We are excited by the possibility of finding places where wildlife might bounce back on a grand scale, taking the pressure off managing land and allowing nature to take control.
We have a fantastic example of what rewildling can achieve at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex.
Here, a huge 3,500 acres of once intensively farmed land has been turned over to wildlife. Grazing animals help to create a mix of habitats and support the restoration of dynamic, natural processes. In the past decade or so, Knepp has seen an extraordinary explosion in life. Rare species like turtle doves, nightingales and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding there and, importantly, more common species are seen in vast numbers.
There may even be arguments for the reintroduction of lost species.
Most important are the “keystone species” - species that do an important ecological job. Beavers are a good example. By digging ditches, coppicing trees and building dams, beavers can reshape river valleys and restore hydrological systems. Beavers create large areas of water-retaining wetland, slowing the flow of streams and rivers and protecting the land downriver from flooding, as well as reducing silt and improving water quality. These restored wetlands also provide essential habitat for a wealth of plants and animals.
You don’t need to have a huge area of land to rewild it.
- There are 27,000 parks in the UK – what if more parkland was devoted to nature alongside other uses for people?
- Or we could rewild the 250,000 miles of road verges across the UK – simply by cutting them less often – to create a network of linear roadside meadows where wildlife can thrive.
- And there are 430,000 hectares of gardens across the UK that could all be a bit wilder…
Want to experience the wilder side of Sussex?