First anniversary of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network

First anniversary of Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network

© Kate Garnham

As part of our vision for a wilder Hampshire and Isle of Wight, we want to see rewilding making a meaningful contribution to local nature recovery so that at least 5% of our landscapes are rewilded as part of our 30% nature recovery goal.

Our aim is to kick start natural processes to help wildlife bounce back and thrive, and the creation of our local Rewilding Network is vial in helping us to achieve this. 

Learning from each other to restore our landscape and help wildlife bounce back. 

Last Friday (Friday 26 April 2024) we brought together landowners from across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight for a Rewilding Network event. The event was kindly hosted by Ewhurst Park, a 364-hectare estate located in Ramsdell, Hampshire. 

The event also marked the first anniversary of the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Rewilding Network, which was launched on 28th April 2023, at our own rewilding sites on the Isle of Wight. 

The aim of the network is to raise the standard of rewilding in our two counties through engaging with local landowners, encouraging positive action for wildlife and ultimately contributing to the Trust’s goal to see wildlife recovering over a third of land and sea.

The importance of rewilding 

The Ewhurst Park event saw over 40 local landowners and members of the Rewilding Network come together to learn about Ewhurst’s rewilding journey so far, whilst providing an opportunity to make connections with those who are working towards the same goal. 

The Ewhurst project began in 2021 with the implementation of a different land management approach by moving away from intensive agricultural practices, monoculture biomass plantation and extensive sheep grazing towards creating a mosaic edible landscape that encompasses a range of habitat creation including lowlands, grassland, chalkland, water meadows and woodland. 

Attendees were treated to a day of talks and tours, leading to many important discussions and keeping up the momentum for rewilding in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. 

Themes of the day included the role of rewilding in supporting nature’s recovery, and how the creation of space for nature through rewilding is a vital part of securing a future for biodiversity, as well as how this can work concurrently with producing food. We also heard from Mandy Lieu, owner of Ewhurst Park, who told us about the fantastic work they’ve been doing on the estate, including the introduction of beavers, grazing, a market garden and community engagement, as well as future goals including woodland and wetland creation. 

We also shared some of the exciting results from our own rewilding sites, including increases in butterfly activity and bird and butterfly species diversity at Wilder Little Duxmore since baseline surveys, as well as the significant decrease in soil mineral nitrogen at the site recorded last year. 

Following talks in the morning, guests were treated to a tour of Ewhurst Park, including the beaver enclosure. It was fantastic to see the impact the beavers are already having one year after their introduction, and exciting to envision the influence that these and future beaver introductions may have on habitat creation, flood reduction and drought mitigation. 

Guests were then treated to lunch from Ewhurst’s market garden, followed by a visit to the Tamworth x Iron Age pigs, which are breaking up the ground to regenerate the soil and promote grassland restoration.

Impact and significance 

By bringing landowners together to visit successful rewilding projects, we are keeping up the momentum for rewilding with those already taking positive action for wildlife, as well as inspiring those who are only starting their rewilding journeys. 

Our events also provide a platform for shared learning discussion, allowing landowners to learn about different approaches, compare techniques and provide encouragement to one another. 

We hope the network will ultimately raise the standard of rewilding in our two counties, and believe it is playing a vital role in bringing together those who are striving to create more space for wildlife on their land. More space for wildlife means a more resilient natural environment, and contributes to the Trust’s goal to see wildlife recovering over at least a third of land and sea. 

The perfect setting 

We are hugely grateful to Ewhurst Park for hosting us, the estate provided us with a perfect setting for discussing rewilding whilst showing guests how much can be achieved for nature in just a few years. We are also grateful to all of the guests who attended the event, it was fantastic to see so many people who are enthusiastic about rewilding come together. 

Large group of people stood and knelt in front of brown yurt tent. The people are stood on green grass.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Rewilding Network at Ewhurst Park © Kate Garnham

Join the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust Rewilding Network 

If you are a landowner who is interested in rewilding or supporting nature on your land, you can find more information about the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Rewilding Network here, which includes information on how to sign up to our mailing list.