Wild Ken Hill's story
In 2018, the owners and managers of Ken Hill decided to shift their dual land management system. Motivated by the urgency to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises, and the need to protect farming operations due to changing agricultural policies, Ken Hill's landholders ceased intensive farming in the area and sent the land on an eco-restoration journey. Thus, Wild Ken Hill, a rewilding and regenerative farming project, was born in 2019.
The goal of Wild Ken Hill is to adopt alternative and varied approaches to land management (including restoration, conservation and agriculture). It is hoped that the project will be an influential example on how sustainable land use in the UK can be beneficial for local rural communities and economies, for wildlife and biodiversity, and for greenhouse gas emission-reduction efforts, all at the same time. To this end, Ken's Hill model of land management is now threefold, including traditional conservation, rewilding and regenerative agriculture.
Firstly, in the freshwater ecosystems, conservation is practised by managing water quantity and grazing patterns to promote biodiversity. Secondly, farming was halted in unproductive arable land with sandy soils, giving space and time for nature to grow back and return through minimal human intervention in the area, enhancing carbon sequestration and supporting biodiversity goals (e.g. slowly reintroducing beavers and grazers). And thirdly, principles of regenerative agriculture were adopted in still-productive arable land to sustainably farm while also restoring soil health, maximising carbon sequestration, limiting the use of chemicals and increasing biodiversity.
So far, Wild Ken Hill has been able to secure funding from the government for its work and to engage local stakeholders, carrying out an extensive baseline survey; shifting to regenerative practices; and reintroducing the Euroasian beaver. The benefits of these and upcoming endeavours include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, healthier food production, coastal flood risk reduction and biodiversity restoration in line with the Aichi targets. There are also wider social advantages, including employment and volunteering opportunities, sustainable agricultural livelihoods, recreational access to green spaces, and environmental education.
Image: CC Stock Photo
Useful learnings from Wild Ken Hill
It is important to see these types of projects through a holistic lens, focusing not just on (bio)physical habitats and processes, but also on the social implications and resulting benefits.
A rewilding project requires skills and expertise in a variety of areas beyond ecological processes, including finance and commerce, natural capital and ecosystem services, and stakeholder engagement and public policy.