“Bringing endangered species back from the brink: UK’s rewilding efforts hailed as a delight to witness.”
Large stretches of undulating hills may appear visually pleasing. However, upon closer inspection, many of these areas are actually desolate landscapes – overgrazed and lacking in a variety of natural flora and fauna. Shortsighted farming methods, destruction of habitats, and the rise of factory farming are among the culprits contributing to a concerning decline in biodiversity in Britain, with one in six species at risk of disappearing from local environments.
In the outskirts, local efforts to restore wildlife are making a difference. According to Wildlife Trusts, 3.22% of land in the UK was considered well protected and maintained last year, showing a slight improvement from 2021. There is also a trend of rewilding being embraced by councils, and there is a growing number of community and private initiatives emerging as well.
The initiative known as Back on Our Map focuses on restoring natural habitats in the Lake District and surrounding areas. Through their efforts, they have successfully rejuvenated protected areas from Morecambe Bay to Grizedale Forest, including the reintroduction of the critically endangered hazel dormouse. In June 2021, 69 dormice were released, and subsequent surveys have revealed over 100 young dormice born as a result.
Additionally, 64 small blue butterflies were relocated from a neighboring coastal location in order to expand the species’ distribution. According to Anya Kuliszewski, a community engagement officer, each butterfly was released by a student from a nearby elementary school. This served as a wonderful opportunity to engage and inspire the next generation of nature lovers.
The project aimed to expand the range of individuals participating in conservation efforts. Participants have included inmates from the nearby Haverigg open prison, clients of the mental health organization Mind in Furness, and students from a special needs college. According to Kuliszewski, they have provided training in level 1 horticulture to 10 of the inmates from the prison.
The group of men have successfully planted several hundred aspen trees, which currently thrive in the forest due to their efforts. According to Kuliszewski, many of them intend to continue participating in conservation volunteering after their release from the project.
Last year, the knolls in Derbyshire were overgrazed, but now they have transformed into a vibrant meadow filled with purple knapweed flowers. This transformation occurred after the sheep were allowed to graze freely, mimicking wild grazing patterns. The appearance of the flowers led to a significant rise in invertebrate and insect-eating bird populations, such as spotted flycatchers and swallows. Additionally, there has been a noticeable increase in sightings of weasels, badgers, and deer.
The owners of High Leas Farm in Derbyshire had been practicing a “low input” farming approach for over ten years. Last year, they collaborated with a team of ecologists to establish the Woven Earth project and began implementing a “holistic restoration” process on the 160-acre property.
According to Rob Owen, a member of Woven Earth, we needed a period of plant growth and land restoration. We have been conducting some reseeding, but our main focus is on allowing natural growth from the existing seedbed. Our perspective recognizes humans as crucial components in the ecosystem and redefines our role in the wilderness as active participants. Humans are an essential part of the natural world.
A community program on a farm is welcoming individuals with mental health concerns to participate in workshops led by healthcare experts in the area. Owen explains, “Many of our difficulties stem from our disconnect with the natural world and lack of involvement in it. Our goal is to reconnect with nature alongside others.”
Some initiatives have urged individuals to take action in their own homes. In the East Anglia region, the organization WildEast is encouraging homeowners and landowners to designate certain areas of their land or gardens as untouched by human interference, such as refraining from mowing, ploughing, or planting flower beds. According to Argus Gathorne-Hardy, a farmer and member of WildEast, approximately 2,000 people have pledged to participate, covering a total of 8,500 acres. The goal is to establish a blueprint for nature to thrive in all areas.
A campaign in Felixstowe has resulted in a significant increase in the spread of natural habitats throughout the community. This initiative, called Felixstowe Community Nature Reserve, encourages residents to dedicate a minimum of three square yards of their land to supporting pollinators and other wildlife. This can include planting pollinator-friendly plants, creating ponds, and providing homes for hedgehogs. Additionally, individuals are urged to allow a portion of their gardens or allotments to grow naturally, allowing for the formation of micro-ecosystems. According to Gathorne-Hardy, this approach aims to promote a more interconnected and thriving environment within the local area.
About five years ago, the Truro local government in southwest England formed a group of countryside rangers to promote the presence of wildlife on the land owned by the council. By planting new trees in wooded areas, there has been a rise in the population of wasp spiders in the region. Additionally, there have been more frequent sightings of vivid orange fritillary butterflies and various birds including firecrests, gold crests, and buzzards.
According to Ben Slattery, the primary ranger for the area, a particular meadow in Coosebean Woodland has become a popular location for butterflies and spiders. He also notes that by implementing measures to enhance wildlife, there has been a noticeable rise in the number of animals at their managed sites.
The community has joined forces to participate in bioblitzes, which are surveys of local flora and fauna, as well as to clean up litter and assist rangers with upkeep tasks. They also take part in bat tours and informational talks about nature, organized locally. According to volunteer Eleanor Atkins, they have observed the arrival of new species and an increase in the population of native species. It is a delight to witness the natural oasis change with the seasons.