Photo Credit: Slaney Maciel from Getty Images

Recently, rewilders came together to share hopeful rewilding stories across a two-day online conference to mark this year’s World Environment Day and World Oceans Day.

If you missed it, well, silly you. But we have your back! Our team attended this inspiring event and wrote up notes so that you don’t get left out. Also, find the link below to Climate Action North’s YouTube channel to watch the conference recordings themselves.

This UK-focused conference still holds relevance at a global scale, especially because so many of the running themes, topics and challenges across the event are widely applicable, and the level of expertise was high.

Rewilding Hope – Land to Sea’ was a Climate Action North conference that was sponsored by Rewilding Britain and supported by Northumberland Wildlife Trust.

An array of inspirational speakers

The event itself was designed to share inspiring stories about rewilding; stories that span landscapes and species from the land to the oceans. As you can imagine, ‘Rewilding Hope – Land to Sea’ hosted an array of inspirational rewilders and conservationists.

The keynote speakers were Alan Watson Featherstone who shared his journey of rewilding and hope for the future, and Sacha Dench who spoke about her personal experiences of human resilience, rewilding and climate hope and her new expedition Flight of the Vultures.

Other speakers were Sara King of Rewilding Britain; David Hetherington of Cairngorms National Park; Jenny Barlow of Tarras Valley Nature Reserve; Libby Drew of Knepp Wildland; Graham Holyoak of Wilder Northumberland; Peter Cairns of SCOTLAND: the Big Picture; Amelia Newman of Ocean Conservation Trust; Ailsa McLellan of Seawilding; James Shooter of ‘The Rewild Podcast’`; Judy Power of Tees Rivers Trust; Ben Coppin of Groundwork North East; and Sandra King of Beaver Trust. What a list!

The event was accompanied by the wildlife-inspired music from composer and recording artist Richard Durrant’s Rewilding album.

Now, on to our team’s main takeaways from the event.

UK coastline credit BerndBrueggemann from Getty Images

Photo Credit: Bernd Brueggemann from Getty Images

Rewilding Hope

There is momentum to reintroduce the Eurasian lynx to Scotland in 2025, said Alan Watson Featherstone, keynote speaker at the Rewilding Hope Land to Sea conference in June. Mindsets are softening and British people want real nature back. The UK is one of the world’s most nature-depleted countries with about half its biodiversity left. Over two days, inspirational nature restoration projects all over the UK were shared and hope filled hearts and minds.

Getting involved in this conference (or with the posterior recordings), you will get an inevitable dose of hope. As Daniel Eckhart, author of Rewilding Weekly on LinkedIn and enthusiastic rewilder, says: “when we focus on nature and on the many people around the world who are so passionately engaged about rewilding, in restoring and protecting nature, you cannot help but be filled with hope.”

Connecting the land and sea

Rewilding Britain has a kaleidoscope of approaches – tree planting in the Scottish Highlands, herbivores in Southern England, and the restoration of heathlands and saltmarshes – with 171,611 hectares of land, and growing, dedicated to rewilding. This swathe of land that is being restored and protected is growing into a ‘green bridge’ that connects the land and sea, benefitting nature and people. Farmers and communities are joining the movement with woodlands, rivers and gardens as stepping stones that join the green dots.

Wild animals are so integral to the healthy functioning of our ecosystems in all senses: biodiversity, carbon drawdown, and the vast array of ecosystem services they help to maintain. Hope, therefore, comes from the 18 wildcats that have successfully been released, with more to follow, rare insects that are being bred, and the red kites and sea eagles that have returned to Scotland. The Cairngorms National Park is also working on diversifying genetic variability and the translocation of rare, native plants.

The underlying message is that people, rewilders and communities alike, are connecting and coming together for nature recovery. SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, Knepp Wildland Foundation, Wilder Northumberland, The Langholm Initiative, and others, are a pioneering network to create a wilder Britain.

