Somerset Wildlands is raising money to buy and manage land, allowing it to provide space for nature restoration and rewilding.
The Somerset Levels were once England’s Okavango Delta. From pelicans to lynx, beavers to sturgeons, it would have teemed with wildlife, much of it now gone. Somerset Wildlands is aimed at restoring some of that lost wildlife and wildness through a process of distributed rewilding. The Levels may never be what they were, but we have an opportunity to create a spectacular wildlife core for the South-West of England and beyond.
Wild stepping stones
We want to show that rewilding is for everyone, at large and small scales. To that end Somerset Wildlands is using a process of distributed rewilding, which we are calling ‘stepping stones’. This will seek to develop a network of sites throughout the Levels – small (<10 acres) or large (>100 acres). Some will be owned by the charity, others by affiliates who share our aims. Each of these will be managed in as light-touch a way as is possible using tools such as passive rewilding (eg leaving land alone), natural regeneration and succession, light grazing, re-wetting etc. Rather than one big rewilded estate, over time this will create numerous ‘islands of wildness’ – providing refuges and diversity within the overall landscape, and complimenting the existing nature reserves.
In contrast to standard conservation which seeks areas of high value to nature and then protects them, we will acquire areas of normal farmland and allow them to develop as spaces for nature.
As much as is possible all our land will be freely open to everyone, but we will put the needs of wildlife first. Dogs will not be allowed, and infrastructure will be kept to an absolute minimum. No big car parks or visitor centres. Just space for nature.
Our journey began in 2016 when our Director purchased a few small fields in the Levels and began a gentle process of small-scale rewilding, allowing nature to take its course, and watching as plants and animals colonised the space. You can read more about that project at http://www.godneymarshes.com
Over time we will seek to reintroduce and reinforce wildlife which has been lost from the Levels – from small animals like harvest mice or glow worms to working with others to create the conditions where larger animals such as pelicans or lynx can return. If larger animals already present in Britain return by themselves – for example wild boar, beaver or sea eagle – we will welcome them with open arms.
Connections with nature
As we restore wildlife to parts of the Levels we will seek ways to reconnect people with nature – through practical activities like nature surveys, school excursions or small scale reintroductions. We will also be alert to opportunities to bring wildlife into the cities, starting with Bristol where many of our supporters live and work. This may include urban orchards and gardens, campaigns to change planning to benefit wildlife, education and events
Alongside buying land directly we will build a network of rewilding and restoration sites owned by other landowners in the area. These affiliated sites will form part of the stepping stones network.