Another one of those things that Simon and I got to talk about was rewilding. He is a photographer who specializes in landscapes, especially of Northumberland and it is a topic of conversation in the circles in which he moves. It is controversial and divides the people who are interested in the countryside.
If you didn’t know, rewilding is the intervention in the landscape to create large scale wilderness areas, restoring natural processes and, in some cases, reintroducing key predators and previously extinct species. On one side of the argument you have those that see it is our role to protect what was once the natural flora and fauna of the countryside, while on the other there are those who manage the fields or have livestock grazing the land. If your livelihood comes from raising sheep then the reintroduction of wolves into the habitat is going to be of concern.
From Simon’s house I drove down to Hexham for another appointment. For about twenty miles I made my way through the beautiful byways of Northumberland, often on single track or narrow roads. I felt a glow inside as I thought of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place. On the way I passed one person, I am assuming it was a shepherd as his dog barked at my car and chased me for a while. The only other things I saw was cows, sheep, a horse, hedgerows and trees.
My mind wandered to our conversation and I thought about movements such as Natural England and designations such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I realised that we were deluding ourselves. Even though the landscape was pastoral and bucolic there was nothing natural about it. Every blade of grass, every tree and bush, every path and every creature had in some way been touched by man. Even the open moorlands had been tamed by an ovine presence. There is no such thing as natural in this country anymore.
Even rewilding cannot be a natural process. We will decide which creatures enter the fray or not. We will decide in what boundaries they roam and we will decide how much of our own property we will allow them to steal.
I am not decrying the efforts of conservationists but true rewilding can only come when man is no longer on this planet. Then the process of natural selection will, once more, take over. Wilderness will return only we won’t be here to see it.