Rewilding scheme set to transform Dorset farmland


Part of a historic country estate in west Dorset is being handed back to nature in a rewilding project.

Some 180 ha of unproductive farmland at Mapperton Estate is being transformed to create space for wildlife and to trap carbon. Waning agricultural revenues, repair bills and the pandemic have prompted the owners to seek new income streams.

Around 180 ha of unproductive farmland is being returned to nature (Mike Lane).

The rewilded area will be opened for guided walking tours and visitors will also be able to stay on the estate. Mapperton is expecting to receive government funds to support the project, including a Countryside Stewardship subsidy.

It is hoped much of the rewilded area will qualify for the subsidy: worth £499 per hectare each year for 10 years. Rewilding work began last year with the introduction of native white park cattle, which restore the landscape through grazing. Other animals being introduced to help improve the habitat include Exmoor ponies, Iron Age pigs and Eurasian Beavers.

Owner Luke Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, said: "Rewilding isn't just about helping to fix our ecology and climate crisis; it's about giving people more opportunities to connect with our magnificent countryside, with all the wonderful wellbeing benefits this brings."

The Montagu family is also planning to build a visitor centre and convert farm buildings for overnight stays at the 770-ha estate.