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Five Take Home Messages from our Wilder National Parks Event

Digest the news and use our handy links to jump to the parts of the talk that most interest you.

Seagull flying down on Lake in Lake District
 © Rumman Amin / Unsplash

Published 17/08/2021

Over 600 people tuned in to our recent webinar on Wilder National Parks on 28 July. It was an incredibly inspiring event, with amazing speakers, loads of great questions from participants and the world premiere of our new uplands animation. You can watch the full event recording above. 

Here’s five key things we covered:

1. Nature isn’t in great shape in our national parks – but there is hope

As Rewilding Britain’s policy and campaigns coordinator Guy Shrubsole outlined in his introduction to the webinar, three-quarters of all nature reserves (SSSIs) in our national parks are in poor condition. In fact, the condition of nature reserves inside our national parks is worse than nature reserves outside of them.”

There’s no doubt that without national parks, our wildlife and habitats would be in an even worse state. But with large areas of our national parks dominated by poorly-sited conifer plantations, intensively-managed grouse moors, and overgrazed grasslands, it’s also clear that more needs to be done to boost nature recovery in our most cherished landscapes.

As legendary naturalist and TV presenter Iolo Williams told us that evening [watch here]: Large areas of [our national parks] are green deserts… We could be doing more… Our national parks must lead the way.”

RB wilder national parks

2. There are some amazing rewilding projects already happening in a number of our national parks

The good news is that there are fantastic rewilding projects already being pioneered by some landowners, farmers and land managers in a number of our national parks.

We heard from David Morris, regional manager for the RSPB in Cumbria and North East England, about their work at Wild Haweswater in the Lake District – a member of the Rewilding Network. 

Shaila Rao from the National Trust for Scotland talked about the fantastic efforts underway at Mar Lodge in the Cairngorms National Park to bring the ancient Caledonian pinewood back to life – allowing natural regeneration to take its course.

Phoebe what are we doing

From the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Phoebe Cox spoke passionately about the Wild Peak project she’s involved in, which is looking to regenerate not only nature but also jobs and volunteering opportunities across the Peak District.

As audience member Joe Douglas (@jowdouglas) tweeted: Impressed by the focus on positively engaging landowners and the long term commitments from park authorities”.

3. Many National Park Authorities are rising to the challenge of the climate and nature crises – but need more powers to take action

It was great to see that many National Park Authorities are rising to the challenges posed by the climate crisis and decline in species.

Ali Hawkins, ecologist at Exmoor National Park Authority, spoke about the brilliant nature recovery vision signed off by Exmoor NPA’s Board last December. The picture painted by this vision – of a far wilder, more nature- rich Exmoor as natural processes are restored over the coming years – is one that we’ve celebrated before on the Rewilding Britain website.

Exmoor future
Exmoor NPA’s vision for a wilder national park, bursting with wildlife, is something we need for all national parks in Britain

More recently – as speaker David Morris told us – the Lake District NPA has published a new draft plan for the future of the Park that echoes something we’ve been calling for: for 10% of each national park to be dedicated to the restoration of natural processes.

But it’s also clear that, whilst an increasing number of NPAs want to do more to tackle the ecological crises we face, they’re also hamstrung by limited powers and out-of-date laws that were passed decades before climate change and the decline in wildlife became such pressing concerns.

So it was great to hear from Dr Briony Fox from National Parks England, who called on Government to give greater powers to National Park Authorities to help deliver on nature recovery – something recommended by the Glover Review back in 2019, and something we at Rewilding Britain have been campaigning for.

4. Lots of people are becoming inspired by visions of a wilder future for our national parks

We were very excited to show everyone who’d tuned in our new short film about what rewilding could look like in Britain’s uplands – where many of our national parks can be found. You can watch the full version here. Our vision went down well with viewers.

Audience member @ClimateActionNE tweeted in response: Absolutely awesome video premiered at tonight’s #WilderNationalParks livestream. What an amazing #rewilding vision for climate and biodiversity resilience.”

