Major rewilding plan for Cairngorms

A 2,000-hectare moor in the Cairngorms National Park is being transformed into a natural capital project by the family owned Calthorpe Estates. 

One of the largest of its kind in the UK, the project involves peatland restoration, habitat creation and a new native woodland forest, with the aim of offsetting a significant amount of carbon generated by the business.

Muckrach Estate, near Granton on Spey, has been owned by Calthorpe Estates since the 1960s. The business describes itself as a ‘progressive property investment and development company based in Birmingham’.

Traditional management of Muckrach make up its three core businesses of farming, forestry, and residential property. However, some parts of the area are not suitable for these activities, making them ideal for rewilding.

Savills’ natural capital team was appointed to audit the moorland and develop an effective strategy that reflected Calthorpe’s ESG priorities, family values and 300-year heritage.

A Savills spokesperson said: “We identified this former grouse moor was not sufficiently fertile for agriculture or commercial forestry, but there was considerable potential for native woodland tree planting and the creation of a diverse natural habitat. We have developed a landscape-scale scheme which is focused on new native woodland creation and peatland restoration to deliver carbon capture, natural regeneration and biodiversity enhancement.”

As part of the transformation, 619 hectares of predominantly native woodland will be planted, including upland birch and Scots pine, while a further 124 hectares will be created using natural woodland regeneration with seeds from existing trees on site. Up to one million trees will be planted, storing an estimated 263,000 tonnes of carbon throughout their life.

Haydn Cooper, Chief Executive of Calthorpe Estates said: “Our vision is to create exceptional places and our environmental strategy is focused on providing vibrant and sustainable spaces for people to live, work and enjoy, while striving to reach net zero carbon across our operations.

“Our work at Muckrach is an important part of our net zero journey and it is a privilege to be part of this landscape-scale project, contributing to mitigating climate change while creating a diverse habitat, all within the Cairngorms National Park.”

As well as carbon capture, existing peatland will be restored through a partnership involving Muckrach Estate, Cairngorms National Park Authority and Peatland ACTION. In the initial phase, local firm Taiga Upland has restored 177 hectares of peatland by re-profiling over 12km of drains. This will recreate the local habitat and allow important peat-forming species to thrive, such as bog-mosses, purple moor-grass and heather.

A further 900 hectares of mixed wetland and open moorland habitats will provide vital homes and breeding grounds for a range of birds and other wildlife. This will preserve heritage features and healthy freshwater habitats that feed the river Spey, providing a lifeline for the threatened wader populations.

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