Explore one of Scotland’s loveliest regions, discover species saved from extinction, enjoy outstanding film and photography

Wildlife enthusiasts are being invited to discover the hills, coasts, moors and woodlands of Dumfries and Galloway as part of the new Wild Film Festival Scotland (WFFS).

The themes of the event, in Dumfries from 24-26 March, are amazing journeys, wild places and rewilding – which will be celebrated through outstanding film, photography and discussion.

At the same time the organisers, led by a group of local conservation charities, are encouraging visitors to spend time discovering the varied wildlife and habitats of one of the country’s less familiar but most beautiful regions.

The festival will feature high-profile speakers such as Springwatch presenter and documentary maker Iolo Williams as well as winners from the 2016 Panda Awards (the wildlife film Oscars).

Chris Rollie, Dumfries & Galloway Area Manager of RSPB Scotland, said: “Given the magnetic attraction and popularity of wildlife films there has never been a better time for a Wild Film Festival, and no better place for to hold it than Dumfries and Galloway. The region is renowned for the variety of wildlife and the abundance of landscape attractions on the edge of the wild Solway Firth.

“With most of our wonderful visiting waterfowl still around, early spring is a great time for people to come and enjoy the wild attractions of the area and to take in the film festival at the same time.”

Ed Forrest, Project Manager for the Southern Upland Partnership which which has led the partnership of groups which set up WFFS, said: “Anyone who loves wildlife will adore Dumfries and Galloway – it has such a rich variety of places to explore from mountains and woodlands to wetlands and long coastlines.

“The festival is a superb opportunity to combine a visit to one of Scotland’s loveliest regions with an event that celebrates the very best of wildlife film and photography, where there will also be some lively discussions and superb star speakers.”

It’s also a chance to discover some of the birds and animals that have undergone amazing journeys of their own. These include the 35,000 Svalbard barnacle geese that now winter on the Solway Firth after a tough migration from the Arctic. Thanks partly to the work by the WWT Caerlaverock Wetland Centre they have made a remarkable comeback after their numbers were reduced to around 300 in the late 1940s.

Then there is the 24-mile Galloway Kite Trail, which includes a once secret location where wild red kite chicks werereared, before being reintroduced after having been persecuted almost to extinction across the UK in the 19th century. A highlight of any visit is Bellymack Hill Farm, near Laurieston, where they gather in huge numbersfor the daily feed at 2pm.. This provides a fantastic opportunity for close up photography or filming of these birds of prey but quite a challenge, as they manoevre so quickly.

Dumfries and Galloway has a wide range of reserves including RSPB at Mersehead which is a fantastic location for geese and breeding waders and can be explored by following its wildlife trails, including an atmospheric coastal walk. The variety of habitats and wildlife across this part of Scotland is also exemplified at four other RSPB reserves in the region, and can be explored along  wildlife trails at each site.

Another popular place to visit is the Forestry Commission’s Red Deer Range, where there are great chances to see the UK’s largest land mammal, beside the Wild Goat Park, situated in Galloway Forest.

Full details of the headline guests and the major films to be shown will be unveiled soon. The films will include winners from the 2016 Panda Awards (the wildlife film Oscars).

Iolo Williams’ talk will describe his exploits making films all round the world, which have included being charged by grizzly bears in Alaska and encounters with Komodo dragons in Indonesia.

Iolo, who will be appearing on Saturday 25 March, said: “Having a new festival devoted to the best wildlife film and photography, and with lots of live discussion, is a brilliant idea and I’m really looking forward to being there.

“There is some truly amazing work being produced in this country and all around the world right now. And Dumfries and Galloway is an incredibly beautiful part of Scotland, with an abundance of wildlife. With all that going on, I’m sure it’ll be hugely popular.”

The festival is also showcasing the tremendous photographic and filmmaking talent in Dumfries and Galloway including:

  • Keith Kirk – award winning photographer and night vision specialist
  • Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming – internationally renowned environmental photographers
  • Gordon Rae – 2016 Scottish Salon Nature Photographer of the Year, who is also well-known for his work with bears
  • Jesse Beaman – astrophotographer and dark skies park ranger.

Both Keith and Jesse will be looking at what Dumfries and Galloway offers at night. Keith leads nocturnal tours using the same thermal imaging equipment that people see on films to watch everything from red deer and badgers to foxes, hares and owls. Jesse sets his sights even higher, taking people on stargazing and photographic expeditions to make the most of the unparalleled views from the Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.

Morag and Ted have recently exhibited at the Head On Photo Festival in Australia. They are well-known for their Zero Footprint project which has seen them take thousands of pictures from the same spot overlooking the Rhinns of Kells.

One attraction of WFFS will be the British Wildlife Photography Awards Exhibition, hosted at the Gracefield Arts Centre. Films will be shown at the Robert Burns Centre, with speakers appearing at the Dumfries Theatre Royal. .

WFFS is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Union – LEADER 2014-2020 programme and supported by D&G Council Major Events Fund the Holywood Trust and EON. Follow our Facebook page www.facebook.com/WildFilmFestival/ and see the website www.wildfilmfestivalscotland.co.uk.

Photo Courtesy of Keith Kirk