4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
It has been a while since I have been to the Lake District but I remember walking the fells and enjoying the fresh air and views. Whilst it feels wild and bleak, it is a landscape that has been managed by man for hundreds of years. I have very little recognition of seeing much in the way of wildlife, thinking about it now, it just seemed to be a partially sterile landscape, with not much opportunity for life to thrive.
One f the people trying to bring life back to these hills is Lee Schofield. He is the site manager for RSPB Haweswater and he is responsible for two hill farms coving thirty square kilometres of the uplands. They are close to the district’s largest reservoir and he along with other employees and stakeholders are slowly returning the landscape to a place that suits wildlife as well as farm animals.
Fighting the entrenched views is actually not helped by the pace being designated a UNESCO world heritage site. That seemed to focus on the cultural heritage more than the possibilities for rewilding and restoring habitats for animals such pine marten and birds like the corncrake that are just about surviving. Learning how others are tackling similar issues will take him to Norway and Italy to see how they manage and it gives him a lift as well as a raft of ideas.
But what he needs most every day is resilience. Dealing with people who don’t care a single iota about the perilous state of the wildlife in the area is wearing. Where Isabella Tree in Wilding shows what can be done when you have complete control of the lands that you own, the reality of most attempts are rewilding is going to be much closer to this; the reigning back in of ambitions because of the restrictions of various stakeholders, the resistance that people have to change and always battling the system that suits the vested interests of large landholders.
Schofield is passionate about the natural world and that comes across in every page in this his first book. It is not an easy read as he has to battle against the tide of opinion from farmers who have been there for many generations. It is not always an easy task and he does sometimes get despondent with all that he is pushing against. But over the course of the book, he demonstrates that it is possible to make progress and to find a way that suits both farming and nature. I thought that this was well worth reading for a realistic view of returning a landscape to suit the natural world. Highly recommended reading.