That rewilding is a thing says so much about who we are as a society and how we have impacted the Earth as a civilisation. Before looking at more detail at how the rewilding movement has grown and from where it’s come from as well particular rewilding projects, I want to delve into what it means personally to me.
Firstly, I think it is perhaps most poignant to point out that I was born and raised primarily in the UK, and not only that, also in the huge conurbation of London but it must also be said that I spent a lot of time in rural parts of France as well as Cornwall in the far South west of the Uk and in Scotland – interestingly, it is Cornwall where I currently reside.
Perhaps it is only in retrospect that we can maybe see how the physical environment we grew up in influenced us and shaped us. The main impressions I have of growing up in a city are grey, repetitive, concrete, roads, cars, dirty dust, mechanical noise and smoke – country and rural people here in the UK quite often refer to cities as the big or old smoke. Of course there are parks, gardens and lots of trees in a lot of cities, this is especially the case in London but as I grew and became more aware, I realised how urban the parks and gardens are. There are a few tiny pieces of what could be argued are wild spaces in London – little pockets of ancient woodland and I loved to spend time in them because I felt a peace, a freedom in them. As I previously mentioned I was also fortunate to have a family who would take long holidays in rural France, Cornwall and Scotland, these were joyous, delightful experiences and perhaps what influenced me in being so fascinated by nature and the wild but I personally think it is deeper than that – maybe it is inherent in us to feel the wild in ourselves.
Before I go to far, I would like to point out, I’m not anti city or civilisation, of course cities have a positive side , they can bring different people and cultures together and to me they have a buzz about them, a 24 hour carnival feeling. Having spent a long time not living in a city it is amusing for me to witness the awe I now walk around in whenever I find myself in one but after a few days I begin to feel an overload, a form of not only physical suffocation but also a spiritual one. To encapsulate it in a cliched way, it is a love hate relationship for me.
As I grew and became more aware it was also a revelation to realise what is represented to us as the countryside in the UK is really mostly created by humans, by this I mean the so called idyll of the English countryside because although it is the case in most western country’s I think it is particularly unique to the UK because it is an island, not actually a very big country and has it’s heavily industrialised history – a heavily agricultural industrialised history to boot. There is no denying the rolling fields with hedgerows have a certain beauty and is indeed renowned all over the world but when viewed from a different perspective it can be seen as the ultimate taming or attempt at controlling nature for seemingly our own benefit. If you travel around most parts of the UK it becomes monotonous to just keep seeing square field after square field, of course it is not just the visual impact this has. All this may come as a surprise to a lot of people who happen to read this because they come from a lot bigger countries where there are still vast expanses of wild left, even well considered first world civilised countries such as Canada or the US and perhaps it is significant the rewilding movement and trend appears to have emerged mainly from such countries as the Netherlands and the UK.
So as I grew older, there was more and more a desire to experience and be closer to nature, indeed, I think it was one of the main reasons I trained to become a gardener whilst still living in London, to save my sanity and for a while it did really help. I found it especially rewarding to study plant and soil science – to see how nature works. It was through this it also dawned on me, the true miracle is nature, things grow and most basically and importantly without us. It also I feel, put me more in touch with the natural cycle of life and therefore myself or should I say a part of myself, the continuing cycle of death, decline to rebirth and renewal with both sides sustaining each other – I also had the realisation this is what lies at the heart of most religions, both pagan and non-pagan.
Eventually, I found being a gardener in a city was not enough for me to quench my desire to be closer to nature and made the decision to move to the countryside but not the industrialised countryside, I wanted to be as close to the wild as one can get in the UK. As I said I’d spent a lot of time in the South west of the UK , so I chose to move down to Devon and Cornwall. Cornwall is rugged and wild on the whole and Devon, although a lot of it is industrialised farm land, has the beautiful desolate moorland of Dartmoor and it was on the edge of Dartmoor to where I first moved from London. So my life changed radically and even after a little time I began to realise even more how urbanised I was, this started to become even more apparent as I began to explore Dartmoor.