Realities Of Rewilding

Haweswater in the Lake District where the RSPB is running rewilding projects based around Naddle farm and the surrounding farmland. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Rewilding has been a favorite topic in our pages for most of the last decade. We appreciate the nuances, described by Ben Martynoga, in this particular community’s efforts and challenges related to rewilding:

Staff and volunteers at Naddle farm, an ex-sheep barn which is now a tree nursery. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

‘The R-word can be alienating’: How Haweswater rewilding project aims to benefit all

On the Lake District’s north-eastern fringe, two farmsteads are restoring the landscape with a commitment to conservation and providing jobs

Until the last male golden eagle died in 2015, Haweswater, on the rugged north-eastern fringe of the Lake District, was England’s final refuge for the bird of prey. “Even now, whenever I go up Riggindale, it feels like something is missing,” says Spike Webb, a long-serving RSPB warden at its Haweswater site.

Although the eagles are no more, Haweswater’s wildlife is nowadays being given the chance to make a full-throated comeback, thanks to interventions made by the RSPB, in collaboration with its landlords, the water company United Utilities.

The project partners have reduced sheep numbers by 90%, from more than 3,000 two decades ago to about 300 today. They have also planted more than 100,000 trees, restored 400 hectares (988 acres) of peatbog, and “rewiggled” a valley bottom stream so it can reoccupy its natural flood plain.

Webb resists the idea that Haweswater is a “rewilding” project, however. “It’s still a working farm,” says Webb of the site’s two farmsteads in the valleys of Naddle and Swindale. “We’re just doing it less intensively.”

The senior site manager and author Lee Schofield is also reluctant to use the “R- word”. “Rewilding is hugely exciting to a lot of people,” he says, “But up here, it can be an alienating concept, [especially] to farmers.”…

Read the whole story here.

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