Rewilding on a smaller scale

Rewilding is about doing what you can to help nature and wildlife join up and do its thing. We look at how this can works on small-scale projects, such as gardens

Rewilding smaller scale
Great tits in water – Martin Harvey

Rewilding the land

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Rewilding on a small scale is about making a difference in a different way. One person can become two, two can become a crowd, a crowd can start to make fundamental societal change. That domino effect is vital. And while it’s critical that we help nature recover on a large scale across Britain, taking action on a small scale, whether that’s a garden or a few hundred acres, plays an important role in helping nature, especially if you can join up with others to go large. 

Working with others, whether it’s your neighbours or your local allotment group, is one of the best ways of increasing the cumulative, positive impacts of rewilding. Rewilding a window box, or an acre or two, starts to have an impact when 10,000 other people do the same. If you have 500 acres, and you team up with another three neighbours who have 500 acres, then you have the basis of a very significant rewilding ecological network. 

In large-scale projects, generally upwards of 1,500 acres, you can aim to restore the bigger natural processes and minimise human intervention. As you come down in scale, the need for human management increases. Instead of letting grazing animals wander freely, you’ll have to manually keep them on the move from one location to another. If your land is only a few tens of acres, you might not want permanent grazers at all, when you consider that one Tamworth pig at the Knepp Estate ploughs around 60 acres a year!

“Creating a pond, or letting some lawn transform into wildflower meadow, will bring new species into your world”

1 Tamworth pig can plough up to 60 acres in a year

Be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t achieve in your corner of the world. Don’t be too disappointed if you can’t introduce bison or regenerate a forest. Species reintroductions for the restoration of natural processes need upwards of 1,000 acres at least. But creating a pond in your garden, or letting some of your lawn transform into wildflower meadow, will bring new species into your world. They’ll just be a little smaller.

Making change

Focus on where you can make positive change. For example, reducing or eliminating your use of chemicals, removing any human litter or infrastructure, and diversifying your habitat types and structures. Think natural processes even at a small scale. Wildlife needs to be able to move around so cut holes where needed in fences for those things that can’t fly. Break down boundaries with neighbours if you can. 

Bees and butterflies need pollinating plants to play their part in the great web of life, so go that extra mile by specifically choosing plants to help them. Everything from garden ponds and compost heaps to green roofs, rotting wood piles and bug hotels contributes to small-scale rewilding. Each adds its own unique boost to wild nature.

If you have livestock, perhaps you can manage them in a wilder way, allowing their true nature to take form. For example, letting young stay with their parents and minimising antibiotic use. If you have ancient meadows, soils, woodlands or wetlands on or near your land, then choose that as the hub or focus of your wilding. Ancient habitats are a fantastic seed’ for biodiversity recovery. Make changes on your land that will help the species in that habitat move, disperse and increase their range. 

If you can, leave your land, or even just a corner patch of your lawn, for at least a year without intervention or management, to see what pops up. One year spent thinking about what to do next, is worth its weight in gold. Small or large scale, try and imagine how your wild space might look in 5 years, 50 years, or 100 years time. Then prepare to be surprised. 

Weave nature back into your life, and pass on your knowledge. Learn from others. The Godney marshes is a fantastic example of how a practical approach to small scale rewilding can reap huge benefits. The Rewild Project shows how to integrate agroforestry and permaculture principles into your life and livelihoods to create wilder spaces. 

Rewilding at any scale is a journey, and it’s a great excuse to learn more about the natural world. Don’t let size put you off. Just start doing, while trying to link with others and you’ll be doing your bit.

Author: Fran Southgate

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