Mini Rewilding Guide

What is rewilding?

Parts of our planet, particularly the British Isles, have had much of their fauna exterminated.

Rewilding is the reversing of this extermination. It is a branch of conservation that doesn’t just protect habitats but creates them, that doesn’t just save endangered animals but returns them.

And to get started, rewilding depends on humans such as yourself. After you’ve written to your politicians, signed a few petitions, lent your copy of Feral to a friend and maybe volunteered at a local rewilding project, you might want to take things into your own hands. After all, the land immediately around you is part of our de-wilded landscape.

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This Mini Rewilding Guide is organised into seven overlapping themes:

Where to Rewild

Corridors

Diversity

Spoilt Rotten

Re-planting

Pest Control

See Also

Where to rewild

Where to rewild

Don’t have access to a garden? Why not rewild your…

…street

Cressingham rain gardens - finished
Image: Lost Effra Project / London Wildlife Trust

…road verge

CeOwr6JWwAAfxLp (1)
Image: Peter Alfrey / Non-Stop Birding

…park

Image: Jonny Hughes / Twitter
the one
Image: Adam Cormack / Twitter

…river

PRO_RiverWandle_X2.a1d023e982d6a48bd9b4d4efcbcf7056
Image: The River Wandle / Rewilding Britain

.…allotment

…school

…workplace

…brownfield site

Matt Doogie -workplace 3
Image: Matt Doogue / Grow Wild

.…roof

Image: TonyTheTiger / Wikimedia Commons
Image: TonyTheTiger / Wikimedia Commons.

…nearby projects

You might already have a local rewilding movement – especially if you live near the Isle of Arran, Horsham, the Lake District’s Ennerdale Water or London’s River WandleTrees for Life are always on the lookout for volunteers.

See Rewilding Britain’s project list and the European Rewilding Network for more opportunities.

Corridors

Corridors

In a recent Facebook Q&A, rewilding writer George Monbiot suggested “people creating wildlife corridors through their gardens, by collaborating with their neighbours to create continuous habitat.”

This could be as simple as creating (or not closing) gaps at the bottom of your fences.

Such tiny adjustments would immediately slow the decline of hedgehogs, and in a few years, with a few more neighbours and a couple more tiny adjustments, what’s to stop other animals following them?

Working with local government and wildlife groups, there are also plenty of opportunities for rewilding nearby rivers, cycle paths and walkways.

Imagine a neighbourhood visited by badgers, night herons, shrews, red squirrels, wart-biters, stoats, weasels or even the occasional pine marten.

Why not remove the fence entirely?

You can still mark your territory with a flowerbed, bushes, willow fence or hedgerow.

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Image: Hedgelink

Our urban areas are greener than you might think, with many gardens only a few centimetres of fence away from being continuous habitat.

While it’s important to challenge certain farming practices and “sports” activities, estimates of green urban space in the UK range from 14-54 per cent.

This accounts for 1-3.7 per cent of total land use – potentially 9,000km² of shared habitat.

suburbs 4
Image: Google Earth

A couple of wildlife bridges/tunnels to navigate those main roads, and if we wanted to, we could be part of something close to a jungle.

Diversify

Diversity

The word lawn comes from the Middle English laund – meaning a glade or opening in the woods.

The European aristocracy used lawn as a status symbol, displaying to their friends and serfs that they owned so much land they didn’t even need to use it for anything.

Temple_of_Venus,_Stowe_Landscape_Gardens_-_geograph.org.uk_-_837211
Image: Philip Halling / Wikimedia Commons

These mini-pastures behind our houses might also be part of what George Monbiot has called agricultural hegemony.

Whatever its social context, lawn is essentially a monoculture. This means that in terms of wildlife friendliness it is only a modest step up from plastic astroturf and poured concrete.

That said, lawns have become part of our lifestyles. Many of our sports and other cultural activities rely on them. As Chris Packham explains in the video below, rewilding is not about destroying all lawns, it’s about “building a mosaic”:

The park has to be something for many people. It has to be a place where people want to walk their dogs, where they want to jog, where they want to sit and have their lunch, and where they want to kick a football or hit a cricket ball about. But it’s a question of building a mosaic. We don’t ask for the whole park … if there were strips of it, then it would be a resource that people could enjoy, it would open their eyes to the fact that life is richer with it. But at the same time they could be kicking a football alongside it.”

Why not leave parts of lawn to regrow into grass?

Wild_garden1
Image: Sten Porse / Wikimedia Commons
Wild_flower_garden_-_geograph.org.uk_-_855625
Image: Jonathan Billinger / Geograph

You should also leave dandelions alone if you want to welcome bees, hoverflies, beetles, butterflies, birds, rabbits, hares and maybe even some larger mammals if you’re lucky.

Image: Tomi Tapio K / Flickr
Image: Tomi Tapio K / Flickr
Image: Eric Danley / Flickr
Image: Eric Danley / Flickr

Another very easy rewilding task is resisting the urge to rake up all your leaves. Leaf them alone, or at least pile them somewhere nearby. This is for hedgehogs, caterpillars, butterflies, moths, frogs, toads, newts, beetles, grasshoppers, snakes and countless other species (many of which hunt slugs).

hedgehog-985315_1920

mushrooms-1032465_1920

The UK has lost almost half a million ponds in the last century, and more than 100 priority species depend on them.

