In August 2019, I heard Isabella Tree, author of Sunday Times best seller book Wilding, speak about Wilding at Broughton Water Buffalo Farm. Dagan James (owner of the farm) and Alison Cross (HIWWT Farm Advisor) also spoke ‐ mainly about the Wallop Brook Farmers initiative that is uniting 20 farmers in a program to improve biodiversity and wildlife corridors. It was eye opening to hear how many local farmers who were working together to create rich and biodiverse nature corridors linking their farms together unimpeded by large open fields and missing hedgerows. It was local positive inclusive action that was backed by an ethics of ‘come and see what’s working’ rather than a negative you ‘shouldn’t do that, you should do this’ attitude. One local farmer had also found a rare national wildflower on his land that no one had known was there before. I was totally inspired by all they had to say and the big takeaway for me was ‘do something!’
Wilder Wallops - putting words into action!
But what do you do if you don’t have training in environmental issues? I started reading books to learn more but still didn’t start doing the ‘something’.
Later on, in October, I went to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) and learnt of the launch of their Wilder Strategy – WOW! It immediately and completely captured my imagination, and the invite to be a part of Team Wilder, the second aim of the strategy, had my hand whizz straight up. I had so many questions and ideas. I could see my home village, Nether Wallop, being a part of Team Wilder with its own Wilder Wallops group.
The HIWWT’s offer of training and support for local people to unite together to make a joint impact on their local environment gave me the confidence and impetus to begin doing something.
Since then, an initial group of 12 likeminded people has grown into 42 households with a few people joining in from our neighbouring village of Over Wallop. We might merge to end up as a Wallops group but I will be keen to have a person from Over Wallop lead on their own initiatives.
The offers of help, support, and sharing knowledge have been humbling. We will have a monthly news slot in the village magazine and now have a Wilder Wallops Twitter and Instagram Account. A local farmer has offered any help and machinery. Wilder Wallops is now a working group for Nether Wallop’s Neighbourhood Parish Plan. Our hopes and aspirations such as requiring building developments to benefit wildlife by putting up swift boxes and creating habitats for wildlife will be built into the neighbourhood plan
Wilder Wallops already has some exciting projects lined up.
We are advertising a DIY Event Day in March where families and individuals are invited to make their own insect homes and bee hotels to take away as well as a joint big hotel for our village sports field. We are looking at creating a community orchard, community composting site, and having a bus stop with a sedum roof. With advice from a Test Valley Borough Council Community Ranger (who has been immensely supportive), we will be ‘scalloping’ the edges of mown sports field to encourage wildflowers and will also be planning a new three‐year hedge cutting regime to support small birds. Two landowners have also asked us to help them transform their paddocks into wildflower meadows.
Our partnership with HIWWT has been very positive and is growing. A number of people have stepped forward to train as Wilder Champions, particularly for our school and gardens. HIWWT Education Officer, Susan Simmonds, is coming to a Wilder Wallop gathering to raise awareness about HIWWT courses and training.
There is a real buzz in the village now that we have begun and there is so much energy and enthusiasm to get our projects off the ground.
I have already been invited to talk at the neighbouring village of Broughton about Wilder Wallops! We would love to link up with other villages to ensure that the Wallop Brook, the golden thread through our villages, is in the best health that it can be, so that the water voles can return and that it is protected as a green space within legislation.
It seems odd to already be thinking about expanding as we actually haven’t done too much ourselves yet. But I feel really enthusiastic about finally doing something and knowing that there are others within Wilder Wallop joining me in that journey is very exciting.
Janet Herring of Wilder Wallops