We’re currently standing on a precipice. Continue our way with intense industrialisation and the now-known consequences or make a change, reset our values and plan for a future where we work with nature.
We can no longer ignore the rapid levels of climate alteration across the world or the amount of species declining and becoming extinct.
Luckily more and more people are becoming attuned and aware of the critical importance of environmentally friendly living and making better choices.
Rewilding Britain is one organisation who are taking this a whole lot further and aim to make a real difference on a national scale. If Rewilding Britain achieve their clearly stated goals, we’ll be living in a much different Great Britain, teeming with wildlife, expanses of woodland and helping to repair our planet.
Who is Rewilding Britain?
Founded in 2015, Rewilding Britain are the first and only national organisation who has the primary focus of increasing the level of rewilding across Britain.
Working to a set of core values that include reconnecting people and sustainable communities to nature as well as providing a solution to the climate and species extinction crises we face, Rewilding Britain also aim to influence governmental policy and legislation to help make Britain a more nature friendly and environmentally aware country.
Rewilding Britain is an independent charity governed by a board of trustees who make the decisions of where the funds are going to be spent to achieve the mission of rewilding areas of Britain. People on the Rewilding Britain board include Carlo Laurenzi (former Chief Executive of the London Wildlife Trust), Charlie Burrell (who rewilded the Knepp Estate) and Elaine Gilligan (Head of Programmes at Friends of the Earth).
Running day to day activities at Rewilding Britain is current Chief Executive Rebecca Wrigley, who is also one of the founders.
The Rewilding Britain values
Protecting the life in our living world and easing the climate crisis are one and the same thing. Nature is one huge, cooperative system: improve the climate change situation and wildlife with benefit, help improve habitats and the environment for wildlife to thrive and you’ll be helping climate change.
Rewilding Britain know this and ultimately believe that there are three wide-ranging groups who benefit from the process of rewilding:
They believe that seeing large parts of Britain rewilded will help reconnect people to the natural help, help build sustainable communities and go a long way in tackling the current crises of species extinction and climate change.
At the core is a belief that nature and people can flourish together. It’s not an ‘us’ or ‘them’ scenario. As they say: ‘if nature thrives, we all thrive’.
What does rewilding mean?
Just so we’re all on the right page, let’s clear up what we mean by rewilding.
Rewilding is the large-scale natural restoration of land and ecosystems. By letting nature and natural processes take the lead, rewilding aims to revert our landscape, or at least some of it, back to how it was intended to be.
Rewilding is process-led rather than goal-orientated. You don’t know exactly what you’ll get with rewilding, it’s about letting the process take it’s natural course.
Rewilding isn’t just a process for the sake of it. It’s a progressive approach to conservation to put the land back in tune with natural rhythms that will ultimately repair damaged ecosystems, restore degraded land, create more resilient climates, see long-lost species and wildlife reintroduced, help absorb carbon rather than emit it, promote sustainable communities and in general a healthier way for future living.
Big goals yes, but entirely achievable.
Because of the levels of change over the last millennia, humans will have to give nature a helping hand in certain areas to create the right conditions and get the natural processes rolling again. But once set up it’s about leaving nature to its self-governing best as much as we can. In many areas, there will have to be a certain level of management, but this is very much the hands-off, reduced type of management.
Rewilding is not about removing people or eliminating rural communities. The premise is to restore more balance and help people and the natural environment flourish together.
If done correct, rewilding can benefit both people and nature – after all humans are a part of nature and completely reliant on the Earth’s ecosystems to stay alive.
There are also scaled-down versions of rewilding for landowners and homeowners who want to make a difference. Small-scale rewilding can have big impact on the local environment as can rewilding your garden.
What is the vision of Rewilding Britain?
The big vision of Rewilding Britain is to see at least one million hectares of land rewilded over the next 100 years. To put this into context, the total area of land in Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) is around 23 million hectares, so this one million hectare figure represents around 5% of the entire country.
In the shorter term, Rewilding Britain want to restore natural woodland and nature friendly habitats that include farmland, forestry and fishing across 30% of Britain’s land and seas by 2030. The land area currently covered by woodland in the UK is just 13%.
As I explain in this blog on natural regeneration, they argue that we should adopt a natural regeneration approach first and only resort to tree planting where necessary.
