The Daily Telegraph
Unruly countryside more beautiful than manicured fields, says nature expert
THORNY scrub and floodplains, rather than manicured fields, should be seen as “beautiful”, the head of Natural England has said.
Tony Juniper, chairman of the Government’s environmental adviser, said a “cultural revolution” was necessary to help people appreciate the beauty in a messier countryside.
“Rewilding” projects are increasingly popular among landowners, enabling nature to restore degraded landscapes to tackle climate change and provide better habitats for wildlife.
Ecologists have urged the public and local authorities to leave lawns unmown and verges unclipped in an effort to help flowers and insects thrive.
In an article for telegraph.co.uk, Mr Juniper, a former head of Friends of the Earth, said that traditional British countryside characterised by dry stone walls, sheep-grazed fields and villages was “human-created” and were often “ecological deserts” which left wildlife “homeless or starving”. He added: “The manicured fields and neat villages brought food, wealth and prosperity.
“They gave people certainty, and we loved it. The irony is that this desire for orderliness has undermined the health and resilience of nature. To ensure our future security, it will be necessary for us to let nature take back some control.”
People should see “aesthetic value” in “hillsides covered in unruly riots of thorny scrub” and view “wild marshy coasts as visually superior to engineered concrete defences”, he added.
Such interventions are also beneficial to humans, Mr Juniper said, with coastal areas left untamed providing natural flood defences. Farmers, corporations and wealthy individuals are increasingly restoring land to nature. A postbrexit plan to reward farmers and other land managers for improving water quality and helping plants and wildlife is expected to replace the EU’S Common Agricultural Policy.
The Environmental Land Management schemes are beginning pilots this year, though there is uncertainty about how they will work, and concerns that the level of available subsidies will be less than under the previous scheme.
The push for rewilding has caused some tension, with critics arguing that the progressive method of conservation reduces Britain’s ability to be self-sufficient in food production and undermines historic farming communities.
‘The irony is that [the] desire for orderliness has undermined the health and resilience of nature’