Walkers 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 festival to be held 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 exploring 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).
But there will also be the chance to pull on some walking boots and spend time exploring the Annandale Way, Southern Uplands Way, Mull of Galloway Trail and much more.
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 walking and 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 Red Kite Trail which includes the once secret locations where they were fed and monitored before being reintroduced after having being persecuted to extinction in almost the whole of the UK in the 19th century. A highlight of any visit is Bellymack Hill Farm, near Laurieston, where they gather in huge numbers daily at 2pm for feeding.
Dumfries and Galloway has a wide range of reserves including RSPB at Mersehead which a fantastic location for geese and winter waders and can be explored by following its wildlife trails. Another popular place to visit is the Red Deer Range, where there are great chances to see the UK’s largest land mammal, which is also beside the Galloway Wild Goat Park.
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. Event details can be found at the festival website.