Wild Witney

Rewilding land in West Oxfordshire

Our Aim

The objectives for this community group are to Rewild Council land. Raise money to buy land. Save land from development through bidding for land and through campaigning. Rewilding land will boost biodiversity levels by restoring wildlife habits, mitigating against flooding and acting as a carbon sink. These objectives are however for us all to agree on.

Going Local

Patrick Barkham, The Guardian, Jan 2020

Confronted by climate breakdown, the extinction crisis and rising inequalities, it is easy to feel anxious and hopeless. I feel those things, but in recent months I’ve also been heartened by a surge of grassroots action, of diverse people responding in myriad ways to multiplying crises. To call it an ecosystem of resistance would be overly dramatic, but it is a flowering of good deeds and positive care for local neighbourhoods.

In my blue corner of conservative Norfolk, traditionally slow to adopt national trends, I’ve encountered all kinds of inspiring work. The Norwich Soup Movement is one of four women-led volunteer groups providing hot suppers for the homeless every day of the week. Eves Hill Veg Co is a community market garden (again women-led), which trains people in horticulture and grows healthy fruit and veg for local people. Dandelion Education is an outdoor nursery and forest school with an enlightened focus on improving youth mental health, run by two brilliant former teachers. The Felbeck Trust is one of scores of new micro-local conservation groups seeking to restore wildlife.


Rewilding has been gaining ground in recent years and is set to take off with the governments stewardship policy for farmers this year. Land owners will be paid to return land to nature whereas subsidies are being phased out. Rewilding is a process of returning the land to its closest natural point and then letting nature do the rest. This means returning rivers to their original meandering forms and taking away steep banks and other human made constraints. Rivers are reconnected to their floodplains by excavating river banks. After the land has had a chance to recover grazing animals are brought in. Those which most closely resemble ancient free roaming herbivores are generally considered to be most beneficial. This year law has been passed to allowing beaver introductions in the UK. As a keystone species the beaver will facilitate the fastest and most natural regeneration of a diverse biodiversity in river areas and beyond.

Aside from the positive effects on this area made by organisations that already exist in West oxfordshire, it would  seem that the baseline level of wildlife is lower than that which might be possible through rewilding. The remarkable effects on biodiversity have been shown in rewilding projects in the UK and beyond. Wild Oxfordshire have begun a five year project to wild the evenlode river nearby and connect it with its floodplains as well as improving biodiversity and water quality. Most notably the Knepp Estate rewilding project in Surrey has shown that by taking hands off the steering wheel almost entirely, nature can achieve far more than we can hope to achieve through managing the land. This project briefly outlines the way in which this can be achieved in the Witney area.

Defra (June 2021)  says that schemes are in place to allow farmers and other land managers to  enter into agreements to be paid for delivering the following public goods: Clean and plentiful water, clean air, thriving plants and wildlife, reduction in and protection from environmental hazards, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment. It states that the Landscape Recovery scheme will involve bespoke agreements to support long-term, land use change projects, including rewilding where appropriate by 2024.

Getting involved

There are lots of things we can do as a community to help kickstart rewilding. By joining our community group we can show the council that we have enough support to set up rewilding processes in an area that has been proposed close to the town. This area has already been largely left to rewild for many years so we have a head start. Work would need to be done to contract river excavations, place signs, organise educational visits and generally liase with people who use the area and have business and land in close proimity. The council are able to fund much of this through money that would be saved on managing the land but we would also have to raise some money through crowd funding and through approaching large organisations with an interest in rewilding.

“World must rewild on massive scale to heal nature and climate” says UN

Patrick Greenfield, The Guardian, June 2021

The ‘decade on ecosystem restoration’ launches with a call for ‘imagination’ and action on never-before-seen scale.

Join Wild Witney for a legacy you can be proud of!

Members can play a part in the restoration of Wildness in the West Oxfordshire area. What more could you want? (Join the group on Contacts page of this site.)