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Where The Wild Things Are... A Good News Story

Bison in Kent. Beavers in London. And (whisper it) even Great Bustards in Wiltshire. Thanks to some inspiring rewilding initiatives across the UK, we can once more enjoy species that the UK nearly lost. But they’re not just there to cheer us up: they’ve got some serious jobs to do when it comes to tackling climate change and boosting biodiversity.

When our Senior Designer Jenn looks up through her skylight, at home near Cardigan Bay, she can watch Red Kites wheeling in the skies above. These colourful raptors with their distinctive forked tails are a spectacular sight – and a welcome one. Because 30 years ago, after centuries of persecution, they were virtually extinct in the UK. Their reintroduction, with the release of birds from Sweden and Spain between 1989-1994, was one of Britain’s first successful rewilding projects. But not the last. Because in 2022, rewilding is HOT.

Google the name of your local area plus ‘rewilding’ and you may well be happily surprised. Our MD, Matt, has just moved to Kent, where his new neighbours include some seriously handsome European bison. Extinct in the UK for thousands of years, their role is to ‘manage forests’ and they are line-managed by the UK’s first bison rangers.

Over in Kingston, Surrey, 101 water voles have been released into the Hogsmill River this year. On the other side of London, in Enfield, a newly-arrived young European couple, Justin and Sigourney Beaver, are tasked with founding a dynasty to reduce down-river flooding.

At a time when the government is threatening to renege on its promises to environmental charities, it’s heartening that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is fully on board with reintroducing lost species, having set up a Rewilding Task Force after COP26. Not only is rewilding a great way to increase carbon storage and restore the nation’s depleted wildlife populations, it’s also proven to boost human mental health.

For example, the current ‘Rewilding Arcadia’ project, on the stretch of the Thames that meanders between Weybridge, Hampton and Kew, aims to restore not only lost floodplain, but also the connection between humanity, nature and water. Our Technical Director Andy Hastie could soon be communing with kingfishers and *eels, thanks to the restoration of reed beds and sluices at Hampton Court’s ancient but neglected wetlands.

Rewilding is not without controversy, with fears that ‘new’ reintroduced species can threaten native populations. But it’s complicated; in Ireland the reintroduction of pine martens helped the survival of red squirrels by ‘rolling back’ the spread of their ubiquitous grey counterparts.

Overall, we think rewilding is great. Though Matt better watch out: hot on the hooves of his new bison neighbours, the Kent Wildlife Trust and Wildwood Trust plan to reintroduce Exmoor ponies, Iron Age pigs and Longhorn cattle.

Velociraptors and dodos are already checking Kentish property prices…

*Google ‘eel passes’ and discover a whole WORLD of eel logistics.


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