Rewilding network will promote nature-friendly farming

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.

I’m pictured with (from left) Jamie Marsh (Director of Nature Recovery, Wilder Wight & Wilder Seas at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust), rewilding specialist Alastair Driver, and Debbie Tann (Chief Executive of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust).

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.

Breaking for lunch at the launch.