Re-wilding in the North

03 Nov 2022

Several months ago  a discussion was had amongst Local Community s in our North Region, that rewilding may be a good vehicle for community engagement. Not only could it engage and benefit local communities, and help with the challenge of managing churchyards, but also flora and fauna.

Shortly following this discussion Mark Sproat, Lead Local Community Officer, mentioned rewilding at a fundraising workshop. Rewilding is the restoration of ecosystems, to the point where nature is allowed to take care of itself. Rewilding seeks to reinstate natural processes and it’s focused firmly on the future, although we can learn from the past. This encourages a balance between people and the rest of nature so that we thrive together. It can provide opportunities for communities to diversify and create nature-based economies; for living systems to provide the ecological functions on which we all depend; and for people to reconnect with wild nature.

This idea was picked up by Heritage Compass who thought this sounded an innovative way to engage communities in their local heritage. Shirley Lumsdon, of Heritage Compass, encouraged the North to apply for funding to support this project. Our application was warmly welcomed but, unfortunately, CCT was officially ‘too large’ to receive funding. Mark approached Heritage Compass and, after some negotiation, they have agreed that each churchyard can be counted as an individual project and our application was therefore successful! We have received a £2000 bursary, alongside 20 sessions of bespoke training, support, and a mentor for Mark throughout the project.

The LCOs have/will each selected three churches where they will use rewilding as a tool to engage, or re-engage, local communities. Currently the majority of these churches have low or no engagement. In some ways the project can be absorbed as business as usual, as work was ongoing to engage these communities.

Across the region the rewilding project is now at various stages of development, with some success stories already emerging. At South Cowton, North Yorkshire, where there was previously only a single volunteer, a Friends’ Group has been formed who aim to work with the wider community on the rewilding project there. In Ireby, Cumbria, a partnership has been formed with the local landowner, himself very experienced in rewilding. He describes Ireby as ‘the jewel in the crown’ of his current rewilding project.

Watch out for confirmed rewilding projects at the following churches (and more to come):