Welcome and introduction to Making Wildland Pay

Knepp Estate’s wild land project – the experience to date

A review of economic ventures from a sample of UK projects

Fascination Will Pay’: Economic benefits from the Dutch river floodplains and from visitors observing wild cattle, deer and horses at Oostvaardersplassen

Examples and issues from the Forestry Commission’s experience in rewilding

Follow the link to

Final plenary discussion - Ways forward on rewilding – suggestions from participants

Thurs 12 April - Follow the link to read the notes taken after the tour and concluding discussion.

Making Wildland Pay
A review of markets and enterprises from wild land and rewilding

Two days hosted by the Wildland Network and the Knepp Estate, 12 & 13 April 2007  

 This event brought practitioners together to discuss:

  • Examples of markets and enterprises based on wild land.

  • Key options for new markets based on wild land.

  • How further wild land ventures can be stimulated and sustained.

The event took place at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex ( where participants learnt more about the wildland project for the estate ‘where natural processes predominate and long term financial stability is achieved outside of a conventional agricultural framework’. The project is providing a baseline ecological and economic study for potential rewilding in the English lowlands.

Workshop Thurs 12 April

Welcome and introduction to Making Wildland Pay 

Rick Minter
Wildland Network -
download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 727 kb)

Knepp Estate’s wild land project – the experience to date

Jason Emrich
Knepp Estate - download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 5.2Mb)

 Discussion and questions

  • The Knepp project is aiming to extend beyond the estate; relatives and neighbours, especially to the north, are interested and watching.

  • The big issue in all of this for many people is the lack of tidiness. Many farmers and landowners are used to controlling nature and keeping it in a ‘tidy’ state. 

  • Knepp needs £150/ha to maintain this project. We don’t know what will happen to the Single farm payment after 2012.

  • The land management and property aspects of the estate business are intertwined – as shown in the Business Plan. The property business supports the estate project.

A review of economic ventures from a sample of UK projects

Peter Taylor
Wildland Network
& author ‘Beyond Conservation, A Wildland Strategy’ - download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 1Mb)

Peter's report that accompanies his presentation, was commissioned by WN and is entitled Wildland Benefits - a brief survey of schemes on the wildland network database. It can be downloaded here (PDF 112kb)

Discussion and questions

  • Many local schemes eg. Wildplay Bradford take kids into the woods to ‘play wild’. These schemes and projects are only ever quantified and  appreciated at a local level. A bigger picture needs collation.

  • There is more scope than we realise in non timber forest products – see Reforesting Scotland Wild Harvest.

  • It is often the case that there are no direct benefits to the landowner from wild harvests, only the harvester eg. special fungi for smart restaurants.

  • We need a wildland grant scheme, to match conservation-grazing funding schemes. And/or we need to be more creative with use of Environmental Stewardship ES.

  • It is essential to transform the Single Farm Payment, for example to include taking land out of agricultural use.

  • Also need to consider re-writing tax criteria, changing the ways tax breaks work for landowners.

  • All natural systems must have a use and value – this needs to be appreciated and shown.

Fascination Will Pay’: Economic benefits from the Dutch river floodplains and from visitors observing wild cattle, deer and horses at Oostvaardersplassen

Frans Vera
Dutch Forestry Service, & author " Grazing Ecology and Forest History" - download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 3.7Mb)

Discussion and questions

  • The Dutch government pays ‘generously’ to acquire agricultural land (‘its an offer not to be refused’).

  • Apart from Oostvardersplassen, most Dutch wilding initiatives eg. letting go of flood plains as at Geldersee Poort, are very small.

  • Beavers were first introduced as a ‘natural coppicer’ into the Biesboch wetlands because these were no longer being coppiced as before and the landscape was changing ie. it was a cultural landscape initiative at first.

  • Social and visitor research was done in Holland about taking land out of agriculture in riparian zones. A cross section of the population were asked about landscape change and once they had seen the changes they liked them.

  • There have been animal welfare issues and strong public reaction to some stock management and animal welfare issues eg. at Oostverdersplassen. The Dutch approach is to recognise that people are not stupid, but they might be ill-informed, so it is very important to tell the story on issues like animal welfare.