And it’s not just us – pretty much every speaker at the webinar presented slides showcasing beautiful, inspiring images and maps of what a wilder future for our national parks could look like.

As audience member @VeeringNorth shared: As a career geographer with a lifetime in geospatial stuff’, I’m loving all the maps in @RewildingB’s #wildernationalparks webinar”.

Others were praising our animation as an important and helpful resource to be used across education settings. 

School tweets

5. We – the public – need to raise our voices to demand Ministers create wilder national parks

Everyone seemed very inspired by what our speakers had to say. While there’s lots of stuff already happening from which we should draw energy and hope, it’s also the case that we won’t get to see wilder national parks if we – the public – don’t also take political action.

As the RSPB’s David Morris told us, you need to tell national parks what you want”. 

We need to tell Government Ministers what we want to see happen. Because they have the ability to give national park authorities the powers they need to create wilder national parks.

That’s the aim of our campaign for wilder national parks – so, if you haven’t already, please sign and share our petition, and spread the word on social media using the hashtag #WilderNationalParks.

“You need to tell national parks what you want”
David Morris2

David Morris

Regional manager for the RSPB in Cumbria and North East England

Wednesday 28 July 2021

19:00 – 20:30

We all have a vested interest in making our national parks wilder. Despite some superb conservation initiatives, our national parks are nature-depleted and shadows of what they could be, unable to cope with the climate and extinction challenges we face. We’re urging the creation of core rewilding areas across 10% of our national parks and another 50% as nature recovery areas with a mix of habitats.

They can aid nature’s recovery and pave the way for thriving nature-based economies, jobs, and happier, more resilient communities that live and work within national parks. Wilder national parks will also boost our mental and physical wellbeing and provide endless opportunities for exploration, exercise and children’s development.

But what do we mean by wilder national parks? What could this look like? What steps can get us there? What’s already underway?


19:00: Opening — Emma Oldham, Digital Communications Manager (Rewilding Britain) Welcome to the event, housekeeping rules and introduction to Rewilding Britain.

19:05: Introduction to Wilder national parks campaign — Guy Shrubsole, Policy Coordinator (Rewilding Britain) What are we calling for? How do we get there? Campaign progress.

19:10: How NP Management Plans can be influenced — David Morris, Area Manager (RSPB)How we can influence national park’s management plans. Case study: Lake District NP’s draft management Plan.

19:15: National park authority campaign endorsement — Dr Briony Fox, Nature Recovery Team (National Parks England) Why they support our campaign.

19:20: What does rewilding our national parks look like? Guy Shrubsole, Policy Coordinator (Rewilding Britain) A visual walk through our uplands animation (this will be our prerecorded narrated video).

19:30: Break

Rewilding our National Parks is underway! We’re showcasing some of the incredible rewilders already proving an impact in our national parks.

19:35: Mar Lodge — Shaila RaoMar lodge is an example of rewilding pinewood, resulting in a wildly beautiful landscape. A National Trust project where golden eagles have returned alongside pine martens and capercaillie. Shaila will be focusing on how they’re reducing grazing pressure to aid nature’s recovery.

19:45: Exmoor National Park Authority — Ali Hawkins (Ecologist)What does their nature recovery vision look like? Why do they have one? How can our campaign help achieve this vision?

19:55: Wild Peak – Phoebe Cox (Engagement Officer)Wild Peak is a partnership of local landowners, community groups, businesses and organisations and local people who believe in a Peak District fit for the future. Phoebe will be focusing on the importance of partnerships between small-scale rewilders and farmers to successfully rewild our national parks.

20:05: Rewilding Welsh national parks — Iolo Williams (Welsh Naturalist & TV Presenter)

20:10: Q&A session with panelists including:

Guy Shrubsole

David Morris

Phoebe Cox

Shaila Rao

Alastair Driver

20:25: Ending remarks, Emma Oldham

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