As February has moved into March and Spring has begun in earnest I have embarked on a ‘rewilding’ project in my back garden. It is a fairly modest size and typical of a Victorian terrace house, rectangle in shape and leads out to an alley way that runs the back of our house and those opposite. The garden is currently essentially concrete, covered in what were once coloured slabs that made a chessboard design with a thin soil boarder around the edge. At the moment practicality dictates that I use one small corner of the garden for my project as the dog still needs space and we need access through the back gate, however, all my research indicates that even a small area can make a massive difference to the local wildlife and increase biodiversity.
On a large scale, the idea of ‘rewilding’ has gained momentum over the last five-ten years and many environmentalists believe it to be a good land management alternative. Rewilding Britain states that the idea “is the large scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself”, suggesting that the intent is for humans to stand back and effectively let nature be. The aim is to reverse the ecological damage which has been done for centuries and “reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and habitats within”. The introduction of ‘missing species’ is a controversial idea, with many against the notion of reintroducing wolves or the lynx back to Scotland. Writing in The Guardian in 2017, Catherine Bennett is critical of reintroducing species for safety reasons and because of the irony in humans being part of that process in order for nature to become wild again. Rewilding Britain supports these actions because our “ecosystems are broken and nature is struggling – with 56% of species in the UK in decline and 15% threatened with extinction”. The environmental writer George Monbiot,believes rewilding “offers the hope of recovery, of the enhancement of wonder and enchantment and delight in a world that often seems crushingly bleak”.
Rewilding my back garden may be a small action, but it is a manageable one. I have removed some of the slabs, turned the soil and scattered various seeds, aiming for a meadow like effect that will attract butterflies, bees and more exotic birds than pigeons and blackbirds. I will not use any chemicals on the area, no pesticides, slug pellets or fertilisers. The concrete which remains I will endeavour to decorate with plants and flowers that will attract a diverse range of insects and birds. I will therefore effectively be letting nature take care of itself and yes, there is an irony in a human hand creating the space but there must be a balance between the human and nature within the current ecological crisis and a working together rather than an anthropogenic dominance.