Can we re-ignite our skills of patience, observation and trust to help Nature bounce back?
“Nature will bounce back if only we let it … creating wild places where we can live and breathe and hear again: providing a future that is richer for us all. Isabella Tree of Knepp Wildlands
So what is stopping us from embracing a rewilded landscape? Rewilding is a new idea to us – exciting for some, threatening for others. It’s a shift in people’s mindset, how we view and use the land and what’s possible in the fight against climate change.
Just to confuse us all, there are now so many ways of describing it: wilding, natural regeneration, new wilderness, landscape restoration, all of those terms are being used and discussed with great vigour by specialists, nature lovers, scientists and climate warriors. But the conversation has started for sure!
So, hands up how many of us get the feeling that ‘all is well with the world’ when looking across a traditionally perfect pastoral scene – green fields grazed by cattle or sheep, neat hedgerows, the occasional tree? This is what we have learned to love and expect to see – have done for generations. But we now know all is not well for wildlife in this type of landscape, and we must question why.
So, what is it about wild areas that we shy away from and why are we so wary of restoring the land to a wilder state? Perhaps we feel that it’s not progress, it’s a retrograde step, to be avoided at all costs. It’s not efficient or aligned with technology.
As humans we have dealt with change and adaptation for millennia, coping with a host of challenges, changes in climate, being nomads, becoming stationary, but always aligned to nature. Somewhere along the way we’ve lost touch, and having reached the modern world with a host of new words, phrases and desk-bound lifestyles, we have forgotten to use certain skills; ones which would have been deeply rooted for survival in our forebears, and which may prove useful for our survival now.
Observation and patience are good skills to re-ignite. Watch nature as it tells a story of survival right in front of our eyes, stories we can learn from. Whole new habitats unfold and if we look closely we see a huge diversity of plants intermingling, no one species dominating, but all growing and thriving together in community. Patience might be needed but could we hope that this is a better description of our species one day?
Trust is a deeply powerful skill to employ. In trusting plants and animals to inhabit land at will using the process of natural succession, we are giving back, reciprocating, surrendering, accepting. This maybe the more difficult skill for us to hone.
So rewilding could be a reflection of our own potential for adaptation on Earth: learning and understanding the changes that we may need to survive, trusting and accepting better what’s happening out there in nature’s complex but incredible world; re-imaging a different outdoors.
It is possible and it should give hope…
At Dittiscombe we’ve seen for ourselves the landscape change dramatically since 1998. Our early photos show the tightly grazed green fields and clipped hedges, the occasional tree and swathes of buttercups. But after gifting our land back to nature and a short fast-forward in time, the land started to heal, abundance arrived, the soundscape exploded into song. It was almost overwhelming. So many species started interacting with each other. It looked like a free-for-all until the complexity, which is nature, seemed to settle, an understanding was reached, the intermingling created new habitats and eco-systems. We still marvel at these changes and watch how they continue, more slowly now, spreading out, like the water which flows through the valley.
With continuing gloomy climate forecasts hitting the headlines we need to gain a feeling of hope and a new understanding of the rhythms of nature. So, take some time to visit a wilded area. You’ll then experience for yourself the sounds, the new energy, the feeling of reciprocity and thanks, the life that just…is.
Dittiscombe Estate & Cottages, near Slapton in South Devon, is a 20 acre rewilded valley close to Slapton Sands beach and Slapton Ley a freshwater lagoon and nature reserve. There are six stone barn holiday cottages, andnature connection eventstake place throughout the year.