Re-Wilding vs Terroir

Britain cannot feed itself, not even close. Without Scotland (The English are ignoring the Scots’ referendum result at their peril), this lack of land is made worse. To go into ‘trade negotiations’ on the back foot is bad enough, losing its largest trading partner means losing the cheap easy access to some of the best food in the world. Transportation costs will increase, congestion increased and there will be insufficient workers left to pick the food that can be grown or raised in England.

It is all too apparent post Brexit England is not prepared for the immense pressure to be placed on its rural landscape.

Whilst those involved in the management of the rural landscape consider their next move, far too many waiting to hear how where their finances will be coming from, the extremes have started shouting and will continue to, drowning out any and all moderate commentary and with it halting existing and potential good practice. Forestry, Arboriculture and a myriad of other land industry sectors cannot afford, nor should have to, fight for their own path in between a growing misanthropic nature conservation lobby against the more belligerent of the countryside lobby.

There is nonsense spouted on both sides, science twisted, truth substituted for the most spurious of spurious ‘facts’ – a strategy learned from the EU referendum campaigning, and championed by Trump.

And alongside the growth of a far right wing element in UK political commentary, ‘landscape fascism’ is gaining strength in policy discussion regarding all countryside issues. And as with the lengthy media reporting of the rise of the right wing, without hardly a nod towards the moderate, the same charge can be levied at the media reporting on countryside issues. When was the last time moderate countryside commentators were seen on countryfile? Let alone a forester!

And what else is ‘Re-Wilding’ but landscape fascism? As with so much of Monbiots’ commentary it makes for scary reading, particularly for those of us with knowledge of situations in neighbouring countries and whom might bother to read wider research on European landscapes. To merely pay lip service to those that live and work in rural communities by way of suggesting income through wildlife tourism is contrary to what happened in the Drome, Umbria or the Basque country. But as proven by ignoring the damage a healthy Pine Marten population does to pets and livestock in mainland Europe, the restricted access due to the real dangers posed by Boar or the complete lack of knowledge with regards tree planting in consolidated soils, Monbiot is simply trying to sell his writing – and could not care less about the consequences to the landscape by his disciples.


The blithe disregard that a landscape must be worked is a serious danger to all who work in landscapes, (both urban and rural).

I visited a working woodland last week, a fantastic project which is under threat for the simple reason that it is not considered necessary by National Park planners for forestry operations to have the facilities needed to carry out the work to a profitable conclusion. It is like putting a writer in a straight jacket. And my fear, which I know is shared by many, is that the ‘Re-Wilding’ idealism can be all too easily used as an excuse for a list of constraints that prevent any and all progress if it enters the mindset of those in charge of protected landscapes – many of whom have already proven themselves untrustworthy as they happily rehash for their own PR and lobbying the ELC for their own purpose.

British rural landscapes can pay, and can pay well. Terroir enables this and Britain is unique in the world in containing an extraordinary range of soils which can a truly unique range of specialist agricultural produce, which then makes serious money. Terroir is the value of soil and thus has to protect the landscape – most importantly all the natural elements within that landscape.

There are some massive problems ahead, but the UK as a whole has an army of farmers, foresters and others able to prepare the rural economy beyond subsidy without compromising the natural environment in anyway, indeed enhancing it. do not usurp them now.

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Filed under Trees and Woodlands

2 responses to “Re-Wilding vs Terroir

  1. Roderick Leslie

    I’m afraid this post adds to the ill informed debate it criticises so strongly. For starters, lets bust the ‘food security’ myth which is used to justify ever increasing intensification of farming: Britain can feed itself, just not on the luxury diet which is making more and more of us ill – we produce more than enough for healthy nutrition, but pour most of our grain into animals.

    In the uplands, a high proportion of farms take home less money from farming than they receive in subsidies and the damage caused in the process is spectacular – what shook George Monbiot also horrified me when a few years ago I was updating my knowledge of birds and forestry in Wales. Forestry was the big bogeyman wiping out moorland birds so when it stopped in 1988 all would be fine, wouldn’t it ? Not as bit of it – the decline in moorland birds has continued unabated. It’ll slow soon – but only because there are none left. There were just 30 pairs of the iconic Golden Plover left in the whole of Wales. Ironically, the only moorland bird (other than the carrion guild of Kites, Buzzards and Ravens) doing better is Black Grouse, saved by forestry and conservation action.

    The uplands of the UK produce just 5% of our food and it is surely as extreme as rewilding to suggest that there is an absolute obligation for all of us to pay very large amounts of money to preserve a way of life – did we do it for coal mining ? for steel ? When did you last buy carbon paper ? Especially so as there are clear alternatives; for starters, we should be paying for things we all want – including carbon, water management and wildlife. Debates like this always imply an either/or – intentionally, I think, on the part of the farming lobby which with a religious fervour see giving up one unit of food production as a disaster to their cause. It simply isn’t like that – there is room for rewildling and farming and recreation and water and carbon management. What is needed is a 21st Century approach to the challenges, identifying and supporting real needs of today, not 70 years ago, and, in sharp contrast to the sectoral way landuse is approached (by both agriculture and conservation) looking for multiple benefits from each area of land.

    • Thanks for your comments as always. I don’t believe the British people will be all that pleased at having their luxuries removed – although I am sure the supermarkets will find obliging suppliers in the East or Africa, but my argument is very much against intensification (as always a blog written as a late night rant will never cover the issues as they should be), as Terroir is the opposite. I suppose the great difficulty is in explaining a French concept with no direct translation – but Terroir effectively covers all the needs for a healthy landscape; with the environmental protection absolute in order to gain economically.

      As such I agree completely with your final 2 sentences – which fall very much into Terroir territory, particularly if Britain adopts such thinking (a new word could be argued for), as this would automatically ensure a 21st model to combine much of the small but significant innovative projects that can be found across the UK.

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