A three-phase rewilding process
The Dorney rewilding vision proposes an innovative, three-phase pocket rewilding process. This would lead to a dynamic and diverse area of groves, meadows and bushy thickets and thereby provide an array of microhabitats for wildlife. Phases one and two would involve “resetting” natural processes – “pushing” areas where the development of scrub is sparse back towards meadow and “steering” areas where scrub is forming – with additional planting designs – towards the establishment of thickets, copse and oak groves.
Using natural grazing to enhance biodiversity
The third, more ambitious phase of the Dorney rewilding vision would involve the introduction of natural grazing to the site (by partnering with a neighbouring landowner). Herbivores can accelerate the upgrading of ecosystems and enhance biodiversity: their grazing and trampling diversifies vegetation structure, their scuffing disturbs the soil, their dung creates nutrient patches and microhabitats, and seeds are dispersed in their coats. On many small sites – such as Dorney – maintaining free-ranging herds at low density is unfeasible. But it is possible to mimic some of their impact with occasional grazing by domestic breeds and through natural regeneration design and management.
A place for people
The Dorney rewilding vision will not only benefit wild nature, but also the local community and visitors. The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how important it is that we maintain our connection with nature, which helps to promote both mental and physical health. As the Dorney site becomes progressively wilder it will support an ever-growing range of activities, enhancing wellbeing and generating a sense of place and social cohesion; the mosaic of meadows and thickets will enable informal wandering and relaxation, areas of vegetation will emerge that will be ideal for school and/or therapeutic activities, orchards and berry-generating bushes will support foraging for seasonal activities such as jam and Christmas wreath-making, and the ever-changing nature of the site will create a wonderful asset for nature photography and recording.