The first time you see a Kestrel hover, the first time you see an otter play on a river bank, the first time you hear a Buzzard call…these are just a few of the things that got me interested in Wildlife. My name is Kevin Cumming and I am starting the Wild Eskdale project in Langholm. At its core this project is about engaging people in the outdoors and trying to share a passion for wildlife.
I have always enjoyed the outdoors and walked the Angus Glens with my family from a very young age. Having pursued a career as a professional football player, which I did for 3 years with Dundee FC, I went back into education and achieved a BA Hons in Business. Now faced with the prospect of a life sitting in an office I began to look for a way to work in the outdoors and with animals. This search would take me on a wonderful journey which has brought me here to Langholm.
I started off as a volunteer animal keeper at the Scottish Deer Centre in Fife. I loved my time here especially getting to work so closely with my favourite animal, wolves. I think that getting to work so closely and in some cases hands on with such a variety of species really fuelled my passion and I decided to undertake an MSc in Conservation and Management at Edinburgh Napier University. The debates and engagement with like-minded people during this course helped shape my views on the way land is managed in the UK and how people interact with wildlife around the world.
Following the completion of my MSc I took employment as the seasonal Grounds, Garden and Conservation officer on Strathmore Estate, the home of Glamis Castle in Angus. After a successful spell here I moved back to working hands on with animals. This time my eyes would be opened to the incredible world of Raptors.
Flying birds of prey as an educational display falconer at Raptor World was an incredible experience. I will never forget the look on a child’s face as a European Eagle Owl flies towards them and expertly lands right on their gloved hand. Unfortunately this was a maternity cover position and I moved on to NBC Environmental where I would gain some invaluable first hand conservation experience working on the Manx Sheerwater project on the Isle of Rum.
From there I moved onto Estate Management in Northumberland where I managed Woodland, Moorland and Riparian habitats. During this spell I started to realise the potential for eco-tourism in Rural Britain. The excitement people felt when I took them out to watch badgers or watch Barn Owls hunting on the Moor confirmed this for me.
When the position as Project Manager came up for the Wild Eskdale project I jumped at the opportunity to set up an eco-tourism venture with the added bonus of engaging people in educational activities as well. I feel very fortunate to be able to build on the success of the Making the Most of Moorlands which has done such wonderful work in recent years.
What would be success….?
It will be interesting to read this section in 2 years time and see where we stand but at the moment I think success will look something like this.
The profile of Langholm as an eco-tourism destination will have been raised.
Local hospitality businesses will have seen some increase in income from tourism.
Strong relationships will have been built with surrounding landowners.
Youngsters in the local community will have been inspired by nature.
The Wild Eskdale project will have proved the feasibility of a Wild life tour operator in Langholm.
Langholm has huge potential as an eco-tourism destination with a community of dedicated people who are trying day after day to diversify and return a level of prosperity to the town. I strongly believe that this project can enjoy longevity and success here and I hope to be part of it for a long time.