Rewilding, A Good Idea Scaling

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Hugh Somerleyton, right, and Argus Hardy on the Somerleyton estate in Suffolk. Photograph: Si Barber/The Guardian

This idea has caught on, spreading like a good alternative to wildfire:

Farmers hatch plan to return area the size of Dorset to wild nature

WildEast aims to convince farmers, councils and others across East Anglia to pledge land to wildlife

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View over the Somerleyton estate. Photograph: Si Barber/The Guardian

Returning an area the size of Dorset to wild nature, reintroducing extinct lynx, pelicans and beavers and championing regenerative farming to restore soil health are the radical aims of a new charitable foundation.

But the most revolutionary feature of WildEast may be that it is founded by three farmers in the most intensively farmed region of Britain.

Hugh Somerleyton, Argus Hardy and Olly Birkbeck, who own more than 3,200 hectares (8,000 acres) on their family farms in Suffolk and Norfolk, are seeking to persuade farmers and also councils, businesses, schools and ordinary people across East Anglia to pledge a fifth of their land to wildlife.

WildEast aims to dedicate 250,000 hectares of East Anglia to wildlife over the next 50 years while also working with schools to enhance children’s knowledge of farming and wildlife and creating an accreditation system to boost wildlife-friendly farmers.

“We want to wake up the regional collective consciousness,” said Lord Somerleyton. “If you’re prepared to rewild 20% of your backyard, that humbles the farmer because you’re not getting a grant for it. We in the east want to do it together and not wait for the government.”

WildEast has already gathered support from farmers of all sizes from across East Anglia including vicars, teachers, grassroots conservation projects and industrial estate owners.

According to Somerleyton, who is creating a 400-hectare fenced enclosure of wood pasture, restored grassland and heathland with free-roaming large black pigs and Exmoor ponies on his 2,000-hectare estate, the old EU subsidy system in effect paid farmers to give about 4% of their land to wildlife.

Read the whole story here.

2 thoughts on “Rewilding, A Good Idea Scaling

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