Press Release 04.03.2024

Wild Rutland teams with Gillespies to launch ambitious conservation visitor attraction

Gillespies has been selected to lead the transformation and restoration of a Rutland landscape into an immersive visitor attraction - Wild Rutland.

The ambitious project fronted by the owners of a farming estate in Oakham is currently seeking full planning permission for an innovative visitor experience. This attraction is set to seamlessly blend heritage, nature, wildlife, play, and adventure, with a strong commitment to conservation at its heart.

The overarching goal is to convert over 1200 acres of parkland into Wild Rutland—an expansive nature and wildlife reserve dedicated to indigenous species. The project will promote biodiversity by reimagining and restoring the 18th-century Humphry Repton landscaped parkland within the Estate.

The team, led by principal Mathew Cockburn and partner Tom Walker, will deliver a full planning application to Rutland County Council later this year.

The Hanbury family, who have lived and farmed on the Burley Estate for centuries, believe now is the right time to embark upon the Wild Rutland project to bring the ambitious vision to life.

James Hanbury said: “Like many farms in the UK, Burley needs to diversify to protect the legacy of this landscape for generations to come. We continue to work with our advisors who have assisted to provide careful land management of the Burley Estate for some time now, and during the planning phase we are also working with an internationally renowned architecture firm and team of specialists who have created a masterplan to compliment the natural splendour of the Estate.”

“We hope that our proposal will be seen as complementary to what is already on offer in Oakham for nature lovers and provide a place where people can explore and learn more about indigenous species and their habitats. We sincerely hope that Wild Rutland will enhance the county and be something that Rutland can be proud of,” James added.

Mathew Cockburn, Principal at Gillespies said: “We’re so pleased to be working on such a landmark project in the UK - introducing indigenous animals, restoring biodiversity and giving people the opportunity to create their own stories in this pioneering conservation project is really exciting. We’ve used the influence of the existing site and some magic to design plans for a visitor centre, staff facilities, and animal hides within the proposed immersive visitor destination.”

The pre-planning application was submitted in December 2023, and a full planning application is anticipated to be submitted to Rutland County Council later in 2024. This application will set out the nature park’s mission to improve the biodiversity of Burley Wood and the surrounding fields.

The vision will be shaped through genuine consultation and collaboration with all relevant local authorities, residents, neighbours, businesses, and environmental agencies.

Wild Rutland CEO, Hugh Vere Nicoll, has a background in conservation of natural spaces. He said: “It is hoped that this style of collaborative approach will ensure that the final proposal delivers the maximum benefits to the local environment, landscape, community and economy.”

A public exhibition will take place on Wednesday 13 March 2024 giving local communities the opportunity to see the plans for Wild Rutland and speak to members of the planning team and estate management team.