Going wild for Spring Festival

The 2013 Dumfries and Galloway Wild Spring Festival was the biggest and best ever, contributing more than £200,000 to the local economy.

Now in its tenth year, and with close to 130 wildlife events, almost half of them free and most hosted by local wildlife experts, the 2013 festival provided a fantastic opportunity for families and wildlife fans to discover the most surprising and naturally inspiring part of Scotland.

Some 4766 people enjoyed the wide range of events during April and May, with the events rated highly in terms of satisfaction. Event goers were more likely to be from the rest of Scotland and UK than in previous years and the strong family appeal of the events impacted on the choice of accommodation with visitors favouring self-catering, camping and caravans, or staying with friends and family.

Despite the unseasonably cold weather which led to the cancellation of 11 events during the festival, among the most popular were RSPB’s Red Kite Feeding Station Open day, Crook of Baldoon and Family Fun Day. The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust had a sell-out with Stars’n’Stripes night-time badger watching and popular In Focus photography event.

D&G Council Ranger Service attracted good visitor numbers to Frog Tail, Fish Tails and Meet the Migrants events. Logan Botanic Garden enjoyed success with Bugs & Beasties, a wild flowers exhibition, shark conservation and an Easter Egg Extravaganza. Other popular events were Fintastic Tales by the River Nith Trust, April at Aldouran Wetland Garden and Red Deer in Spring by Forestry Commission Scotland. The Watson Bird event was new and well attended, the Reptile Rambles by D&G Environmental Resource Centre and the Explore a Shore by Making the Most of the Coast collectively did well.

The event achieved a huge level of media coverage for the region with almost 100 items in print, broadcast and online creating 42.5 million opportunities to see or hear about the festival.

Destination Dumfries & Galloway was able to secure enhanced marketing investment to coincide with the event’s 10th anniversary and Year of Natural Scotland from Scottish Natural Heritage, Dumfries & Galloway Council and Rural LEADER D&G “Building on Opportunities in the Biosphere” project. Partnership working led to the success of the marketing of the events, VisitScotland a key media partner along with Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB, National Trust Scotland, Scottish Seabird Centre and Wild Scotland.

Interest in wildlife and nature-based tourism provides a real opportunity for Dumfries and Galloway as one of the most unspoiled locations in the British isles. The region’s climate allows some rare species to survive better than other parts of the country, so those who come here will have a chance to see wildlife they might never have seen before.

There are many reasons that make Dumfries and Galloway one of the UK’s top year-round wildlife destinations.

A few are:

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere was the first of its kind in Scotland, recognising the area’s outstanding beauty and how the community live in harmony with nature.

The Galloway Forest Park is the largest forest park in the UK and home to Europe’s first Dark Sky Park.

Dumfries and Galloway is the only place in Scotland to see all of country’s land-living amphibians and reptiles.

The first bat reserve in Scotland is in Dumfries & Galloway on the Threave Estate near Castle Douglas

Wilma Finlay, chairwoman of Wild Spring Festival group, director of Destination D&G and owner of Cream o’Galloway, said: “Dumfries and Galloway Wild Spring Festival 2013 exceeded our expectations in many ways and highlights the strong interest in wildlife. The ‘Springwatch factor’ and a general growing environmental awareness mean that more visitors are visiting wildlife as part of their holidays. Dumfries and Galloway is well placed to tap into this trend with its strong wildlife offering and unspoiled landscape.”

Paula McDonald, regional director of VisitScotland, added: “The Wild Spring Festival is a fantastic asset to Dumfries and Galloway’s tourism portfolio and every year it’s growing in terms of events and popularity. Wildlife tourism is worth £127 million per year to the Scottish economy and for visitors looking for this kind of experience then this region is at the top of its game with wildlife events available stretching from east to west right across the region.”

For information on wildlife watching events, visitor centres and nature reserves in Dumfries and Galloway, visit www.wildseasons.co.uk. Look out for the Dumfries and Galloway Wild Autumn Festival this October.