Rewilding has recently gained traction not only within the environmental/ecology sector, but also within climate change campaigns and wider media. BBC’s Autumnwatch recently featured Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk; a 4000-acre rewilding and sustainable farming project that has returned beavers to the county and supports approximately 2500 different species. Additionally, Knepp Wildland in West Sussex has been widely promoted as a flagship project within the UK, starting their process of giving the land back to nature back in 2001.

Most recently, the UK government have brought this into an political and economic focus with Environment Secretary George Eustice detailing a new scheme where UK farmers can bid for grants to facilitate rewilding projects on their land as part of the wider proposed ‘landscape recovery scheme’.

What is Rewilding?
Rewilding is defined by Rewilding Britain as: “the large-scale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature is allowed to take care of itself. Rewilding seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species”.

It is based on the principle that we take a step back and let nature mould our landscapes in order to secure benefits from this process in perpetuity, create resilience within the economy and help society reconnect with nature.

Why is rewilding important?

• Our nature is currently declining at an alarming rate with 15% of species in Britain threatened with extinction (Rewilding Britain).
• Increases carbon sequestration
• Improves soil stability
• Increases biodiversity
• Helps us adapt to and mitigate against climate change
• Provides intersectional benefits for society (economy, connection to nature as well as both physical and mental health improvement)

What can I do?

Householders
Though rewilding is important at the landscape scale, smaller measures can also bring cumulative benefits and long-term societal change.

In the UK we are passionate about our gardens, and in the Gardens and Coronavirus 2020 survey it was noted that: “78% said that a key benefit gained from access to their garden/outdoor space during lockdown was ‘It helped them appreciate nature’.”

However, in the UK, many gardens include tightly mown lawns, neat borders and paving. While these are aesthetically pleasing features for many, they offer little refuge for wildlife or wider environmental benefits. In recent years, enhancements such as wildflower areas, bee boxes, small ponds and hedgehog houses within gardens have grown in popularity. While these do provide a benefit for wildlife, rewilding can provide the same benefits and more by mimicking a ‘wild’ landscape.

Our top tips for gardens/small sites include the following:

• Let hedges, trees, grass or scrub grow. Even if it’s just a small corner of the garden, let nettles, dandelions, thistles and other plants traditionally considered as ‘weeds’ to grow.
• Try not to cut your lawn so often and cut lawns no lower than 80mm. If you’re worried about it looking messy, mow paths throughout – this will show the neighbours that it’s intentional. An additional benefit is that taller grass is more resistant to droughts and the removal of lawn watering relieves pressures on water supplies.
• If you need to cut vegetation back, try and time this in February where possible. This will mean that seeds and berries will remain available for birds and small mammals through the winter months, but crucially avoids the bird nesting season.
• Keep biomass in the ecosystem – have grass trimmings or brash? Put it under your hedge to break down, feeding the nutrients back into the soil
• Use the ‘no dig’ approach for flower beds and veg beds, using mulch on top instead
• Disturb small patches of earth within your garden to create bare ground or hollows which can fill with water or be adopted by ground nesting bees.
• Choose plants with a good nectar source for pollinators
• Keep breaks and gaps in your fence line – these allow hedgehogs and other wildlife to move freely and forage across mosaics of garden habitats

Developers
The same goes for larger areas of land that go hand-in-hand with development sites. This could include:

• Land saved for rewilding within open green spaces or Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANGs), which also provides an educational purpose
• Scrub ecotones to create buffers for valuable retained habitats and improving the connectivity of these habitats
• Sustainable grazing of valuable retained grassland to improve the biodiversity
• Allowing grass to grow longer in patches with mown pathways to allow for recreation but retain wilder areas

How can we help?
We can provide pragmatic advice on rewilding of any scale. We can visit the site at the start of your re-wilding journey, to produce a baseline and provide advice on how to target certain species. We can produce a tailormade plan, incorporating aims and objectives for your site and how to avoid any unwanted impacts.

We provide protected and notable species surveys and can continue to survey your land, to monitor the impact of your rewilding project and record any new species or fluctuations in population levels.

We will provide advice and support to help you achieve a rewilding result to be proud of. Get in touch today.

Further Information
• Rewilding Britain – 15 Ways to a Wilder Garden: https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/explore-rewilding/rewilding-the-land/15-ways-to-a-wilder-garden
• Heal Rewilding Charity: https://www.healrewilding.org.uk/
• Rewilding Europe: https://rewildingeurope.com/
• UK and Ireland Rewilding Projects: https://www.nationalgeographic.co.uk/travel/2021/02/rewilding-projects-stay-uk
• RHS – Rewild Your Garden: https://www.rhs.org.uk/garden-inspiration/wildlife/rewild-your-garden