In recent years, rewilding has emerged as a pressing issue amongst horticulturalists. But can we make an impact on wild spaces within our cities and towns? We must consider the damage already done by activities in rural areas: farm equipment and chemical herbicides, fungicides and fertilisers may have increased food production, but it's had detrimental effects on wildlife too. Can we have a meaningful impact in our own gardens?
How our landscape has been sculpted by farming.
World War II left an undeniable mark on Britain's flora and fauna. Due to the necessity of producing more food, not just for sustenance but also security, Britons were called upon by their Ministry of Agriculture in 1939 with a mission: Dig for Britain! These collective efforts transformed grounds formerly untapped into lush farms teeming with crops. Blossom blooming amidst fields freshly dug up over seventy years ago thanks to its countrymen’s valiant pleas for sustainability during war-time conditions.
Through creative use of land and intensive farming practices, what was once thought an impassable terrain is now used for cultivating crops or livestock. Hill sides are no longer undisturbed; forests have given way to fields as native plants and grasslands dwindle in numbers almost beyond recognition, Isabella Trees describes this change to Britons countryside beautifully in her 2018 book wilding.
Our relationship with nature has been altered drastically due to the introduction of chemicals. Farmers can now more easily eradicate non crop species from their fields, and, in some cases, specially bred crops are able to withstand direct application of glyphosate, this chemical is known best as the active ingredient in the well-known week killer roundup. Every successful farm needs an effective way to rid the soil of unwanted, unproductive plants. Herbicides provide a convenient solution for farmers; however, this remedy comes with its drawbacks as it can leave some harvested crops coated in a toxic residue, I can’t say with any certainty that this same chemical arrives on our plates, however I now see the value in organic produce.
How wildlife has lost a home in our towns and city’s
As our cities become increasingly more metropolitan, wild grass verges and hedging have been replaced by wide roads and tarmac cycling lanes. Streets that were once dark now remain lit all night, confusing the passing insects who rely on moonlight to help navigate their way home. What was once ironically intended as a haven for pollinators is gone - leaving them with far fewer safe havens within urban confines. There's no denying life has grown more perilous over time for wildlife in our towns and cities.
How pockets of land become less connected
Over time, our modification of the natural environment has caused disruption to wildlife ecosystems. Through this action we have created shrinking pockets of land cut off from one another by roads and cultivated fields. In Peter Wohlleben's book "The Hidden Life of Trees," he reveals that trees are not merely objects but in fact a communal being - possessing the capacity to nourish others around them through their interconnectedness with fungi. Symbiotic relationships allow different species to support each other nutritionally and access essential resources across wide distances for a combined benefit greater than one tree alone could ever provide. Our environment is an intricate web of life, reliant on the diverse range of flora and fauna that inhabit it. As we inch closer to patchworking wild areas together by knocking down barriers, both physical as well as biological ones - for creatures looking to migrate, there are fewer and fewer places for these travellers such as amphibians, reptiles birds or plants to settle safely.
What is Rewilding
Rewilding has become a popular term over the past few years as growing numbers of people have sought ways to reconnect with nature and restore balance in their local ecosystems. Broadly speaking, rewilding involves restoring ecosystems and improving biodiversity by supporting the reintroduction of certain species or facilitating natural processes. It has been credited for bringing significant social and ecological benefits. Since rewilding is still relatively new and not always easy to define, having detailed answers to questions like these can be an important step in understanding.
Can we make a difference in our own gardens?
We can all make a positive contribution to our environment and support the wildlife around us. Every tiny space, be it urban or rural, offers sanctuary for nature - no matter how small! We need commitment from local governments to create and maintain greenways; while they are vital in creating sustainable havens we must also do what we can individually. Together with collective efforts large and small everyone has an opportunity to help build better civil habitats that will benefit both people and animals. Whatever we do in our towns and city’s the effect is going to be small when compared to our open spaces, but any action to provide wild areas in the UK, nonmatter how small is positive.
For centuries, Britain had been known for its lush fields and idyllic countryside, however in 2013 George Monbiot's book Feral made a plea to the British public. He understood that many of us crave a deeper connection with our environment. Nowadays much of Briton has begun resembling a desert - devoid of complexity and diversity its becoming increasingly simplified - Something drastic needs to happen and happen soon if we are to reverse the damage, so it is now time we take action to rewild as much land as possible.