This is the web site for the "Rother Greens" - the local party covering the Rother District Council area of East Sussex
We have an active membership in this area, and meet regularly (currently all our meetings are via Zoom video-conferencing).
This meeting will be by Zoom. The Zoom details are the same as for previous meetings and they will be emailed out to all members and supporters of Rother Green Party a few days before the meeting.
On Tuesday 1 September 2020, I was one of 20 Bexhill Environmental Group members taking part in a 3 hour walking safari (following all the current Covid-19 guidelines) at Knepp Estate, near Horsham, to learn about their re-wilding project.
The 3.500 acres of Knepp Estate was an intensively farmed arable and dairy farm, but in 2000 the owners, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell, were forced to accept that the heavy clay soil was driving it close to bankruptcy. They took a spectacular leap of faith and handed the whole estate back to nature, with a series of regeneration and restoration projects aimed at nature conservation or “re-wilding”.
The vision at Knepp is radically different to conventional nature conservation in that it is not driven by specific goals or target species. Instead, its driving principle is to establish a functioning ecosystem where nature is given as much freedom as possible.
Animals such as longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs and red and fallow deer are allowed to graze completely freely all year and are creating the new habitat which has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife. Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding. The next exciting project is the introduction of beavers later this year.
During our walk, when we were split into two groups, we managed to see all the animals on the estate, lots of birds and insects and a flock of storks flying overhead. There are hundreds of trees, including a large number of ancient oaks.
The grazing animals help to control the growth of trees, as without them the area would soon turn into closed canopy woodland, which is a poor habitat for most wildlife. The younger trees that grow amongst the brambles are protected from grazing animals, until they grow mature enough to withstand predators. The tree canopy then kills off the protective brambles, creating woodland.
It is interesting to see the balance of nature: disturbance from grazing, browsing, rooting, rubbing and trampling provides a check on the galloping scrub; and the battle between these two processes - animal disturbance v vegetation succession- creates all sorts of vegetation structures which contribute to a dynamic, ever-shifting mosaic of valuable habitats.
Following the success of Knepp, there are now a number of other rewilding projects in the UK and a charity, Rewilding Britain, has been set up, campaigning to restore to nature more than a million hectares of land by 2100. This equates to 5 per cent of the entire country and could go a long way to helping the UK to achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
In the words of the 19th century Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his poem Inversnaid, written in 1881:
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
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