Examples and issues from the Forestry Commission’s experience in rewilding

Alison Field
Forestry Commission -
download the PowerPoint Show here (PPS 1.4Mb)

Discussion and questions

  • The Forestry Commission can be providing the tourist resource but not getting any of the associated visitor income. So at Kielder there is no visitor income only timber income. And this income is falling, while there is need to fund more restoration of the mires.
The Workshop Discussions are on a separate page. Follow this link.


Q: Do landowners and land agents know about (re)wilding and will they be interested in it?  A: Yes, some will, but there are two key perceptual barriers amongst landowner and land agents: first, the concern that access property and access rights may change and disadvantage the landowner; second, that the land will be ‘untidy’.

Landowners and agents need to be helped to understand the ‘untidiness’ of nature.

Do landowners relate to the term rewilding or are they wary of it or not understand it? Or will landowners grow to understand and recognise the term? In the use of language, we must be careful not to make assumptions about different groups and sectors of people – perhaps we should use the same terms for all.

To help convince more landowners and farmers about the merits of (re)wilding, there needs to be more examples featured in the farming, forestry and game press.

Note that tax incentives can generate land-use change, so could the tax system be tweaked to help encourage more (re)wilding.

The whole tax regime could be revised to incentivise positive and environmentally-friendly land management.

Challenge funding, such as the National Forest tender scheme could be  one way of creating an incentive for landowners and others to opt for (re)wilding.

Should land purchase be a preferred measure for securing more (re)wilded land? Perhaps this remains one option amongst several. Note that the current political climate does not favour public funds being allocated to public acquisition of land.

Instead of direct purchase, government funding could be channelled to NGOs for them to take a key role in wild land.

Q. Do we need a special grant scheme for wild land?

Several participants discussed this and most felt there were points in favour of grants to encourage wild land and natural processes. Specific comments on the topic were:

  • A grant system might encourage new thinking and innovation on ecosystem services and wildland benefits, and help create a shift from an outlook based solely on food production.

  • These are long-term projects with long commitment and a long timescale for the environmental and public benefits to be realised.

How long should financial commitments run for such a payment scheme?

  • Could a payment system cope with such a long-term commitment and what if a participating landowner dropped out and returned to farming?

  • There could be a payback clause if the participating landowner drops out of the scheme within a certain timescale. For instance, in Holland, farmers must pay back 90% of the grant if they revert to farming within 30 years of receiving the payment.

  • Use of covenants could be a means of offering participation in such schemes on a long-term basis.

  • Note that major grant funds are already being paid for projects around the coast (including through Environment Agency funds) which are promoting natural processes, although these are not involving large herbivores.

  • The Environmental Stewardship Scheme could be revised to address wild land issues. The ESS is linked to outcomes, so the scheme criteria could be amended to include criteria associated with wild land and natural processes.

How can funding schemes become more tailored to ‘non special areas’ for habitat creation and (re)wilding?  When funding is limited it tends to be allocated solely to special areas, so perhaps we have to have more funds in the system before they can be applied beyond special areas.

Factors which may attract future funding beyond identified special areas are likely to include connectivity, and climate change and ecosystem services.

Note the trend in more community land ownership in Scotland. There are examples of community owned and managed woods, and the Carrifran project in the Borders is a community run wildland project (see the Wildland Network data base of wildland projects for more info on Carrifran).

Branding: The Soil Association is considering a wild products brand.

Wild harvests: As an example of the potential of wild harvest products, see the Reforesting Scotland data base of wild harvest products on its web site, under the Non timber forest products.

Defining wild land: It was suggested that a list of principles or elements of wildland should be drawn up, offering criteria for key aspects of wild land (the Wildland Network will offer such material on its web site). It was felt helpful to have guidance on what constitutes wild land, but that a flexible and evolving definition was more suitable than a rigid one.

Reflections on the main discussion points

Will Manley
Royal Agricultural College

to be collated

The day finished with participants having a guided walk through the northern part of Knepp Estate.