The Wards Wildlife Site
The Wards wetland in Elgin is a valuable space for people to enjoy nature, and for wildlife to thrive.
Located south of the railway line and adjacent to Greenwards Primary School and Elgin High School, the area has been designated as a non-statutory wildlife site by Moray Council and Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is an important habitat, home to a colony of Northern Marsh Orchid and wetland birds including Snipe and Reed Bunting.
The area was historically a peat bog but then drained through a network of straight ditches so it could be used for grazing for many years. Water would naturally meander and spread out across the lower parts, so as a man-altered landscape the wetland needs active management to keep it in a healthy condition. The peaty soil stores carbon, so keeping it wet helps to address climate change.
In 2002 a management plan was drawn up, followed by the installation of a new pond and dipping platform and circular access path, leaving the centre of the site largely undisturbed for wildlife. A new management plan was created in 2022 to inform renewed management of the site using available grant funding, which has focused on restoring and expanding small areas of open water and planting native species to improve biodiversity. Restoration work is being done sensitively, minimising disturbance to wildlife and people. It will help to provide unique homes for plants, animals and insects.
Millbuies woodland and loch
Just south of Elgin in the village of Fogwatt, Millbuies loch is surrounded by rich and diverse woodland. It is important local community space, with woodland walks and a picnic area. Millbuies is also a haven for a wide range of wildlife; red squirrels, badgers, otters and ospreys are just some of the iconic species that live in and visit the site.
The reservoir was formed in the early 20th century to create a fishing loch. The woodland is a mixed, with some commercially planted areas and many specimen trees for interest. Using grant funding, a new plan for managing the woodlands has been developed. This will see a renewed focus on protecting and enhancing biodiversity alongside making improvements for public access as funding becomes available.
Some limited clear felling will be undertaken, but will be carefully planned to minimise disturbance to wildlife and people. Replanting will focus on a mix of native trees to support biodiversity and help the woodland to adapt to a changing climate. The long term plan is for the whole woodland to be managed under a low impact system which avoids clear felling and encourages natural regeneration as much as possible.