The Daily Telegraph

Unruly countrysid­e more beautiful than manicured fields, says nature expert

- By Olivia Rudgard ENVIRONMEN­T CORRESPOND­ENT Tony Juniper:

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, 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’

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