Rewilding Soar Valley story
However, helping the land recover is not necessarily easy, particularly for those who live off the land. Changing our land use practices means supporting farmers, foresters, landowners and land managers to explore new approaches that will help them stay on their land into the future as well as helping nature. This is particularly true on marginal land.
There are many benefits to using land for rewilding, from drawing down carbon from the atmosphere to helping wildlife adapt to climate change; from reversing biodiversity loss to supporting diversified economic opportunities and improving our health and wellbeing. A great example is the ongoing rewilding of the Soar Valley, under the stewardship of the Leicester & Rutland Wildlife Trust.
The River Soar flows northwards through a shallow valley in Leicestershire. Fed by a number of streams and smaller rivers, it grows in size and joins with the River Trent on the Nottinghamshire border. The Leicester & Rutland Wildlife Trust has been doing extensive work in recent years to restore wildlife and wild places to the floodplains of the Soar and Wreake – two of the most significant rivers in Leicestershire. They have acquired over 400 acres of land on the Soar floodplain since 2004, offered advice to landowners and carried out extensive habitat restoration work, centred on Cossington Meadows Nature Reserve. The site is managed lightly to create a mosaic of rough grassland, wet woodland, scrub and pools of water – with the emphasis on allowing natural processes to shape the landscape as much as possible.
Soar & Wreake Valley living landscape (Photo: Leicester & Rutland Wildlife Trust)
Useful learnings from Rewilding Soar Valley
Rewilding the land is about bringing nature back as much as we can, wherever we can. A vision of this scale requires a coordinated effort between landowners, communities, farmers, fishers, foresters, public bodies, NGOs, businesses and relevant experts.
Restoring nature through land use changes can happen on every scale – from working, productive land uses to large-scale rewilding.
Rewilding should benefit local people and communities directly. It should always be about choice, as we seek a balance between people and the rest of nature where each can thrive.
Embedding and connecting up core rewilding areas – within a broader mosaic of land uses – includes support for low-impact mixed forestry, nature-based tourism and high-nature value grazing.
Sample rewilding metrics
• Improved soil health
• Extent of vegetation growth
• Better local water quality
• Recreation opportunities and public access
• Support for local enterprises and businesses