Rewilding England – Ways to Help Nature Recover and Flourish on your Travels
May 2022: Each June, the Wildlife Trust encourages the nation to reconnect with nature every day as part of its 30 Days Wild campaign. Rewilding is the practice of restoring landscapes and habitats to their natural state, and England offers plenty of opportunities to incorporate the 30 Days Wild ethos by connecting with nature on your next adventure.
From rewilding retreats, to volunteering opportunities and urban forests – here are some suggested ways to mindfully form a relationship with the natural world on your travels around England.
Learn about rewilding at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, London
For the first time, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show will showcase the rewilding impact that ecosystem engineers, such as beavers, can have on reversing the loss of nature in Britain and in boosting the beauty and biodiversity of our landscapes. Landscape designers Urquhart & Hunt have chosen to make beaver activity the core of their garden at Chelsea this year, revealing how this keystone species is pivotal to ecosystem restoration, and demonstrating how rewilding can benefit nature, climate and people.
Visit the PoliNations urban garden, Birmingham
2 – 18 September 2022
An immersive forest filled with real and architectural trees will turn a patch in the heart of Birmingham into an oasis of plants, grasses and flowers. It’s a celebration of colour, beauty and natural diversity that tells stories of journeys, movement, dispersal and new roots. Up in the sky giant architectural trees will drink rainwater captured in the canopy, while down on the ground, there’ll be music, spoken word, tours, light shows, design workshops and multi-sensory experiences. Once PoliNations has closed, the remaining plants and saplings will be distributed into the community, contributing to the growth and development of Birmingham’s green spaces.
PoliNations is part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK and also presented as part of Birmingham 2022 Festival.
Take a ‘mindful’ safari’ at Blean Woods, Kent
Partnering with the Wildwood Trust, Kent Wildlife Trust will import and release European bison at a former pine wood plantation near Canterbury. Like beavers, this keystone species is an ecosystem engineer that helps rewild woodlands. The bison are being introduced to their new home in late spring 2022, and after the new residents settle into a fenced area, the site will open to the public. It is believed that the presence of bison, alongside Exmoor ponies and Iron-Age pigs, will transform the woods into a lush, thriving, biodiverse environment once more. Boasting the first -ever-UK Bison-Rangers, the site also offers ‘Mindful Safaris’ for the chance to explore the land with an expert in tow.
Upskill with a rewilding and environmental art workshop, Devon
Tours and workshops allow a deeper dive into the ongoing conservation work at Devon Sculpture Park and the chance to learn useful new skills. Tours give an introductory insight into rewilding and environmental art while workshops provide a more immersive experience and the chance to get hands-on. Take a walking tour Safari which will help visitors understand how rewilding works, how it saves endangered species, and how it solves the climate crisis.
Reconnect with nature through foraging, forest bathing and wild swimming, Yorkshire
The Broughton Sanctuary, set in the foothills of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, has a mission to protect and enhance the diversity of wildlife and natural habitats and to reconnect visitors with the natural environment. The site supports a diversity of important habitats – from meadow pastures to ancient woodland, heather moorland and freshwater habitats. These habitats are home to a range of species, including kestrels, hares and otters. The Broughton Sanctuary Nature Recovery Programme is a large-scale rewilding project aiming to breathe new life into the landscape benefitting wildlife and people. The Broughton Sanctuary offers an established health and wellbeing programme which reconnects visitors with the incredible power of nature. Activities and experiences include natural medicines workshops, wild food foraging classes, forest bathing and wild swimming.
Volunteer to preserve the Peak District National Park
The dramatic landscape of the Peak District is one of the most beautiful areas of England, and volunteers can do their bit to help keep it this way for years to come. Walk alongside rangers and fellow volunteers, find out how they’re trying to fight pollution and preserve England's oldest National Park. Help with important restoration works, and perhaps spot a hare or curlew whilst getting your hands dirty. From improving pathways to planting vital carbon-storing sphagnum moss, you’ll be doing your part to care for this precious habitat.
Relax, reset, rewild at Thera-sea; the off-grid rewilding retreats in rural Cornwall. Here, guests can learn the fundamentals of lifestyle medicine and master the art of managing stress whilst enjoying ocean sports and delicious food cooked over an open fire. By day, guests will enjoy wild swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, foraging, learning bushcraft and survival skills in a beautiful off-grid location. By night, enjoy torch-lit walks through the forest, huddle around the campfire, stargaze and watch Thera-Sea’s resident chef cook up a feast on the open fire.
