An ambitious project fronted by the owners of a farming and land estate in Rutland could see native bears, wolves, and lynx reintroduced to the countryside along with other indigenous species, if local proposals are successful.

With conservation at its heart, the aim is to turn over 1000 acres of land stretching from Burley Wood to the Oakham bypass, into Wild Rutland – an immersive visitor attraction, bringing with it employment opportunities and transforming the tourism landscape of Rutland.

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.

James Hanbury said: “Like many farms in the UK, Burley needs to diversify in order to remain self-sufficient, but it has been a long-held dream of our family to develop a project that benefits the natural environment, builds upon what Rutland has to offer both residents and visitors and retains the integrity of the county.”

“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.”

“The overriding intention is to improve the natural habitat and ecology of the area, using techniques such as regenerative farming, which in turn will create new opportunities for greater bird, insect and reptile diversity. Ultimately, our ambition is that Wild Rutland will facilitate an education of British nature and encourage people to enjoy the natural world, whilst reflecting positively on and promoting Rutland to a wider audience.”

“Wild Rutand would create a job opportunity in sectors such as land management, nature conservation, zoology and hospitality. Like many large visitor attractions across the UK this project has the potential to create a lasting impact on the tourism industry and local economy of Rutland,” James added.

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

The team behind Wild Rutland intends that the vision should be shaped through genuine consultation and collaboration with all relevant local authorities, residents, neighbours, businesses, and environmental agencies.

Wild Rutland and Burley Estate 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 be announced in early 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.

Stay in touch with the progress of the project on the website and social media channels by visiting