World Rewilding Day – how can you get involved with rewilding?
On Saturday 20th March 2021, rewilding organisations across the globe are coming together to celebrate the very first World Rewilding Day.
But what is rewilding and what can we all do as individuals and communities to help the movement this World Rewilding Day? To find out more, we spoke to Alastair Driver, a conservationist of over 40 years and Director at Rewilding Britain
7 minutes to read
What is rewilding?
What does “large-scale” mean and why does size matter?
When organisations like Rewilding Britain talk about “large-scale”, they mean rewilding projects that are 1,500 acres or more in area. But why is scale so important?
Large-scale means that you can allow natural processes to follow their natural course without too much human intervention. If your rewilding project operates over a very large area, you can have large grazing herbivores roaming freely, having the impact on vegetation and soil that they would naturally have. They then naturally have quite a significant impact in some areas of the project, and little to no impact on others. This creates heterogeneity (diversity of habitats and species).
This natural balance between soil and water, vegetation, herbivores and carnivores is the ultimate aim of each rewilding project, as this is what allows the area to do its own thing.
However, we don’t have the majority of the big carnivores (also known as apex predators) in the UK. So we as humans act as the carnivores in effect, by manipulating the numbers of large grazing animals in each area. So large rewilding projects in the UK will have the big grazing animals, but they will oftentimes be non-native species like longhorn cattle, alongside native species like red deer.
So, if you’re operating a large-scale rewilding project, you can allow all these species to do what they want over a big area and you get a natural, perfect mosaic of habitats.
On the other hand, if you’re operating on a much smaller scale, such as your local community green space or even your own garden, things will be slightly different. Because these small areas can’t have large grazing animals, plants like thistles, docks and brambles will dominate initially. Then, eventually, trees and scrub would come in, but probably not for many decades. This means you’d end up with a tiny monoculture because of the lack of grazing animals to balance things out.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make a difference in your own garden or community, there are just a few careful steps you need to take to do it right.
What can we all do to help, on World Rewilding Day and beyond?
The great news is, even if you’re not a landowner of a huge area of land to be rewilded, you can still help! There are lots of actions you can take to help mark World Rewilding Day, and create your own little patch of rewilding, without needing to have a cow grazing in your back garden.
World Rewilding Day garden projects
When we asked Alastair what we could all do in our own gardens (or even balconies!) to lend a hand to nature and to rewilding this World Rewilding Day, he gave us loads of great ideas!
1. Create a pond
One of the most effective ways to promote biodiversity and encourage a huge range of species into your garden is to create a pond. The UK landscape would have been naturally littered with ponds, which formed over many centuries but we’ve sadly now filled in.
Creating a pond is a great way of replacing something that is missing from the wider landscape, it’s brilliant for biodiversity and can be very low-maintenance so you’re not having to interfere or intervene too much.
It doesn’t have to be huge so even if you have a small garden you could create a pond. Here are Alastair’s tips for creating a pond that makes a difference:
- Make sure your pond is near to a building. This is so you can run the roof drainage into the pond, to keep it topped up with good, clean water every time it rains.
- You’ll probably need to line your pond. The majority of the UK is so dry these days that without lining, you’d probably end up with a dried-up hole for most of the year.
- Most things that live in the pond don’t just depend on the pond to survive. So you’ll also need to make sure you create on-land areas for them such as woodpiles, compost heaps and leafy hedgerows with cover low to the ground for them to feed and hide in.
- Fish are bad news for biodiversity in small ponds! Fish are great, but if you want a pond that’s teeming with different species, don’t put fish in it. They generally eat most of the smaller, moving things in a pond, as well as churning it up and creating a nutrient-rich environment which might be good news for them but it’s not great for other pond-dwellers.
- Check what plants to put in your pond. The wrong plants can quickly take over a pond environment which means you will have to intervene a lot more than is ideal. So make sure you’re planting plants that will be low-maintenance and right for the environment. This list from the RHS is a great place to start when choosing plants for your pond.
2. A mini wildflower meadow
Another wonderful way to encourage different species into your garden or green space is to plant a wildflower meadow. The word “meadow” might conjure up images of huge fields awash with colourful flowers, but in reality you can go much smaller.
“My mini wildflower meadow in my small garden is only about the size of a desk,” explains Alastair, “but I have seen butterflies there that I would never get in my garden otherwise.”
Things to take into consideration when creating a mini wildflower meadow:
- Look for native species AND native provenance. It’s really important to make sure that any wildflower plants or seeds you include in your mini meadow are not only native species but also native provenance. This article explains the difference really well. So check with the place you buy your seeds or plants to make sure both boxes are ticked before adding them to your garden.
- Cut your meadow once a year. Around early September time is best, after everything has seeded.
3. Pollinating plants
The third most effective thing you can do in your own garden to encourage biodiversity is planting flowering, pollinating plants. Every little bit helps, and there’s no reason why you can’t have a really beautiful garden that is full of flowering plants and the pollinators that are naturally attracted to them.
There is one thing to bear in mind, especially in places like Southern England, which are much dryer these days than they used to be thanks to the climate steadily changing. Make sure that the plants you put in your garden are drought-resistant, or they’re not going to survive. That is, without a lot of watering, which we should of course be trying to avoid.
What else can we do to help on World Rewilding Day?
If you don’t have a garden, or you want to go a step further towards helping rewilding efforts this World Rewilding Day, here are some ideas for how you can help:
- Sign up for the Rewilding Britain newsletter by clicking here.
- Speak to your neighbours. Do you know a landowner or group of landowners who might be able to help? Speak to them and encourage them to join the Rewilding Network.
- Fundraise! If you’re thinking of taking on a challenge or fundraising event, consider supporting Rewilding Britain.
I want to know more about Rewilding Britain and World Rewilding Day
Great news! There are lots of amazing articles and resources out there to help you learn more about rewilding projects and the rewilding movement in general. Here are some links you might want to check out:
British rewilding projects case studies
Rewilding Britain research and reports