Wandering Wild, Dartmoor, Devon
Days filled with peaceful walks, meditation, and wild swimming offer a flavour into the ‘mindful, nature-connection’ retreats with Wandering Wild. The idea of getting back to nature is centred at the heart of this personal walking journey into the rugged landscape that is Dartmoor National Park, camping under the stars and escaping city life.
Wild Human, Lake District
Outdoor adventure company Wild Human offers immersive nature learning at three sites in the stunning Lake District. The small team of bushcraft educators and specialist wilderness guides take guests on a journey of discovery, equipping them with new skills and wilderness knowledge. Wild Human offers themed bushcraft weekend and week-long courses with activities including foraging, axe making and animal trailing. Wild Human has ensured that it is a carbon neutral company since its creation, only using renewable electricity and planting native trees at the site.
Fritton Lake, Norfolk
Positioned by the beauty that is the Norfolk Broads, the two-mile long Fritton Lake is the centrepiece of a newly revamped luxury resort set within the Somerleyton estate – a holiday club for the eco-minded. Owner Hugh Somerleyton has committed one fifth (1,000 acres) of his land to rewilding, a process that includes slowly reducing non-native tree cover to let light rejuvenate seedbeds, with guests encouraged to get involved and learn about the process. The team have reintroducing a mix of both farmed and wild grazing animals such as red and fallow deer, pigs, cattle, ponies and sheep. Accommodation takes the form of luxury clubhouse rooms, secluded woodland cabins and farm cottages.
Knepp, West Sussex
Knepp is a 3,500 acre estate just south of Horsham, West Sussex. Since 2001, the land – once intensively farmed – has been devoted to a pioneering rewilding project. Using grazing animals as the drivers of habitat creation, and with the restoration of dynamic, natural water courses, the project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife. Extremely rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding there and populations of more common species are rocketing. Owners (authors of the Wilding book) Charlie Burrell and Isabella Tree offer the opportunity for guests to experience a vehicle-based safari or guided walking tours, and/or stay in the heart of nature in either a beautiful treehouse, shepherd’s hut, tent or yurt.
Wild Ken Hill Estate, Norfolk
Wild Ken Hill is a project to restore nature, fight climate change and grow healthy food across a coastal farm in West Norfolk, whilst also engaging the local community, environment and economy. Nature has been ‘allowed’ the chance to take over 25% of the site, with ponies, cattle, pigs and beavers naturally managing the rich landscape. It’s a great example of where tourism and rewilding work hand in hand, with camping, glamping and guided nature experiences soon to be on offer, plus bespoke events for groups available now.
River Otter, Devon
Beavers were reintroduced to the UK in 2009 after an absence of around 500 years, in the Knapdale Forest, Argyll, and into an enclosed area of East Devon’s River Otter. Since then more have appeared elsewhere on the river, where you can stay at Knightstone Farm with safari-style glamping, shepherd’s hut and safari tents on offer too.
Sheepdrove Organic Farm, West Berkshire
Sheepdrove is an award-winning, family-run, mixed organic farm which is Soil Association certified, owned by environmental campaigners Peter and Juliet Kindersley. The farm is renowned for its exceptional conservation work and habitat creation for birds and other wildlife, all part of the journey to rewild a cluster of fields and woodland. Home to a sustainable and environmentally sound green events venue, using renewable energy projects, Sheepdrove welcomes all celebrations of life. Farm stays are available in a renovated farm building and a secluded off-grid lakeside boat house.
Wild Ennerdale, Cumbria
Focused on the ‘future natural’, Wild Ennerdale is one of the UK’s largest wildland partnerships - recognised for its pioneering innovative ways of upland management, which blur boundaries between forestry and farming. Situated by the coastal plain of West Cumbria, the Ennerdale valley offers many opportunities to get closer to nature and enjoy outdoor adventure. Hosting an initiative that aims to help natural processes reclaim and shape the Ennerdale Valley landscape after years of sheep-grazing and the cultivation of non-native tree plantations, volunteer work has involved fence removal, tree planting and footpath and wetland construction. The valley's remote and tranquil location provides an opportunity to escape the busy pace of modern life and get closer to nature by walking, biking, climbing, orienteering, riding and canoeing. Plus, the local YHA offers accommodation on site.
30 Days Wild is The Wildlife Trusts' annual challenge where the nation is asked to do one wild thing a day throughout the month of June to connect with nature. To find out more visit: www.wildlifetrusts.org/30dayswild
For more ideas read VisitEngland’s top eco-friendly places for a green getaway in 2022
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Louise Ferrall / Josie Self