Beaver in Devon Credit Josh Huxham from Getty Images

Trickling streams to entire wetlands

Missing for 400 years, beavers have returned to Britain. As big as a labrador with bright orange teeth (due to their iron content in order to help them chew through trees), these ecosystem engineers are valuable keystone species. Beavers prevent drought and flooding simultaneously by creating wetlands. These restored landscapes act like a wildlife haven, transforming empty fields and river banks into thriving, abundant habitat as well as resilient water-stores.

Now, thanks to the Beaver Trust, Britain has around 2,000 beavers with 1,500 in Scotland. Beavers are even back in the London Borough of Ealing to stop localised flooding, and it is working.

Photo Credit: Josh Huxham from Getty Images

Deserted seas to underwater meadows and reefs

Vast native oyster reefs and seagrass meadows, once lost, are returning as a natural barrier to coastal erosion and a vital blue carbon store. Dedicated rewilders at the Ocean Conservation Trust, Tees River Trust, Seawilding, and Groundwork North East & Cumbria are restoring the marine habitat with seed mat technology, sea injecting, and aquaculture nurseries. Biodegradable hessian pillows containing seagrass seeds are being nurtured to rewild our seabeds, and hundreds of thousands of seeds have already been deployed and rhizomes planted. Rewilded oysters are improving water quality and clarity, as this underwater keystone species can filter 240 litres a day. Massive amounts of mature oysters have been grown and put back into the sea at restoration hubs to reproduce, release larvae and generate entire new reefs.

Stiffkey saltmarshes Credit Martin Tosh from Getty Images

The future is wild

The rewilding movement is ambitious. Rewilding Britain is calling for 30% of Britain to be in nature recovery by 2030.

The National Food Strategy has stated that we transform 20% of UK land to give back to nature, while only losing 3% of calorie production. Low-productivity farmland that is difficult to produce food might be better used for rewilding and nature. People benefit with a 54% increase in jobs, 13 times the number of volunteers, and an enhancement in wellbeing.

The Knepp Wildland Foundation suggests that some farmland will have to be repurposed or adapted for environmental projects, some will have to be farmed at lower yields to enable nature to thrive, and some will have to become higher-yielding, low-carbon, using new technology to increase productivity without polluting the earth – a new era of collaboration.

Britain is turning the tide. Let’s continue to give back land to nature and rewild. Let’s turn Rewilding Hope into action.

Photo Credit: Martin Tosh from Getty Images

Igniting passion and action for rewilding

Climate Action North’s Chief Executive Officer, Sharon Lashley, said: “This is our most ambitious conference yet and by gathering rewilders from across the UK we hope we have ignited more passion and action for rewilding.”

We’ve been championing rewilding since 2018 by sharing stories of resilience and hope and highlighting how rewilding is a crucial solution in solving the climate crisis, restoring ecosystems, and safeguarding key species and biodiversity.

Pollinator Parks credit Anthony Lerma from Getty Images

Photo Credit: Anthony Lerma from Getty Images

Climate Action North, our new Alliance Partner, is the lead coordinator for the Rewilding Network in the North of England and works more widely to inspire, encourage and mobilise community action to tackle the dual climate- and biodiversity- crisis.

Their work helps to support the growing movement of rewilding land and sea practitioners across the North of England. It removes barriers to rewilding projects, whether you’re in the early planning stages or want to move a project one step wilder. They also run an online North East Rewilding Network (NERN) platform to showcase small-scale land, community and marine rewilding projects taking place in the North of England.

Amongst their work is “Pollinator Parks” a programme actively rewilding the North’s Business Parks and the creation of “Global Wilders” an awards scheme that engages schools, youth and communities in rewilding their schools and community spaces. They are helping to restore nature and conserve biodiversity, all the while through supporting community regeneration.

We could go on but we will leave you to discover more, below!

Watch the conference on Climate Action North’s Youtube channel.

Find out more about the conference.