration scheme, restoring 224 ha of degraded peatland as part of the voluntary carbon capture programme for UK companies.


ealthy peatlands sequester billions of tons of carbon in layers of decaying, moist vegetation. In contrast, drained peatlands in the United Kingdom alone emit approximately 10 million tonnes of carbon a year. Alladale Wilderness

Reserve hosted a pioneering scheme run by PEATLANDS+ that links owners of drained and damaged peatland with companies wishing to “mitigate their carbon footprint”. Working with ICAP, a market operator based in The City of London, we initiated an economically viable model by blocking 20 kilometres of hill drains, improving water quality and regulating run-off. Sphagnum moss, the plant that drives peat formation, has recolonised. As each successive season’s growth is subsumed,

so the carbon it contains is locked away in the developing peat. Landholders across the UK can now derive an income from the degraded peatlands they commit to restoring. At Alladale net revenues from the scheme are retained by The European Nature Trust, PEATLAND+’s parent, to help fund conservation and youth education projects in Scotland.

ICAP CEO, Michael Spencer, agreed to finance the restoration of Alladale’s drained peatlands which now act as a carbon sink and will store all of ICAP’s emissions for 2011 & 2012.

Outdoor Education

In the last 5 years we have provided high quality outdoor education to children in south east Sutherland, with 1,600 participants so far.


e need nature. Not just for the “ecosystem services” it provides but because time spent in the wilds gives us the chance to reflect and refresh. In the course of just two generations, however, the majority of children have migrated indoors, taking less interest in the natural world, and growing less knowledgeable and fit in the process.

Alladale Wilderness Reserve provides the setting for children to rediscover the world beyond a screen and get a taste for a more adventurous lifestyle under canvas. The Alladale Challenge is a 5 day programme where children plant trees, scramble in gorges, learn about wild animal management, acquire leadership and team building skills, as well as hiking and enjoying the great outdoors.

“I was introduced to Alladale when my school participated in the Challenge. After that I was given the chance to learn more about the nature and history

of the Highlands. Now I work at Alladale doing something I love.” Ryan Munro, Alladale Reserve Ranger.

Alladale is also the exclusive Scottish venue for the Bear Grylls Survival Academy, aimed at adults who want to test themselves over a rigorous week-long course.

Red Deer Management

We wanted to manage our red deer population better to allow the forests to regenerate naturally. We are now seeing spontaneous forest regeneration outside the fenced areas.


n much of mainland Europe red deer live in low densities in forests, growing much larger than their Scottish cousins, who have adapted to a harsher environment over the centuries. Sporting Estates here have tended to favour higher numbers making it hard, often impossible, for trees to regenerate. At Alladale

Wilderness Reserve our aim has been to regulate deer pressure to encourage natural woodland regeneration outside fenced forestry enclosures. Over the last ten years our rangers have reduced deer density by two thirds to around 6 - 7 per square kilometre. Now young trees are already beginning to grow outside fenced areas. In time, established woodland accessible to red deer will ensure better winter survival, a healthier herd and improved sport. Non-native sika deer are heavily controlled on the Reserve and thanks to

improved woodland cover native roe deer have made a welcome return to the glen.

“Our deer herd is much healthier now. Before, they had a much harder time throughout the winter and spring. We have stronger beasts and a better landscape� Ronnie Macleod, Alladale Reserve Ranger.

Red Squirrel Reintroduction

We wanted to restore the threatened red squirrel to Alladale Wilderness Reserve and a number of neighbouring estates. In 2013 we successfully released 36 squirrels and can witness the first signs that they have started to breed; further translocations are planned to augment the population.


rom pest to national icon, the red squirrel’s popularity in the UK has risen as its population has plummeted. Red squirrels are poor competitors with grey squirrels, especially

in mixed woodland. They are also susceptible to the deadly squirrel pox carried by the greys. Over the last five years The Highland Foundation for Wildlife has worked with Alladale and Dundonnell Estates to re-establish red squirrels in Sutherland and earlier in Wester Ross. These areas are all free from grey squirrels and are likely to remain so. The red squirrels are collected, with a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage, from the strong populations in Moray and Strathspey. Translocations have been highly

successful: Radio tracking shows that almost all the squirrels survived and started to reproduce in their new home within months. The Foundation, in partnership with Alladale, is keen to press ahead with further translocations following the protocols developed to date.

“We consider our translocation projects extremely successful; they have created healthy and robust red squirrel populations very well separated from the invasive grey squirrels.” Roy Dennis, MBE. Highland Foundation for Wildlife.

