Case study: Rewilding with Randal Plunkett

There’s been a lot of talk about rewilding, so we decided to take a closer look ourselves. Randal Plunkett, a 2021 nominee, has a rewilding project on his land. Here he shows what he has achieved.

Randal Plunkett is the founder of Dunsany nature reserve in county Meath. Dunsany Estate is Ireland’s largest privately owned nature reserve and at present Ireland’s only recognized large scale rewilding project.

Randal inherited the estate in 2011 and took on the ambitious rewilding project in 2014. Since then, he has made it his mission to reintroduce native flora and fauna to the land in a natural and organic way. Of the 1700-acre estate – some 950 acres of tillage farmland is rented to local farmers and the remaining 750 acres are dedicated to the nature reserve. There is 500 acres of mature woodland on the farm, most of which is old-growth broadleaf forestry such as oak, beech, elm and redwood. A lot of the deadwood in the woodland is left to decay naturally, acting as a crucial habitat for various insects and fungi. There are natural meadows containing diverse grasses and wildflowers. Randal has continuously planted trees and native hedgerows on the land.

Since its inception, Randal has taken immense pleasure in witnessing the return of a vast array of wildlife to the reserve. Numerous birds have returned to the land, many of whom have not been recorded in the area for a long time. Among the bird species are red kites, woodpeckers, barn owls, long eared owls, herons, jay birds and sparrowhawks. The reserve is also home to red deer, foxes, otters, badgers, pine martins, hares and stouts. Randal has been working with Bee Conservation Ireland and the plan is to introduce hives of native Irish black bees to the reserve.

Randal is also working with various institutions to conduct research on the flora and fauna of the land. He is passionate about sharing his rewilding experience and inspiring others to undertake their own rewilding venture, no matter how big or small.

Randal Plunkett was a nominee for the 2021 National Farming For Nature Awards.  We receive such interesting stories and concepts that we want to share some of these with you as a case study.

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