Tetra-Pak heiress and magazine editor Sigrid Rausing talks ping pong and rewilding
When I left Sweden, I very much missed the wild. Nature is all around you there, as it is in Scotland. We came to see Coignafearn in 1997, and saw an osprey diving for a fish in the river – I was hooked from that moment.
I am a very bad Scottish dancer, but I love it. To anyone who has ever had the misfortune to be partnered with me: thank you for your patience! I walk. I read. I play bad chess, scrabble and ping pong when I can find someone to play with me, usually my husband...
I have many favourite books, for different moods. Mansfield Park, perhaps, if I had to choose one – the Crawford siblings are so interesting – I find them the most ambiguous of Austen’s villains.
Buying Granta was a leap in the dark. But I am very glad we did it – I had read the magazine all my adult life, and had been profoundly formed by it.
I have many pet peeves. Littering, neglectful elderly care, library closures, forcing children to read before they are ready for it, the excessive focus on tests in school, the paucity of mental care and hospice and addiction facilities – and that’s before we get into global corruption and human rights abuses...
I have had many dogs in my life. Sadly our lovely, feisty little Cavalier King Charles spaniel died in an accident last Christmas. Replacing him has not proved easy.
I strongly believe that human rights and good governance are key to development. I lived on a former collective farm in Estonia for a year in the early 1990s, and saw first hand the ravages of Soviet rule in terms of most of the indicators that matter. It was, however, a profoundly peaceful and safe place – and that matters too, of course.
We were very concerned about how wind farms would affect our golden eagles. I objected – and do object – to the creeping industrialisation of wild landscapes involving the widening of roads and pylons up and down the land.
Coignafearn was a challenge. It was a degraded environment, and a pretty bleak place, with an ugly history of persecuting birds of prey.
My neighbours couldn’t have been nicer. There was no open conflict, but of course I was aware that many of them were less than happy about our deer reduction, which they felt might have an impact on their own deer numbers. Ironically others have since implemented much more radical deer reductions in order to promote grouse numbers, as well as killing thousands of hares to reduce ticks – I don’t agree with the quasi-industrial approach to grouse either. Our own grouse are truly wild: we don’t dose them or put out medicated grit.
We now have native tree regeneration within enclosures. We also have planted lots of native trees there. The tree regeneration outside the enclosures only happens in places which are inaccessible to deer and goats, so we have done some planting on the steep banks of some of the tributaries to the river.
Biodiversity is on the increase at Coignafearn. We have extensive heather, juniper, moss and wild flower regeneration. Our butterflies and moths are doing well, and the small bird population is much better. We have turned the estate from quite a sterile environment to a more diverse and interesting one. Our wildlife cameras capture pine martens, otters, golden eagles, white-tailed eagles and other birds of prey – they’re hard to see, but we know they are there.