Wild Boar Research

Highland Cattle Initiative

We wanted to determine the role of wild boar in the ecology of Highland woodlands. Our research established a sound scientific baseline.


o determine the true extent of their role in regeneration and potential use in woodland management, the University of Oxford’s WildCRU set up a wild boar research facility at Alladale Wilderness Reserve. It was found that, on average, one wild boar works over about 42 square metres of ground a week. They were happiest rooting amongst

the trees but during the autumn and winter they particularly broke up bracken. The research concluded that boar do little to extend woodland cover, but are important for regeneration within the forest. By suppressing bracken and ploughing up heather, biodiversity improves and more seedlings are able to establish themselves. Highland cattle at Alladale are part of an Scotland Rural Development Programme funded moorland management plan and play a significant

role in changing biodiversity through grazing and trampling. Their dung encourages insect life which in turn creates a food source for many birds. The cattle also enrich different grasses in the riparian areas and help break up the ground in mature forestry enclosures.

“Our study showed that wild boar are a key part of woodlands, promoting beneathcanopy regeneration.� Dr Christopher Sandom, Wild CRU, Oxford University.

Rene wable Ener g y & Self-Catering Lodges

At Alladale Wilderness Reserve we realise the seriousness of global warming and continually aim to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.


e have installed a 150kw hydro turbine that has reduced the Reserve’s traditional energy requirements by 70 per cent. Additionally our peatlands restoration project provides a steady flow of water to the hydro catchment. Two new self-catering lodges, Eagles Crag and Ghillies Rest, were built and designed

to energy efficient standards. Future plans include the construction of greenhouses heated by the hydro turbine.

Wildcat Conservation We aim to be an active participant in the recovery of the threatened Scottish wildcat.


ersecution and cross breeding with feral domestic cats have combined to threaten the survival of the Scottish wildcat. Alladale Wilderness Reserve has been involved with various initiatives intended to restore a viable population. In partnership with WildCRU at Oxford University, studies have been carried

out to evaluate Alladale and surrounding land as potential wildcat habitat. The European Nature Trust has built a network of wildcat enclosures at Alladale, providing a home for individuals that have been tested for genetic purity and paving the way for a captive breeding programme in the future. Alladale has the potential to play an important role in the implementation of Scottish Natural Heritage’s conservation action plan.

Media Coverage The work done at Alladale Wilderness Reserve has been used to trigger a wider debate about how we manage the Highlands.

important part in introducing the concept of rewilding to a general audience. The particular issues around reintroduction of large carnivores and their role


in the landscape have also been thoroughly aired and debated.

lladale has attracted extensive media attention. While sometimes sensational, the sheer number of column inches, photos and broadcast television hours has meant that the Alladale vision and the reasons behind it have been well articulated to the public. Alladale has played an

Articles have appeared in: Scotland on Sunday; The Herald; Press & Journal; The Sunday Times; The Daily Mail; The Independent; The Telegraph; The Guardian; The Economist; Country Life; The Evening Standard; Geographical Magazine; Business Traveller; The

Scottish Field; Spears; Scotland Magazine; Caledonian Mercury; BBC Wildlife and CondĂŠ Nast Traveller. In 2007 the BBC commissioned a Natural World documentary and a 6 part TV series about Alladale. Other coverage has appeared on the Travel Channel, Landward, Countryfile and BBC News.

T h e N e x t 1 0 Ye a r s


e believe that an ecosystem without large predators is incomplete. The wolf reintroduction in Yellowstone has shown how, by altering the number and behaviour of grazing animals, landscape-scale changes to vegetation and biodiversity can happen - and quickly. Let us be clear: We’re not proposing to have wolves and bears running free on Alladale or anywhere else in the Highlands. Whatever the

actual risks, once these animals disappear, a community forgets within a generation how to live alongside them and minimise livestock losses. We are, though, committed to securing a substantial fenced area so we can enjoy the “Yellowstone Effect� in the Scottish Highlands. We are keen to work with other landowners to realise this vision and achieve significant economic benefit through tourism and related activities in rural areas. This has

already happened elsewhere in countries such as South Africa. Across Europe, charismatic species are returning unaided to their former ranges and are enriching the landscape. In The United Kingdom we will need to give them a little help. At Alladale, we have established a viable alternative to the traditional sporting estate. If you would like to speak to us we would like to listen.

Alladale Wilder ness Reserve is proud to partner with

Design: Niall Benvie for the Wild Media Company. Photography: Niall Benvie - all, except: Pete Cairns p4, p16r, p20; Mark Hamblin p24tl; ICMI 18 & 19; Max Milligan p3, p11; Tony Ward, p10. Produced by the Wild Media Company.

Printing Cover: Magno Club Silk 300gsm (FSC Mixed Credit) TT-COC-02653. Content: Magno Club Silk 170gsm (FSC Mixed Credit) TT-COC-02653.

When one tugs at a single living thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world.

Alladale Wilderness Reserve Ardgay Sutherland IV24 3BS Scotland • • +44 (0)20 7486 0800 •

The European Nature Trust 44 Welbeck Street London W1G 8DY England • • +44 (0) 20 7486 0800 •

Alladale 2013  

Alladale Wilderness Reserve - 10 years on

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