I was thrilled to be in the Isle of Wight last month for the launch of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network.
It’s wonderful to be part of this network of landowners who are committed to nature recovery – the aim is to share ideas while tapping into the expertise of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
It’s inspiring to see what other people are doing. It might be something as simple as leaving the grass to grow in a particular area to see what comes up, to see nature thrive.
One highlight was visiting Nunwell Home Farm, which is supporting local food production while encouraging biodiversity. Only a year ago, the estate adopted traditional farming methods that complement conservation work, and they’re already starting to see – and taste – the difference, producing delicious, good quality meat.
Indeed, one memorable moment was when we broke for lunch. We sat in a barn, with hay bales made into a seating area, and shared a delicious meal of chilli made with meat from the Nunwell Home Farm. Sitting there, I felt encouraged to be among people with a shared enthusiasm for landscape recovery and sustainable farming.
The term ‘rewilding’ has on occasion been used in a divisive way, with ‘rewilders’ sometimes labelled as disruptors because they are perceived as being anti-farming. But on the Isle of Wight I met rewilders with farming backgrounds who are producing quality food while also looking after the land and the wildlife on it. It’s possible to be a rewilder and pro-farming!
These days, many of us are rethinking our connection to nature. Personally, I think we need to work symbiotically with the land, rather than being parasites: we can’t just take, we have to give back. We have to establish a relationship with the land that will allow nature to thrive. To this end, the basic principle is to let nature lead the way – let nature tell us what it wants. Then, when we work in tandem with nature, the ecosystem thrives and we get better food.
Industrial-style farming is not sustainable, but, happily, groups like the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network are encouraging and enabling farmers, landowners and conversationists to share ideas that can help nature and human economies to flourish.