For the first time at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, visitors will be shown the amazing rewilding impact that eco-engineers such as beavers can have on reversing the loss of nature in Britain and in boosting the beauty and biodiversity of our landscapes.
Beavers are natural rewilders. Their dams create nature-rich wetlands that support many other species and act as a carbon sink, while also reducing flooding risk by holding back storm water flows.
Yet, while these habitat-creating, flood-preventing animals are the beating heart of healthy river and wetland environments across Europe, in Britain we’ve been slow to welcome them back to our countryside after 400 years of extinction.
Beavers at the heart of the story
Landscape designers Urquhart & Hunt have chosen to make beaver activity the core of their garden at Chelsea this year, revealing how this keystone species is pivotal to ecosystem restoration, and showcasing how rewilding can benefit nature, climate and people.
Designed for and in collaboration with Rewilding Britain, the garden shows a rewilding landscape in the south west of England, following the reintroduction of beavers.
Wonderfully wild features
Here are some of our favourite rewilding features of the garden:
- A flowing brook, beneath a glade of hawthorn, hazel and field maple.
- A pool dammed by beavers – with wood-sticks, woodchip and tree debris scattered around their lodge. These are constructed from debris removed from beaver sites as part of the beaver management process.
- A riparian meadow with rejuvenating alder trees, fed by water trickling from the beaver dam.
- A dry-stone wall built in a West Country traditional style using stone from a carefully managed iron-ore quarry in Exmoor.
- An old timber walkway, made from reclaimed oak planks and chestnut poles, leading across the wetland meadow to a viewing hide at the side of the pool.
- Native wildflowers, which mingle with grasses and marginal plants along the edges of the pool and stream.
- A soundscape giving a taste of a future landscape alive with nature, including the famous tail slap of the beaver, and the creature’s mewing.
Native species only
The Rewilding Britain garden features exclusively native plants. Here are just a few of the important species chosen for their contribution to nature:
- Crack willow (Salix alba), vital in preventing riverside soil erosion and supporting over 200 species of invertebrate.
- Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), whose bright red berries are a favourite food for many birds in winter. The tree provides a habitat for 149 insect species.
- Alder (Alnus glutinosa), which supports at least 90 insect species. Its fruit is an important food source for goldfinches, siskin and redpoll.
- Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), providing an essential food source for the caterpillars of the marsh fritillary butterfly.
Unusually for RHS Chelsea Flower Show, in order to present as authentic a picture of a rewilding landscape as possible, native grasses will be shown as one would see them in the wild, with their previous year’s growth and their pre-season seed-head remnants left on, together with the brown, former season’s dead foliage.
Thankyou to our sponsors
The Chelsea garden is made possible by generous support from the new Project Giving Back initiative at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022. This page will be regularly updated with information on the garden’s progress, and you can also get updates on social media using #RewildingChelsea.
Meet the designers
Urquhart & Hunt specialise in contemporary restorations of gardens within their wider landscapes, incorporating ecological rehabilitation and naturalised planting schemes. It is a studio dedicated to nature, alongside an impeccable design and fulfilment process.
“It is more pressing than ever for us as humans to reconnect with our own habitat, the earth, and work within the systems that hold us and give us clean air, waters, nourishment and our home,” say Lulu Urquhart and Adam Hunt. “This is our moment to bring this, in all its beauty, to visitors of the show.”
Give nature a chance of survival
Image credits: Artist’s impression © Airtight Group; U&H portrait © Dave Watts
DISCOVER MORE ABOUT REWILDING
We explore why we need these ecosystem engineers back in the UK, how they shape our landscapes, and why beaver reintroductions make sense in the right places.
An eco-estate on the edge of the Scottish Highlands, well known for its beaver project and abundant wildlife
Nature’s busy aquatic architect is a formidable tree feller, river changer and wetland creator
We imagine the rewilding of some of the uplands in Britain