Where the Wild Things Could Be

Heal Rewilding offers ‘a new way to become involved in rewilding’

Launching a crowd-funded charity to rewild English lowlands in the middle of a coronavirus lockdownmight seem inconceivable. But for Jan Stannard, Chair of Trustees at Heal Rewilding, there was no question of delay.

As she told The Guardian, “We face a brutal environment, but we are resilient. Nature cannot wait. Everywhere I look, I see absence of wildlife. But each one of our sites will help hundreds of species.”

Butterflies on wildflowers
Emiel Molenaar, Unsplash

Rewilding England

And so Heal Rewilding launched on 30 March 2020 with the mission to ‘Raise money. Buy land in England. Rewild.’ The founding patron is Ted Green, an ancient tree expert. He has been involved in the Knepp Estate, the pioneering rewilding project in Sussex.

Heal is operating in alignment with the government’s Nature Recovery Network. Defra’s 25 year environmental plan is to ‘leave our environment in a better state than when we found it and to pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhance for the future’.

Former farms or lower-grade land that isn’t as productive for farming are where the charity will focus. The charity’s first site, ‘Heal South’, will be around 500 acres in the south of England and will require £7m in funding. The final site has not been confirmed yet, but the project will act as a blueprint for future projects across the country.

“The fastest way to create urgently needed nature sanctuaries at scale is for ‘everyone, together’ to help make it happen,” says Stannard.

Heal is also focusing on nature education through ecology, gardening for wildlife, growing food, livings sustainably and climate change. And the mental boost that being connected to nature offers the general public.

By choosing sites that are easily accessible by large towns and cities, they hope more people will be able to visit the nature reserves and see rewilding in action.

“Our vision is to heal the land, heal nature and heal ourselves,” Stannard says. “More than ever, people need the chance to benefit from being in nature, to help their mental and physical health.”

Bee on flower
Alexander Crawley, Unsplash

Innovating Community Support

Heal is working with what3words, a global addressing system. It allows donors to see the specific 3m x 3m plot of land that their £20 donation has secured. They can watch the changes happening on that plot of land with drone imagery through an online map and app.

“There are so many innovative and original ways that people all over the world use what3words and the ‘Heal 3×3’ fundraising project exemplifies that,” said Giles Rhys Jones, CMO at what3words.

“This project can help bring us closer to nature and protect it for future generations by pledging support for an exact three meter square. You can then use the what3words address to visit it virtually and eventually discover it in person.”

One of the ways that Heal is setting itself apart from other rewilding charities is by actively seeking out young people to serve on an advisory panel. By integrating young people from the beginning, Heal will ensure their rewilding strategy resonates with future generations. Hannah Needham, a biological scientist, will be leading Heal Future.

While there is no agreed definition of rewilding, Heal is using the one from Rewilding Britain: the reinstatement of natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species, allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within, leading to the restoration of fully functioning ecosystems.

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