River Almond receives Riverwoods award to kickstart nature recovery

31st May, 2023

Perth and Kinross Countryside Trusts (PKCT) project ‘Upper Tay Catchment Communities - Almond Headwaters’ is one of two in Scotland to receive a ‘Riverwoods - Investment Readiness Pioneers award.

Upper Tay Catchment Communities is a priority of Perthshire Nature Connections partnership, the network that underpinned the success of our Almond Headwaters bid to Riverwoods.

Riverwoods - Investment Readiness Pioneers (IRP) awards grants to develop corporate and private funding for nature and climate recovery, and to increase community benefits from nature restoration projects. IRP is part of a wider Riverwoods programme, led by Scottish Wildlife Trust. IRP is also connected to the Scottish Forum for Natural Capital, and their Roadmap to £1billion for nature recovery.

Riverwoods funds come from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and will support PKCT to work with landowners, corporate and private funders, communities and other stakeholders in developing landscape finance innovations, with opportunities for new funding mechanisms beyond traditional grants. Building on pilot projects elsewhere in the UK, our Riverwoods grant will fund a wealth of specialist expertise to develop ecological metrics, financial governance and risk-management strategies and more, to drive ecological restoration with community benefit.

Riverwoods is an award for innovation and for proof of concept. Large sums of money will need to be translated into measurable ecological benefits, and the award will be spent creating suitable financial and legal structures for all stakeholder groups, using Almond Headwaters as a working example. Riverwoods is intended to support stakeholders through these significant changes to enable subsequent new, large-scale funding to flow to nature projects on the ground. Success for the Almond Headwaters’ model should be able to be rolled out much further.

Riverwoods money will not itself plant trees, create wetlands or deliver other groundworks – the award is to help unlock systems for corporate and private funds to deliver groundworks at scale.

The core issue for Almond Headwaters is a degraded riparian zone around the Upper Almond, which is negatively impacting on ecosystem integrity and habitat quality for people and wildlife. Historic and ongoing grazing pressure by wild deer and livestock has led to the loss of riparian woodland along much of the upper Almond, with little or no natural regeneration presently occurring in this zone.

This project seeks to rectify that by creating an investable project that implements multiple interventions aimed at restoring the quality of the upper Almond’s riparian habitat.

Riparian woodland establishment could catalyse important new links to the ecology of the wider catchment, and also a link north-east over the watershed to the main Tay catchment at Ardtalnaig. The sheer extent of the three estates, beyond the riparian zone, is an opportunity to sustain and nurture an important new nature-positive relationship between land-managers, local communities and buyers’ group.