This process of rewilding is already underway in many areas of the country. Large areas of previously farmed, managed or grazed land are being converted into all sorts of natural environments – from forests and woodlands to wild meadows, bogs and marshes.
Over the next three years, Rewilding Britain hope to rewild 300,000 acres of land in the UK, an area roughly the size of Greater Manchester.
When you see rewilding mentioned in the mainstream media, it’s usually accompanied by a headline, flagship large animal, such as a wolves, lynx, wildcats and eagles. These keystone species are important to ecosystems and I’d love to see these types of animals back in Britain for their beauty and balancing ecosystem influence. But the key is to get the foundations right first by providing sufficient areas of natural habitats for these animals to thrive without causing problems to local human populations.
Rewilding Britain wants to see a world of healthy soils, clean rivers and land and seas rich in biodiversity.
Rewilding Britain Network
Rewilding Britain has created a ‘Rewilding Network’ to become a central hub of practice advice, learning and information on rewilding. It will be a place for like-minded individuals to meet others and join forces to help rewilding really take shape throughout the UK.
The first of its kind in Britain, the Network will host two main groups:
- One for landowners and land managers who can perhaps connect their projects and link land with others in the area to create larger rewilding clusters
- One for community action groups where individuals can locate their nearest group and join in.
Underpinning both of these groups on the Rewilding Network is the interactive map where you’ll be able to find existing projects of both large- and small-scale rewilding, as well as community action groups across Britain.
The Rewilding Britain Network already has numerous members with over 220,000 acres of land to work with.
Exciting UK rewilding projects happening now
With the aim of restoring a million hectares of land, it’s good to see a number of exciting rewilding projects well under way. It’s early days with organised rewilding, so I hope to see this map fill out with plenty of projects over the next few years.
Let’s take a look at some of those projects both large and small scale rewilding.
|Project||Location||Total area to rewild||Habitat types||Learn more|
|Wild Ennerdale||Lake District, Cumbria||11,700 acres||Upland valley – ancient woodland, planted forest, river, lake, grassland||http://www.wildennerdale.co.uk/|
|Knepp Wildland||West Sussex||3,500 acres||Woodland and grassland||https://knepp.co.uk/home|
|Elmore Court||Gloucestershire||250 acres||Former farmland, woodland, marine||https://www.elmorecourt.com/environment/|
|Rewilding Coombeshead||Devon||150 acres||Former farmland||https://rewildingcoombeshead.co.uk/|
|Creag Meagaidh||Glen Spean, Scottish Highlands||9,900 acres||Mountain, woodland, heathland, wildflower meadow||https://www.nature.scot/enjoying-outdoors/scotlands-national-nature-reserves/creag-meagaidh-national-nature-reserve|
|Bamff Wildland||Perthshire||130 acres||Wetlands, woodland, farmland||https://bamff.land/|
|Wild Ken Hill||Norfolk||1,500 acres||Former farmland, woodland, marine||https://wildkenhill.co.uk/|
|Soar Valley||Leicestershire||400 acres||Floodplain, wet woodland, scrub, grassland||https://www.lrwt.org.uk/soar-and-wreake-valley-living-landscape|
There are also projects such as the WildEast, who want to return 250,000 hectares back to nature in East Anglia.
Rewilding is not just taking place on the land. Rewilding Britain are also helping with a number marine rewilding projects throughout Britain and off the coast. Take a look at their eight projects happening now.
Wrap up on Rewilding Britain
Rewilding Britain has big aims and is gathering momentum across the country.
I think there cause is very important – who doesn’t want to see flourishing environments, healthy ecosystems, more native animals, more climate resilience and a better outlook for the future?
Despite this, Rewilding Britain has also faced its critics, mainly in the shape of farmers and their unions who are not too happy with their vision.
I think it’s important to state that rewilding large areas of the country doesn’t mean doing so at the expense of productive farmland. As an investigation by Friends of the Earth found, there is suitable additional land around the UK to triple tree cover! Also as in the Knepp Wildland example above, due to the underlying soil, the farmland just wasn’t productive after decades of work so rewilding this makes perfect sense.
This isn’t about farming vs nature. Nor is it about roaming packs of wolves or out of control lynx taking over the country.
It’s about creating a healthy, sustainable environment with thriving ecosystems and wildlife in cohesion with humans, local communities and farmland producing sustainable food and resources. None of these things have to be exclusive. When nature thrives, we all thrive and Rewilding Britain is aiming to do just this.