Becoming a Rewilding Engineer
On the course we went behind the scenes with some of our most charismatic wild animals. Together we tried to understand what made wild horses, bears, and beavers tick. What did they do all day? And how did their efforts create opportunities for other creatures to thrive?
With two highly competitive teams choosing a charismatic species each, each team was soon using their new found knowledge, crafting skills, and creative thinking to recreate a day in the life of an extinct animal!
As rewilding engineers, Team A chose the wolf, whilst Team B chose wild cattle (the Aurochs), and specifically, the bull! Both teams were tasked with replicating the behaviour of their extinct species in a way that would be beneficial to other plants and animals. Whether through artistic interpretation or direct impact, we were looking for a positive impact on nature whilst gaining a deep insight into the importance of animals that once shaped our landscape and created niches for so many other creatures!
|Kate and Helen play the seed dispersal game'Cockerel and Hen'|
Wolves and Aurochs back in Lewes!
The results from both teams were outstanding:
Team A created wolf footprints from plaster and took the first wolf steps on the Railway Land Nature Reserve for hundreds of years! They also tested the principle of the ecology of fear! This is the concept that predators influence the movements of their prey because the prey avoid areas known to be important to the predators. This allows for a cycle of vegetation grazing and recovery, and increases the number of habitats available to other species. As wolves, Team A attempted to influence the movements of dog walkers by placing signs suggesting (in a fun way) that wolves might be in the area. These signs were completely ignored, perhaps suggesting that the locals have not needed to consider predators on their doorstep for a long time!
|Hand made wolf footprints |
alongside domestic dog prints
Meanwhile, the wild cattle dug their very own bull pit! A bull pit is an area of ground pounded and scuffed by a bull until a pit is created with large patches of bare earth. The bull uses the pit as a mating site to attract females, but the disturbed ground is fantastic for other wildlife, including digger wasps, annual flowers such as poppies, basking wall brown butterflies and thermo-regulating snakes. In a ritual worthy of any pagan festival, Team B’s Ronan read a wonderful poem reinstating the aurochs as part of our cultural heritage, while the rest of the team mooed and mock stamped the ground to complete the bull pit ceremony! The team also used a shawl as a seed dispersant, imitating the importance of seeds carried in the fur of cattle in order to enable plants to move and germinate in new locations!
Bringing it back to us!
Finally, we all took on the role of the biggest ecosystem engineer of all time – us humans! We went back to our ancestral beginnings and thought about how we, like our ancestors, can give back to nature and get so much more in return. We also took time out around the reserve to understand how ecosystems function, the basic principles of rewilding, and how to use all of our senses to connect with the natural world!
I’d like to say a huge thanks to everybody involved in the organising of the workshop; to Helen Meade of the Railway Land Wildlife Trust, and to Kate McCoy of Small Performance Adventures, as well as all of the other participants: Paul, Jane, Warner, Ronan, Lesley, and Jennie. The way that everybody immersed themselves in the challenge and came up with such creative results was a joy to see!
I’ll leave you with Ronan’s excellent poem on the mighty Aurochs:
Wolves V Aurochs