Scottish nature-based enterprise strengthens European Rewilding Network

June 20, 2019

Today the ever-growing European Rewilding Network is amplifying the impact of rewilding by connecting rewilding initiatives right across Europe. The recent addition of the Uist Forest Retreat in Scotland takes the number of network members to 69.

Uist Forest Retreat Cabins are built on ‘legs’ to avoid foundations on the land.
Uist Forest Retreat cabins are built on ‘legs’ to avoid foundations on the land.

 

Stronger together

Rewilding Europe works at the forefront of a blossoming pan-European rewilding movement, with rewilding-related initiatives mushrooming across the continent. These are not only capturing people’s hearts and minds, but providing tangible demonstrations of how rewilding can benefit both Europeans and European wild nature.

One such initiative is the Uist Forest Retreat, a nature-based tourism start up located on the island of North Uist, in northwest Scotland’s Outer Hebrides archipelago. In addition to connecting visitors with the island’s spectacular wild nature, this pioneering business is advancing rewilding through the restoration and protection of the surrounding forest – this, in turn, will benefit local birdlife. The European Rewilding Network is delighted to welcome the initiative as its newest member.

Founded by Rewilding Europe in 2013, the aim of the network is to connect Europe’s burgeoning collection of rewilding initiatives, enhancing the efforts of each project by facilitating the exchange of skills, insight and experience. The addition of the Uist Forest Retreat takes the number of ERN members to 69 (including Rewilding Europe’s eight operational areas).

 

Eager to exchange

Kathryn and Angus Johnson, the owners of the Uist Forest Retreat
Kathryn and Angus Johnson, the owners of the Uist Forest Retreat.

Kathryn and Angus Johnson, the owners of the Uist Forest Retreat, are excited to become part of the ERN. The pair are eager to exchange knowledge with other initiatives within the network.

“We would like to share our experience of starting a nature-based business, including opportunities and methods for observing wildlife via remote camera systems and live viewing from locations that are a considerable distance off grid,” says Kathryn Johnson. “In return, we would love to learn more about projects such as operating hides and feeding stations for raptors, the restoration of natural processes, and new ways to collaborate with other nature tourism organisations.”

 

Advancing Scottish rewilding

Nestled within a forest plantation on the beautiful Hebridean island of North Uist, the recently completed Uist Forest retreat is built from sustainable materials. Its secluded, luxury cabins allow guests to experience the drama and beauty of the local environment and really connect with wild nature.

Working with local partners such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) the retreat is working to rewild the surrounding area by transforming a conifer plantation into mixed woodland. This will provide more roosting and nesting space for a local population of iconic white-tailed eagles, as well as helping other bird species such as hen harriers, long and short-eared owls, and goldcrests. The retreat will also build and operate feeding stations and wildlife watching hides, and is committed to securing a protected area of forest to support the rich local birdlife.

“We’ve seen how rewilding is taking shape in Scotland, and how nature-based tourism is one of the driving forces behind this movement,” says Kathryn Johnson “We want to provide the best possible opportunity for our guests to experience the unique environment, wilderness and wildlife of North Uist, while contributing to the long-term restoration of local wild nature.”

The breathtaking view of the Traigh Udal beach in North Uist.
The breathtaking view of the Traigh Udal beach in North Uist.

 

Safari status

The Uist Forest Retreat offers the highest standard of accommodation in an exceptional wild location. Recognising this, the retreat recently became the first Scottish accommodation and experience offered through the European Safari Company.

“We were really excited to add the retreat to our portfolio,” says the European Safari Company’s Aukje van Gerven. “North Uist is a special part of the world, and developing nature-based businesses here can provide a wide range of benefit to both people and wild nature. I encourage anyone with a love of wild places to visit.”

 

Scaling up rewilding

The ERN has displayed impressive growth since its launch at the WILD10, the World Wilderness Congress in Salamanca in October 2013. Members meet regularly – usually via webinar – to share knowledge, insight and examples of best practice.

The network not only promotes rewilding as a conservation approach, but supports the development of innovative nature-based businesses that showcase the economic opportunities arising from rewilding. This is done by bringing such businesses closer together to exchange knowledge and experience, and by providing access to Rewilding Europe Capital, Rewilding Europe’s enterprise loan facility.

Rewilding Europe extends a warm welcome to all rewilding initiatives and encourages them to apply for membership of the ERN.

 

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