Once a disused dairy farm, a 100-year conservation project has already brought new life to 81 hectares of land in Dumfries and Galloway. 

The area has been transformed into wildflower meadows, rich wetlands, and growing native woodlands - already home to insect and bird species rarely seen there before.

The Threave Landscape Restoration Project, launched in 2021, could see changes in how land is managed across Scotland

Led by the National Trust of Scotland (NTS), holistic planned grazing has been crucial to its early success. 

Grazing by the 14 Belted Galloway cattle on-site at Threave has increased biodiversity by creating vegetation at different heights and helping a range of wildlife thrive. 

The project uses GPS technology, located in the collars of the cows, to allow remote tracking of activity via smartphone to reduce the chance of over-grazing.

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Teams at other well-known landscapes managed by the NTS such as Culloden, Burg, Iona and Ben Lawers are now looking to adapt their conservation grazing to include the technology. 

The idea behind Threave is to allow nature to recover at its own pace over 100 years.

Taking what was once a segregated landscape, NTS has created a cohesive, open space on which natural heritage can flourish across wetlands, woodland, wild meadows and grass-scapes.

It has been supported by funds from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

READ MORE: How cows are helping conservation of Culloden battlefield in more ways than one

Despite being in the early days of its century-long timeline, the approach has already reaped results with birds beginning to flock to Threave.

This has included a pair of wheatear using the reserve, curlew in the wetlands and skylark have been taking advantage of the longer grass for nesting.

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Gareth Clingan, NTS operations manager for the Dumfries and Galloway area, said the project is "so important in this time of climate and biodiversity crises".  

“The Threave Landscape Restoration Project is a really different way of thinking about looking after land, one that lets nature recover and monitors the changes over a 100-year period, with a bit of a helping hand from the National Trust for Scotland," he said.

"We hope our approach will inspire others to think about how they can make changes that mean nature will flourish."

But it is not just the wildlife that have been enjoying the changes to the area over the past two years. 

Newly-built boardwalks have been introduced to allow visitors to cross the re-created 7.3 hectare wetland area and discover species new to the site, including shoveler ducks.

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READ MORE: Demand for rethink over red squirrel conservation in Scotland

The wider pathways not only connect to the town but will also allow wheelchairs and prams easier access and the area is seeing more than 800 visitors each week. 

Mr Clingan added: “Another great thing about our work here at Threave is how easy it is for people to see it firsthand.

"We’re just off the A75 and only five minutes away from the heart of Castle Douglas, so everyone can come along and see the difference our conservation charity’s work here has made, and enjoy the nature, beauty and heritage of this lovely part of Scotland.

“Not only have we created flourishing eco-systems, teeming with flora and fauna, but we’ve also created local job opportunities with the recruitment of two new rangers, alongside a number of volunteers who are making a big contribution to the project.

"If this is what we can see after just two years, imagine the transformation in 2121.”

Threave will also see a different approach to woodland management with the NTS shifting towards replanting methods and native woodland generation. 

From November 2022 to March 2023, a total of 2000 native trees have been planted. 

By the end of the 100-year project, which is supported by HSBC UK and the Galloway Glens Landscape Partnership Scheme, the area will be home to 16,000 trees. 

David Thompson, head NTS ranger for the area, said: “This project has really put our charity and our conservation credentials on the map.

"We’ve been talking to folk from all over the world, and especially pupils and students, which is essential if we are to grow the next generation of conservationists.

"It’s been really rewarding sharing our specialist skills and knowledge. As a team, we’ve also learned a lot and have a much deeper understanding of, and appreciation for, this special place."