Rachael Cooper-Bohannon, ARC’s Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) Project Officer shares how ARC has been helping Rewilding Denmarkfield to enhance their site for amphibians and reptiles 

ARC’s Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) project has been working with the lovely folks at Rewilding Denmarkfield this summer to improve the site for amphibians and reptiles. Denmarkfield is a unique and exciting rewilding project on the edge of a small town called Luncarty on the outskirts (and just north) of Perth. Denmarkfield Farm, a 91-acre site, was formerly arable land. The current owners (Amy and Graham Allen) wanted to rewild the site, and together with the Rewilding Denmarkfield staff team and volunteers are making great strides in just two short years. The overall aim is to restore ecosystem function where possible and increase biodiversity, and some of their plans include enrichment planting with native trees and shrubs, connecting people to nature and wildlife, conservation grazing with native cattle, restoring species-rich grassland, introducing deadwood habitat, creating wetland habitats and monitoring biodiversity.

I was chatting with Ellie Corsie, who is the Rewilding Manager, about habitat creation and improvements for amphibians and reptiles and also training opportunities to help the team set up a monitoring programme to track the long-term changes over times – which Rewilding Denmarkfield were doing for other taxa. The project has been overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of the local community and their volunteer numbers continue to grow. They offer two volunteer days a week and the last Sunday of the month is an opportunity for the training, which is run by the team or by Conservation NGOs coming in such as Buglife and of course ARC!

ARC’s SSAAR project was invited to run some training sessions by Izzy Jones (Community Outreach Officer). To get the ball rolling, Dorothy Driver (Species Coordinator and Great Crested Newt Officer) and I ran a four-hour training session online to get the volunteers up to speed on amphibian and reptile identification and ecology. After a short break, the second part of the sessions was focused on habitat management opportunities to encourage amphibians and reptiles and a run down on our National Amphibian and Reptile Monitoring Programme. A week later we arranged an in-person training session to help the volunteers set up a reptile transect with tins that had been donated and to take a look at the new scrapes, hoping to see some evidence of breeding success. Trevor Rose (who runs Friends of Angus Herpetofauna - FAH) and I met with the volunteers and Izzy and had a site walkover, visited the ponds and we were all happy to see some tadpoles! We then had a cuppa and some lovely homemade vegan cakes and then headed out armed with tins to set up the reptile transect. The enthusiasm and interest from the volunteers was fantastic and we hope some may get involved in surveying other areas too or sending in incidental herp records – it all helps us get a better understanding of herps in Scotland.

We were also excited to head back again as part of Rewilding Denmarkfield’s two-year birthday bash! Since the project was established in 2021 they have created wetlands, a broadleaf woodland and woodland corridor, a community orchard and are in the process of creating community allotments. They have worked with over 70 volunteers, 100 school children, and provided seven community workshops. During the celebration (with lots of food and cake) we met volunteers, people from other rewilding projects and also a teacher from the local primary school. The Rewilding Denmarkfield team has a close partnership with the school and helped them to create a pond! The teacher was delighted to hear about the Champhibian project rolled out by SSAAR’s Education Officer Janet Ullman and we are delighted to say they have signed up as our latest Champhibian school. Rachael dropped the pond dipping kit and Champhibian pack off this week and the school will be able to take part in this great citizen science project both within their school grounds and also surveying the Denmarkfield ponds and scrapes next spring.

This work has kindly been made possible by funding from Swire Trust