The implications of rewilding

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The rewilding fad – as some people believe it to be – as come along way since Isabella Tree wrote her highly successful book with that title.

In it, she famously describes how she and her husband despaired of making any money from the Knepp estate which he had inherited, when it was farmed in the conventional way.

So together they decided to rewild instead – which is why you now find cattle living wild on what used to be farmland. The birds have also returned.

Their next project was the brainchild of James Baird], a local farmer by the coast, which is to create a broad path for the wildlife to get from the Knepp estate to the sea, a distance of almost 30 miles.

And there, they link into the new kelp forest between Southhampton and Bognor, which is the first marine national park.

It is an extraordinary vision, called “From the Weald to the Waves”. It’s also entirely unofficial.

There’s the rub. Because the Sussex coast was famously moveable, and it moved a lot in the stormy 18th-century in particular.

Since then, it has settled down in a series of uneasy compromises wherever rivers run into the sea. So that this is mainly marginal land where the Weald to the Waves meets the sea at Climping beach – where my grandparents used to take me to the seaside – and where the sea is just coming back in. it also does so at the mouth of the Arun in Littlehampton, and the mouth of the Adur at Shoreham by Sea..

A group of Ukrainians used to run the car park, which is now being overrun by the sea, turning back into salt marches. You can understand why the idea doesn’t have exactly wholehearted approval locally.

Nobody is keener than I am about the trend towards more wildlife and wilding especially in the home counties, yet – when marginal people lose their livelihoods and homes – then somebody needs to compensate them.

Climping beach would return to the elements anyway, but not for twenty years or so. The fact that it is doing so now is both exciting – it’ll mean less flooding further up the river – and thrilling, but also heartbreaking for anyone who knows the communities.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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