Tuesday, August 10, 2021

THE REWILDING PROJECT: Rewilding Engineer Workshop at Lewes Railway Land Wildlife Trust!

In late July, Dylan Walker of Wilderlife teamed up with Railway Land Wildlife Trust and Small PerformanceAdventures to run a three-day Rewilding Workshop in Lewes, East Sussex.

 

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!

Work begins on the bull pit!

I’ll leave you with Ronan’s excellent poem on the mighty Aurochs:

 

Wolves V Aurochs

 

For your lupine threats we care not one jot
 
bring it on, you don't know what we got!
 
We're no ordinary cattle as you'll soon discover
 
unlike domestic cows we do not cower.
 
 
 
You present so snarly and hope were fearing,
 
your nothing more than fox in wolf's clothing .
 
When they bred us back from domestic stock
 
they found in our breast the heart of an ox!
 
 
 
As a bull Tauros marks there space in his pit
 
so many small animals benefit from it.
 
Around the vertical verges and in the pile of sticks bound
 
mining bees and many other insects to be found
 
 
 
Our grazing results in a semi-open landscape.
 
Birds feed on cow flies and our other parasites.
 
Badgers and foxes make use of our trails
 
while all predators consume our placental remains.
 
 
 
We make soil anaerobic give other plants a chance
 
watch the happy butterflies flutter and dance.
 
Spread seeds with our furry coats as we pass by,
 
you lost this eco-system are you still wondering why?
 
 
 
Our keystone species are eco engineers.
 
We've lost sight of their importance through the years.
 
it's not too late now to change the script
 
and educate ourselves, even a little bit!
 
 
 
Don't waste any more time get up and get out
 
Call for the Aurochs we want to see them about!
 
Through learning about rewilding we hope to recover
 
the lost connection to our inner eco warrior!
 
 
 
RĂ³ Bodley, July 2021, for Rewilding project @ Railway land project.
 
 
 
For more information about our Rewilding courses and workshops contact Dylan at dylan.walker@wilderlife.org


1 comment:

  1. It was such a lovely learning opportunity and you created a space that made it easy to be creative. We had great fun. I've mentioned the workshop to friends and its provoked great curiosity and made for interesting conversations. Thanks Ronan

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