Here’s an inspirational video on how to do some aquatic rewilding:

These pond guides are also useful:

Image: Ian Kirk / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Ian Kirk / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Kozarluha / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Kozarluha / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Thomas Brown / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Thomas Brown / Wikimedia Commons

Whether it’s dead leaves, dandelions, wild grass or ponds – the point is this:

You can’t spell biodiversity without diversity.

Some other ideas to blend into your living landscape are bogs, compost heaps, ditches, mounds, wood piles, rock piles, stone walls, living trees and dead trees.

Spoilt rotten

Spoilt rotten

The stag beetle has become a threatened species, mainly because of the tidying-up of trees and the destruction of dead wood.

stag-beetle-1572689_1920

Their larvae live in dead wood for up to seven years while they are maturing.

Scientists estimate that of the 150 woodland insects listed as threatened in Britain, 65 per cent are threatened by the removal of old and dead wood.

As Trees for Life explain, up to 30% of a healthy wild forest can consist of dead wood, which is essential for:

  • Slow nitrogen and nutrient cycling
  • Carbon storage
  • Soil stability
  • Fungi, lichen, mosses and invertebrates
  • Bat roosts
  • Bird nests and lookouts

The solution is easy – allow dead trees to flourish.

Image: UuMUfQ / Wikimedia Commons
Image: UuMUfQ / Wikimedia Commons

Wood pile

If parts of your dead tree become genuinely unsafe, you can amputate them into a wood pile.

Some wood piling tips from the RSPB include:

  • Big pieces
  • Compact piles
  • Some pieces buried vertically

You can expect mosses, lichen, fungi and all sorts of insects to make their home in the woodpile, and then more insects, along with birds, amphibians and mammals to come along and eat them.

Image: Arnoldius / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Arnoldius / Wikimedia Commons

Compost

As a general rule, your garden should be as rotten and decaying as possible.

And of course this brings us to the virtues of composting.

Food-scraps-compost
Image: Philip Cohen / Wikimedia Commons

Wild About Gardens have written a great guide to composting, which you can read here.

“Slugs and snails, woodlice, millipedes, earwigs, worms, beetles and other creatures consume the decaying matter and these attract hedgehogs, birds, frogs and toads who feed on them. The decomposition process generates heat which makes the heap an inviting place for reptiles like lizards, slow-worms and, if you’re lucky, grass snakes to hibernate.”

Image: Floor Kooijman / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Floor Kooijman / Wikimedia Commons

The more open the compost heap, the more accessible it is to wildlife.

If you live in a city, this means you could attract a few rats. If this does happen you just need to close up your compost heap (and maybe close down any bird feeders for a while) and the wild rodents will move on when there’s nothing around to eat.

Predators like owls, hawks, falcons, foxes, wildcats, lynx, stoats and weasels will hunt rats.

Re-planting

Re-planting

Fruit trees, berry bushes and seeding plants are self-sustaining bird feeders. Wildflowers are essential, as are shrubs and bushes providing shelter and protection.

Make sure you avoid any invasive species.

And here are some plants to get you started:

Dandelion

Bramble

Thistle

Daisy

Rowan

Hawthorn

Holly

Here are some helpful planting guides:

Top 10 wildlife plants

A-Z of wildlife plants

Perfect for Pollinators

A weed is just a plant in the wrong place. How about a “Weed Relocation Zone”?

Pest control

Pest control

Yellowstone National Park is one of the greatest rewilding success stories. During a seventy year absence of wolves, the deer devoured much of the park’s vegetation as they grazed and bred out of ecological control. When the wolves returned in 1995, so did the forest and its wildlife.

If you have a slug problem it could be due to a similar lack of predators. Instead of slug pellets and other poisons, try welcoming some of these micro-Yellowstone-wolves:

  • hedgehogs
  • shrews
  • moles
  • slow worms
  • frogs
  • toads
  • newts
  • rove beetles
  • ground beetles
  • centipedes
  • thrushes, blackbirds, redwings and other birds

Predation is the cheaper, easier, safer, self-sustaining pest control option.

shrew wolf

A similar cascade theory could also apply for mosquito and midge problems. Their overabundance is often the result of a young or unhealthy pond, where an absence of while biodiversity allows their larvae to (like Yellowstone’s deer) graze out of ecological control. Tadpoles, newts, toads, frogs, dragonflies, damselflies, fish, spiders and a whole host of aquatic insects will happily devour mosquito larvae, while bats will hunt their parents.

Image: Thomas Brown / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Thomas Brown / Wikimedia Commons

See Also

See Also

If you enjoyed this Mini Rewilding Guide, you might also enjoy these:

WILD Cities

Wild Homes

London National Park City

Edinburgh Living Landscape

#MyWildCity – Let’s turn Bristol into a nature reserve!

The Road Verge Campaign

The Centre for Wildlife Gardening

The Lost Effra Project

Little Green Space magazine

The Nature of Cities

Biophilic Cities

The Ghost Pond Project

The Wandle Trust

Trees for Life

Afforestt

Rewilding Britain

Buglife

Wildlife gardening (The Wildlife Trusts)

NWF: Garden for Wildlife (USA)

Wild Melbourne (Australia)

Nearby Wild

Rewilding News

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