Over 1,000 East Anglian landowners have signed up for an ambitious rewilding effort, which is being overseen by three farmers.
Each green splodge in the map above is a promise to nature. A promise to increase the habitat for wildlife in a part of England that has been, as in many cases, pushed to its limits.
East Anglian farmers, residents, schools and churches are among those who have plotted their land to the’map to dreams’ and committed to protecting wildlife.
It’s all part of the Wild East campaign, which wants to return 20 per cent of East Anglia (roughly 250,000 hectares) to nature by 2070. Hugh Somerleyton (Argus Hardy), Olly Birkbeck, and Olly Burkbeck, were the three farmers who launched the project. They were inspired by the climate emergency and the need to restore 20% of East Anglia (roughly 250,000 hectares) to nature by 2070.
Where Wild East differs from other rewilding projects is its scope. Wild East is not limited to a particular area. It aims to create a network that encompasses all aspects of a region.
“In order to have a nature recovery it cannot exist in hotspots, it has to exist everywhere,” Somerleyton told Positive News, when Wild East launched last summer. We want to be able to see a small amount of nature everywhere, rather than many in one place.
One year later, more than 1,000 landowners have pledged their support, including 82 farmers. Somerleyton wanted to see more of his colleagues join the campaign, but acknowledges it will be difficult, given the pressures farmers feel.
Wild East hopes to make East Anglia more open for nature, as farming is still the dominant industry. Image: Niklas Weiss
He admitted, “That was frustrating.” It was heartwarming to see so many organisations that we didn’t anticipate [taking the pledge]. “However we didn’t consider the Greater Anglia railway network or the Church of England or the National Trust or large energy companies when we launched.”
Peter Thompson, a farmer from Essex, made the pledge. Peter Thompson from Essex made the pledge after witnessing the dramatic decline in nature at his 700-acre farm. He also established orchards and reintroduced small numbers of cattle. These animals, he believes, have a part to play in regenerative agriculture.
Thompson believes that such measures have helped increase biodiversity. “Last year we saw turtle doves back on the farm, the year before we saw otters for the first time in generations,” he said. “Barn, tawny and little owls frequent the farm, and we have a plethora of water birds, too many to mention. It feels like the world is returning, but it is only in small steps.
Barn owls are one of the many species that have been found on rewilded areas. Image: Bob Brewer
Former Times journalist Daisy Greenwell also made the pledge after becoming profoundly sad about the demise of wildlife. The former Times journalist DaisyGreenwell also signed the pledge, having become deeply sad about wildlife’s decline.
Greenwell, her husband, and their three children have so far taken a passive approach towards rewilding. They simply let nature take over the land. “There is something wonderfully simple in the surrendering of control to Nature, of trusting nature knows best, and that it will rebound at astonishing speed if we let it,” she said.
Charting the progress of the Wild East campaign is the charity Map Aid, which created the ‘map of dreams‘ to provide a visual representation of the region’s participating rewilding projects. Some enthusiastic rewilders outside East Anglia have added plots.
Rupert Douglas Bate from the charity stated, “One of these days we hope that it will have a videogame-feel, so that people could fly around and Mrs Jones, a group or school children, or anyone at No.10 can easily see what has been accomplished and what is needed to do more.” “It’s deeply heartening that so many people are signing up.”
Main picture: Map Aid