How do you actually rewild a property? | FT Food Revolution

The word rewilding can conjure up images of going back in time to a landscape of wild animals and deep forest. Its popularity is growing in the UK, but how exactly do you go about rewilding, and why is it being linked, in some cases, to greenwashing? The FT’s Leslie Hook visits two properties at different stages of the rewilding process to discover more.

Out in sussex in the south of england there’s a piece of land that’s at the forefront of the uk’s rewilding movement the word rewilding can conjure up images of going back in time to a landscape with wolves and bears and deep forest but actually it looks quite different so what exactly is rewilding and how do you go about it to find out i’m visiting two properties

At different stages of the re-wilding process the first the nep castle estate in medieval times this would have been very very common it was actually a wood pasture system so lots of thorny scrubs lots of complex species in it driven by free-roaming animals isabella is the author of the 2018 best seller wilding about a rewilding project that she and her husband

Embarked on in 2001 covering an area of some 3 500 acres people would look at this and say it’s a waste of space there’s it’s good for nothing but actually it’s one of the most biodiverse habitats there is you can hear the bird song you know it’s just incredible it’s it’s it’s thick it’s all around us in simple terms rewilding looks to restore natural ecosystems

By stepping back and leaving an area to nature so how do you get started if you want to get nature back you don’t go out and plant trees you put free roaming animals in the system in the right numbers and then they start creating habitat for you but is it economically viable well we still receive a subsidy so we’re we’re paid for for doing these ecological

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Improvements as it were for increasing biodiversity storing carbon improving water quality flood mitigation for air quality and providing an amenity for human health and well-being but worst case scenario if those kind of subsidies disappear for some reason we’re still we think now a viable business we have ecotourism which last year turned over about a million

Pounds and here certain elements of traditional farming do remain we sell the meat 75 tons of it a year and because there are no inputs they eat out there all year round it’s very low cost it’s incredibly low carbon so the profit we make from those animals is way way more than we could have made under conventional farming public awareness of rewilding is growing

A recent poll carried out by yukov saw four out of five people supporting rewilding in the uk we’re actually ranking one of the bottom countries in the world in terms of uh you know in terms of our biodiversity losses but people’s awareness of biodiversity loss and of the urgency to tackle climate change are now at the forefront of people’s minds the charity

Rewilding britain now has a network of more than 56 rewilding projects of a thousand acres or more across the country it wants to see at least five percent of britain’s land turned over to nature this century we’re we’re looking to uh encourage enthuse people uh to rewild on the ground and part of my role involves going out to large landowners um in england and

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Wales to advise them on that by invitation i only go by invitation only it’s all voluntary you know no one’s forcing it on anyone rewilding critics say it removes rural jobs but that’s not what they’ve experienced at the nepa state as a conventional farm it employed around 20 people and today that number is closer to 50. and rewilding britain says job losses

Haven’t occurred on other rewilding sites thanks to the creation of roles such as safari guides and ecologist stock managers what we’ve been able to show so far is that for the 43 sites that we have good data for we have seen a 65 increase in jobs compared with traditional farming beforehand for my second stop i’ve come to windswept west norfolk and a 4 000 acre

Property called wild ken hill three years ago they began rewilding part of the estate rewilding is one of the most effective nature-based tools we have against against climate change one of the great things about rewilding is it’s a it’s a very low-cost simple tool to implement and manage about a quarter of the farm has been turned over to a variety of wildlife

We just created a perimeter fence around the the landscape of a thousand acres and we added our natural grazing animals the ponies cattle pigs and also reintroduced beavers to manage the landscape for us so quite light touch actually to get going so what are the revenue streams of the farm right now so the wider farm we’re still you know pretty heavily exposed

To farming that’s probably about 50 of our income but much more now is derived from this countryside stewardship scheme where the uk government incentivizes us to deliver public goods for society but we’re also diversifying into nature-based tourism so what does rewilding mean to you it’s a tool in the box that we can use to deliver public goods for society

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In this case it’s carbon sequestration you know restoring our ecosystems and providing you know access to green space for people the carbon sequestration rewilding delivers is one factor contributing to its rising popularity but that popularity can also create problems in the form of greenwashing posing as rewilding actually now the biggest challenge we face

Is the misuse of the word rewilding we are now in the situation where we potentially have big organizations buying up large tracts of land planting them with non-native species for carbon sequestration and calling that rewarding and it absolutely is not rewarding avoiding an ill-intentioned corporate land grab may come down to developing a carbon certification

System down the line but at those places that are genuinely rewilding there is real optimism about its potential we hope in the long term this becomes you know one of the most exciting nature reserves uh in the uk um but also that we with our approach we’ve shown how rewilding can fit into the wider landscape alongside farming and traditional conservation we’ve

Gone from being a nature depleted land to one of the most important biodiversity hot spots in the uk in less than 20 years if it can happen here underneath the gatwick stacking system surrounded by a-roads in the southeast of england it can happen anywhere

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How do you actually rewild a property? | FT Food Revolution By Financial Times

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