Rewilding Britain: learning from nature

“My partner is a biker, so I can totally understand that love for nature that riders have.”
Kate Barclay, Rewilding Britain

For those who get on their bikes and ride through the wind and rain, the environment and the state of it matters. The whole point of riding out is that it takes us to places where we can experience nature in a more intimate  way compared to four wheels. You can’t do this in a car. So preserving the environment is something that matters to riders.

The BMIC supports Rewilding Britain, an organisation that connects rewilding projects across the British Isles to promote the sustainable re-diversification ecological restoration of nature for the benefit of us all. Rewilding Britain is a charity which wants to see 30% of Britain rewilded by 2030, large-scale nature restoration, across Britain on land and in Marine environments. 

“We are a small not-for-profit organisation, we set up eight years ago. We are very much focused on catalysing change on the ground and in policy and legislation,” says Kate Barclay, of Rewilding Britain.

“We don’t own land or look after land, everything we do is collaborative, in partnerships. We run a rewilding network, which has over 900 members across Britain, all sorts of small-scale, small holdings, up to large-scale rewilding projects. We work with them to gather and monitor data, evidence, learning and share conclusions, in order to help people who are involved in rewilding, but also to try and change minds and get more people to get into rewilding to address the climate emergency and the biodiversity crisis.”

The concept of rewilding was an obscure one eight years ago, but even in the last year, it has bloomed in the public consciousness. We all know what it means and the value it can bring, but it wasn’t always so.

“It has changed massively in the last couple of years,” says Kate. “When we started ‘rewilding’ was an almost quite toxic word, it was really divisive. There was a fear of change, particularly from current more traditional land users, in Britain, The farming community were nervous of change, pre-Brexit. We’re not saying that everyone embraces rewilding now, or that everyone should, we are saying that through our research and data gathering, we are confident that you can rewild, 30% of Britain without the loss of productive farmland, without affecting food production or timber production.”

With all the will in the world, we still live in an economy that doesn’t necessarily value wilderness, unless it can be harvested. Unfortunately, a wild forest only represents value in the economy once the trees are cut down. Rewilding Britain is working hard to raise awareness of the value of wilderness, form many aspects, from carbon capture, to the recreational value it provides that can feed into local communities.

“People aren’t going to rewild if it doesn’t make business sense,” says Kate. “So there needs to be an incentive for people to do it. It’s a systemic approach to nature restoration, because it addresses the environment, but also the economy and  also society. We have been tracking a certain number of projects in England but out of about 40 rewilding projects, which have moved from a traditional land use practice, into a rewilding approach, there is a 78% increase in jobs and livelihoods.”

Rewilding is something we associate with the land, with reforestation, but it’s just as important to rewild our marine habitats. In Britain, we tend to forget that our seas have been over-fished, dredged and trawled by the fishing industry over the last century, to such an extent that many are considered marine ‘wastelands’.

“If you look at an area of the seabed that has been dredged, versus an area that a hasn’t, you can see the impact of that dredging, it’s like a desert, compared to a seabed that is alive with sea kelp and the biodiversity that surround it,” says Kate. “We need those plants to be growing in the seas so species can co-exist within the ecosystem. There are some wonderful projects that are working to regenerate sea kelp forests.”

As our awareness of nature and ecology evolves, we need to also evolve our understanding of business and economic models. It is a fact that many of the answers we are looking for exist in nature, the circular ecosystems that we see in a rewilded area, can inform our approach to managing local economies around them.

“We would absolutely say that a nature-based economy, which includes circular economies and local economies is the way to achieve this. In some of the rewilding areas we’ve worked with, they’re starting to demonstrate on a regional basis, how that can work. How business and nature feed into each other and benefit each other. Businesses do seem to be taking notice, there is a positive trajectory.”

The BMIC is also partnering with The Sidecar Guys, who created a series based on their search for wild motorcycle adventure in the UK. Having travelled the world on their Ural motorcycle with sidecar, they set out to discover the same type of wild adventure in England and Wales. They had to search really hard to find any wilderness that wasn’t managed to an inch of its life by the National Trust.

“My partner is a biker,” Kate mentions. “So I can totally understand that love for nature that riders have. When he’s away on a trip he sends back pictures and it’s always nature, a landscape or something beautiful, and that’s the whole reason he goes out to ride. To chase the elements.”

Read more about the great work of Rewilding Britain and to get involved via their website:

To visit Rewilding Britain, tap the image.

The British Motorcycle Insurance Community supports Rewilding Britain through their innovation fund. The Innovation Fund supports innovative, embryonic projects that are finding new ways to rewild, from community engagement models to technology used for nature restoration.