This beginner’s guide to rewilding is a short introduction to a subject that is often in the media, these days. What is it? It’s simply a way to let nature take care of itself. If you leave things alone, usually it’s best. There is even a community of people who want the human population to die out, to avoid more damage!
Rewilding usually involves buying up land that is due for a human to do something bad (like Boris Johnson’s ‘build, build, build’ philosophy) and then leave it for something good to happen. Actor Mackenzie Crook (who played geeky Gareth in ‘The Office’) is now an ardent environmentalist. He seems to be morphing into Paul Kingsnorth, using money from a recent project to resist the Ferrari and buy a local forest instead, so nobody could build on it.
You have to know what you’re doing: freeing up dams could have consequences for beavers, and introducing wild boar and wolves is something that is not to be taken lightly. But real rewilding is far more organic: simply letting wildflower meadows grow to give food to native bees and butterflies, or planting forests and stopping the artificial ‘management’ of native wildlife, using knowledge from wildlife experts instead. As well as helping to save the 50% or so of our species that are endangered, it also provides beautiful places to notice nature.
Some farmers are not fans of charities buying land, to just leave alone. But rewilding has many fans including environmental writer George Monbiot and naturalist Chris Packham (who mounted a legal challenge to stop HS2, which will kill around 22,000 wildlife yearly).
Rewilding across England
Trees 4 Life has a post of the 10 most exciting rewilding programs in the UK, including:
- Dingle Marshes (Suffolk) is rewilding 93 hectares of wild marshland, home to bittern and marsh harriers, and other havens for bird life.
- Great Fen, Cambridgeshire has seen lapwings, avocets (wader birds) and cranes return, along with rare water voles.
- Soar Valley (Leicestershire) is rewilding the flood plains, and preventing further building, and working with local farmers to minimise chemical run-off and plant woodlands.
- Wild Ennerdale (Cumbria) is creating a wild valley in the Lake District and letting forestry tracks grow over, so the river is left to find its own way.
- Knepp Castle Estate (West Sussex) has let the infertile land return to the wild, which now has all 5 species of UK owls, 13 out of 17 species of bats, and rare turtle doves, nightingales, falcons, lesser-spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies.
Beautiful Books on Rewilding
If you are planning a bit of rewilding in your own outdoor space, see plants & trees to avoid near pets (avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch & fresh compost near pets). Use humane safe slug/snail deterrents & no-dig garden methods. See safer alternatives to netting for wildlife, if used. Many plants (inc. yew & oak trees) are toxic to equines.
- Rootbound: Rewilding a Life is the story of Alice Vincent, who 20 years after enjoying her grandfather’s garden, lives in a tiny London flat. Suddenly uprooted and yearning for comfort of home, she starts to plant greenery on windowsills and draining boards. And with each unfurling petal and budding leaf, she comes back to life.
- Wild Your Garden is by ‘the Butterfly Brothers’. They show you how to create a garden that can help boost local biodiversity. Transform a paved-over yard to a lush oasis, create refuges for native species, and turn a high-maintenance unused lawn into a nectar-rich mini-meadow to attract bees and butterflies.
- Rewild Your Garden is a delightfully illustrated guide to the plants and techniques to encourage native wildlife. Whether you have a balcony or large open space, horticulturalist Frances Tophill can help bring back wild spaces to your garden.
- Rebirding looks at why our species are (‘trapped in tiny pockets of habitat’) with 94% of unbuilt land. We should have the best wildlife density in Europe. The author believes that rewilding our national parks and restoring natural ecosystems is the answer to revive Britain’s dying rural landscapes back to life.
- Irreplaceable is a book on the fight to save our wild places. From Kent to Glasgow to India, wild places are disappearing. This is a love letter to the haunting beauty of these landscapes and the wild species that call them home – including nightingales, lynxes, hornbills, redwoods and elephant seals. It is also a timely reminder of the vital connections between humans and nature, and all that we stand to lose in terms of wonder and wellbeing.