Go Wild! Let Things Go and Really See Your Garden Grow.
Jess: ‘Rewilding’ is a term which is often bandied about by conservationists and enthusiastic landowners that have decided to make the change from neat lines and manicured hedges to a way of land management that may appear to some to be irresponsible or lazy.
Traditionally, the ‘best’ gardens and farms have been those that have been highly cultivated and designed to maximise every square inch for productivity and planting, but where does nature come into this? There may be a bird feeder hanging up, a few bees on the flowers, or a small field margin, but are we acting as custodians of the land in this time of extinction crisis if we carry on like this?
A few years ago when I worked on the Land, Outdoors and Nature Programme at the National Trust, during a wildlife plenary (where all the head land managers and wildlife experts meet) I remember a real ‘sit up and think, we need to do more!’ moment. The Head of Nature at the time stood and pointed at the graph of decline of farmland birds in the UK (60% over 30 years!) and said “this has happened under our watch”. There was a tangible silence as the meeting changed from considering all the positive innovations and schemes that had been put in place and the progress made over the year, to a self-inspection, a requirement from the top that what happens next is in our hands, that we must make a difference for wildlife, that more must be done, and it must be done now.
With Brexit, Covid and a whole lot of other headaches for our Prime Minister going on, it is unlikely that new farming subsidies schemes are going to be on top of the agenda. This calls for action in our homes today.
You may have heard of a book called ‘Wilding’ by the aptly named Isabella Tree (https://www.isabellatree.com/), an excellent case study at Knepp Castle, a huge estate where they have been pioneers in rewilding through a large grazing project and seen the benefits of species returning and wildlife replenishing. No longer is the unprofitable monoculture of the former arable farm sprawling the countryside, but surround-sound birdsong instead.
It’s not just about farmers either, collectively gardens are a habitat in their own right and they support a huge number of species so you really can help too. We need our land to be productive to feed the nation, but we can also do this in a more nature-friendly way. Gardens can provide havens amid a monoculture, oases where there was once nothing but lawn trimmed to within an inch of its life. With a bit of uncultivated love (let your hedges grow, plant a small wildflower meadow, plant bee friendly flowers and leave piles of sticks and leaf litter instead of clearing it all away, leave an area to ‘do its thing’ etc) you may really start to appreciate your garden in a different way, and nature will too! If you need ideas or help, get in touch, we'll happily give you some inspiration and ideas on how you can go wild.
An excellent ‘landscape scale’ (conservationists term for working collaboratively with other landowners) example is the Wild East project, where they are encouraging landowners (and yes, if you have a garden, no matter how tiny, that’s you too!) to pledge to give over just a fifth to nature. This means you can appreciate high cultivation, a neat lawn etc, in the majority of your garden if that’s your thing, but you can also see what flourishes if you give a bit of it a chance to ‘go wild’!
So we challenge you to go wild for nature and let us know how you get on. Remember, we're here to help!
This time of year is brilliant for wildlife spotting, as migratory birds start heading towards warmer climes, hedgehogs and other animals start collecting food in readiness for hibernation and foliage falls from the trees so we get to see a bit more through the branches. Wetlands thrive as birds from further north take solace in our relatively mild climate, starlings start to gather in readiness for migration later in the winter and more birds rely on your feeders!
Our October GROWbox is available now and contains all sorts of activities and goodies to get you thinking and appreciating the season of Autumn. Families can get together for creative acorn candle making, adventure outdoors to do an oak tree study, bake some autumnal biscuits and explore the household for ways to make the switch from plastic. Embrace the months ahead!
GROWnings is a weekly blog conversation by ‘Planet & People’ to reflect our values and behaviours and encourage open conversation on topical issues.
GROWbox is an educational resource and subscription box providing personalised learning resources engaging children in planet and people. The activities focus on getting in touch with nature and encouraging a desire to protect it, promoting better mental and physical wellbeing, allowing space for creativity and connectivity.