Rewilding – or staying the human hand to let nature do what it does best – has become an important area of landscape consideration as the impacts of climate change become more acute.
At the large end of the scale, there is much inspiration to be had from the eye-catching Knepp Wildland Estate in West Sussex which turned a failing farm into an inspirational nature-driven ecological experiment and tourism business. By stopping all management - combined with the introduction of large rooting, foraging and grazing animals which continuously alter the balance between woodland, scrub and open pasture - the farm has transformed into habitats in which endangered or missing ecosystems of creatures are thriving. Knepp now attracts people to safari in an unfamiliar landscape, with the hope of catching a glimpse of purple emperor butterflies or the sound of nightingales and turtle doves, among a host of natural returnees.
Not everyone has 3,500 acres to experiment with, but rewilding can happen at any scale. After a year of feeding birds from a few feeders hanging from a bird table, the number of species visiting has tripled, and now they are returning with their young, identifiable by their half-formed colours and ungainly landings. In recent days, a flock of goldfinches has dropped from the Niger seed feeder to the ‘pocket meadow’ below, tweezering dandelion and grass seeds with their pointed beaks.
The handkerchief square of meadow measures approximately 6m by 8m, and is simply an area of uncut lawn in our front garden. It looks like traditional lawn over winter, until a spring wonderland of tall primula emerges, followed by a fully blown romantic landscape of ox-eye daisies, orchids and clover naturalised from nearby fields, which is alive with buzzing, chirruping and fluttering.
The meadow was established by bringing in freshly cut hay from a flower rich meadow to fall onto newly-cut lawn, with the occasional wind blown arrival transplanted too. Parasitic yellow rattle was also sown as it reduces the dominance of grasses, which can outcompete the wild flowers. The meadow is cut back in late summer and setting seeds allowed to fall in place before being raked off to keep the soil fertility low.
A mown path between pocket meadow and flower borders accentuates the wild and the gardened, both of which bring equal pleasure.
If you are interested in planning meadow creation or restoration, which will form part of the benefits of the forthcoming Environmental Land Management System (ELMS), which will give public money for public goods, please contact us at Novell Tullett.