A Hampshire village comes together to create something special.
In what we hope will be an action replicated across the nation, the small village of Broughton, near Stockbridge in Hampshire is setting a wonderful example of a community embracing the need for wild changes.
This delightful story begins with local garden designer, Clare Bates.
Trained in garden design at the English Gardening School and Sparsholt College, Clare is also a Pilates instructor and is well known for conducting Pilates classes from her very own wildflower meadow in Broughton.
Inspired after seeing the local farming community embracing rewilding (more on this later) and wanting to do more to help the village of Broughton rewild, Clare joined the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust as part of their Wilder initiative.
The Trust’s “Team Wilder” project has been designed to encourage people from all walks of life and with different skills, knowledge, and experience to offer, to take some form of action to put nature into recovery, create more space for wildlife to thrive, and reduce the pressure on the environment.
The premise behind the initiative is that if just one person in every four takes action, then this can be enough to change the minds and behaviour of the majority. (You can learn more about this great initiative here.)
Clare chose to become a Wilder Community Leader, with the Trust helping to provide training in community engagement and Clare spent an afternoon with the Trust in October 2019. With Clare planning to personally visit members of the Broughton community to present her case for rewilding, the arrival of Covid-19 abruptly put this project on hold.
With lockdown came time for local community members (and indeed, all of us) to reconsider what nature means and the importance of green space quickly became paramount. This considered progression served the village of Broughton well, and so when Clare was once again able to meet with local villages face-to-face, there was a responding swell of support for a rewilding project within the community.
Running parallel with this, was an awareness that surrounding farmland was rising to the challenge with many local farmers rewilding the edges of their fields to assist with biodiversity. Clare teamed up with Dagan James, a well-known local farmer and owner of Broughton Water Buffalo, to further encourage the Broughton community to take action.
Dagan himself has spent 20 years as a regenerative farmer and has more recently become involved in activism around the climate and ecological emergency, using public speaking and presentations around how farming can become part of the solution to inform and inspire.
Dagan invited award-winning author, Isabella Tree to the village to speak to the local community on the subject of rewilding and this event also helped to further inspire the Broughton community. (Isabella Tree’s latest book, Wilding – the Return of Nature to a British Farm – won the 2019 Richard Jefferies prize for nature writing and was one of the Smithsonian’s top ten science books for 2018.)
It was now time for the village to do their bit!
We delivered 125m² of Native Enriched Wildflower Turf in April of this year and the turf was then allocated and distributed out to around 14 local Broughton household gardens, with installation taking place over the Easter weekend. Testament to the turf’s ease of handling, every household involved chose to lay the turf themselves, despite Dagan offering assistance. Some households took a small quantity, and one villager turfed their entire garden!
The over-riding motivation for Broughton villagers to get involved was to make a gesture to nature and to do something tangible in terms of a contribution to local biodiversity. Some villagers chose to make this a family exercise, involving their grandchildren in the project and teaching them the importance of rewilding while watching the wildflowers grow. Others suddenly found corners of their garden sitting idle when they could be used to increase their garden’s ecological credentials. With a lack of labour needed, and guaranteed results, the laying of Native Enriched Wildflower Turf was an easy win all round.
We hope many more local communities throughout the UK will also be inspired to take the rewilding challenge and we look forward to sharing many more such stories with you as time progresses.