As we contemplate the ecological wreckage from the last century of unfettered growth in Britain, there is a mounting desire throughout the UK and all advanced Western economies to reverse some of the processes we set in place in the early 20th century.
One goal is to turn about 4 per cent of Britain’s land over to nature this century. That is 1m hectares by 2100, the equivalent of 8 big land-holdings per year. “Realistically, a lot of it will be in Scotland,” says Alastair Driver of the charity Rewilding Britain. Anders Holch Povlsen, the Danish fashion billionaire, is seeking to rewild an estate of 89,000 acres in the Highlands.
In theory, the space exists, even in a country as densely populated as the UK. Grouse moors cover 1.3m hectares, according to Rewilding Britain. Golf courses — which cater to a declining clientele — cover up to 150,000 hectares, according to an analysis by the FT.
The most significant potential is farmland. Nearly three-quarters of the UK is farmed. Without subsidies, 42 per cent of farms would have made a loss, according to the National Audit Office. In marginal areas, such as the uplands, a lot of farmers are “seeing the writing on the wall”, says Driver.
“I started off [three years ago] knocking on people’s doors. Now I’m just trying to cope with demand,” says Driver,. He only deals with projects of at least 1,000 acres — of which he has found at least 20 in the UK.
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