Rewild Ourselves?

Can rewilding boost mental health and wellbeing? Might it enable connecting with nature at a different level and so reinforce the already proven benefits of nature? Can rewilding revive and restore not only the natural world but also ourselves? I thought World Rewilding Day, which falls this week, was an opportunity to ask these questions, and more.

Photo by Jacob Colvin on

Rewilding has a firm focus on nature – biodiversity, species recovery, habitat restoration, sometimes the reintroduction of locally extinct species. But most rewilding initiatives also draw in people, knowing that people are more likely to support rewilding if they engage with what’s going on, and knowing too the clear positive impacts for people and communities. When we hear so many gloomy headlines about the climate and nature emergency, rewilding in action can be inspiring, hopeful and reassuring. And even without considering the wider picture, simply experiencing a wild landscape, its sights and sounds, can be calming and liberating.

But rewilding throws up many questions. Some doubt its authenticity. Is it truly possible to return a landscape to a form of wilderness? Or are we “restoring” wildness which may never have existed? Then there are questions about people’s experiences of rewilding. Some people come to life in wild landscapes, but others feel uneasy, and the words “wildness” and “wilderness” have a negative element to them. Opportunities to experience rewilding for ourselves will be limited by disposable income and spare time to travel to usually remote locations. Some people even feel that rewilding shuts them out, by implying that human impacts on nature have to be negative, and that the land should be left to itself. It could then separate people and nature further.

Diverse as rewilding is, I thought I’d look at one particular example, a trailblazer in the UK – Wild Ennerdale, now in its 20th year, situated on the western edge of the Lake District. Gone now are many of the conifers planted during the 20th century, replaced by native deciduous trees; heathland and bog has been restored; and black Galloway cattle graze parts of the area, enhancing biodiversity. Many roads and fences have been removed. People are encouraged to experience Ennerdale through walking and events, and taking part in restoration tasks.

So there’s no doubt that rewilding is exciting and can transform the land. It can become a haven for people as well as wildlife, a world away from urban sprawl or tamed countryside. Even if you rarely get to a rewilded area yourself, just knowing that wilderness is out there fires our imaginations. And it is already diversifying, and maybe it can and will reach many more places and settings, on a smaller and more everyday scale. Can it come to a road, a field, a patch of disused land near you? If rewilding is to rewild our minds as well as our land, could it become less extreme, more everyday? Could it become more grassroots, community-run in more places rather than a complex initiative requiring sustained cooperation by large landowners? Rewilding remote glens and moors, but also local patches of ground, could open up far more opportunities to interact with wildness – so that nature isn’t just “out there” but close by – restoring nature and ourselves.

Have you seen rewilding in action? Do you have thoughts or ideas? It would be great to hear any responses in Medley’s Facebook group

Published by medleyisobel

My name is Isobel and I run Medley, an online initiative sharing art, nature and music for health and wellbeing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: