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Rewilding: what is it and why it’s good for your garden

We explore how to let nature reclaim small spaces and boost biodiversity in your own back yard

sugi's rewilding pocket forest

Since Isabella Tree’s lyrical 2018 book Wilding (Picador, £9.99), the subject of rewilding has become mainstream – even featuring as a storyline on The Archers.

In its purest form, it involves minimal intervention, bar the reintroduction of native predators and large herbivores (in Britain that’s potentially wolves, bears and wild boar, but more likely heritage-breed pigs, ponies and beavers), to restore natural ecosystems and stimulate biodiversity. The results, meanwhile, are landscapes that are healthier and more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

By necessity, it requires a large-scale approach (you need around 120 acres if you want to graze wild boar), but ideas are now starting to filter down on how those of us who don’t own land can also get involved.

In 2019, furniture designer Sebastian Cox and his wife Brogan launched a manifesto, Modern Life From Wilder Land, setting out how they believed a nature-first approach could still support, and indeed stimulate, a thriving economy. Last year, a number of books were published, including Wild Your Garden by Jim and JoelAshton (DK, £14.99) and Rewild Your Garden by Frances Tophill (Quercus, £15), offering advice for the domestic gardener.

sugi's foresters planting a pocket forest

Now, Elise van Middelem, founder of SUGi, a platform that wants to connect people everywhere to nature and biodiversity, has come up with another way – the ‘pocket forest’– which allows anyone to turn a corner of their garden into a flourishing woodland alive with birds and insect life.

Using the renowned Miyawaki method (created by the Japanese master botanist), SUGi’s forest-makers assess your site and soil before planting it with ultra-dense layers of native species that require no chemicals and are designed to be maintenance-free in just a couple of years.

sugi's rewilding pocket forest

As Elise points out, the benefits are considerable. ‘Native trees attract huge numbers of insects and pollinators,’ she says. ‘They act as oxygen tanks and carbon sinks; they capture air pollution, reduce air temperature and absorb storm water run-off, and, of course, they make us feel good, too. Who doesn’t feel better after a walk in the woods?’

The planting technique promotes rapid growth, something particularly important in some urban areas, where biodiversity levels are virtually non-existent – London plane trees, so commonly planted in our cities, support almost no wildlife at all, whereas an oak tree can host nearly 300 different species of insects alone.

‘It’s about more than just planting trees,’ says Elise. ‘It’s about forming self-sustaining ecosystems and we need to act now.’ Prices start at £375 for 3 square metres. sugiproject.com

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