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Julia Davies: A place for nature and people in Dorset

Gertie Goddard
Julia, Brian, and Rob of We Have the POWER

Across the globe and here at home, we are facing intertwined nature and biodiversity crises. The 2019 State of Nature report has shown that since the 1970s there has been a 13% decline in average abundance across wildlife, which continues unabated.

This decline is daunting but one environmental campaigner, Julia Davies, shows us that We Have the POWER to protect and restore our remarkable world. Below, Julia shares her inspirational story of rewilding and nature conservation in Dorset. 

My mission

My mission is to inspire people with wealth to help secure land for nature and people in the hands of conservation groups.   By providing bridging finance we can help conservation groups to proceed more quickly with a land purchase so that a deal can be secured whilst giving time to raise funds from other sources.

How it all started

In June 2021 I helped Dorset Wildlife Trust secure 420 acres of land for nature restoration (around 230 football pitches). Here’s the story of why and how.

The 2019 State of Nature Report was a wake-up call for everyone with a love of nature.  I became determined to do my bit and buy some land where nature could thrive.

As well as starting my search for land I also started a reading journey (included Wilding by Isabella Tree) and discussions with local conservation groups.   I soon decided that I wanted to secure land for nature beyond my lifetime and in the hands of experts in conservation, rather than an amateur enthusiast like me.

Supporting our Wildlife Trusts

Rewilding is currently a bit of a buzz word, with all manner of people and organisations talking about it.   To me conservation groups like the Wildlife Trusts, whose very reason for being is to protect nature, are best placed to act as guardians of our land in the long term – not just while rewilding is a trendy hot topic.

I appreciate that some feel that in the past some of our conservation charities have taken a rather limited approach to nature restoration, as discussed in Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald.  However, my experience is that their staff and volunteers on the ground are determined to update their approach and refocus on landscape scale nature restoration and allowing nature to lead the way.

By a more diverse range of people, especially more young people, getting active with their local Wildlife Trust and other conservation groups like the RSPB, we can help ensure that they continue to move with the times and recognise the latest approaches to managing land best for nature and people in the context of a climate and ecological emergency.

It’s particularly important that people of all walks from life, ages, ethnicity and from both rural and urban communities get to experience nature in order to ensure a shared passion to protect it.  I hope that our Wilder Dorset will be a welcoming place for all, including those new to visiting our wild spaces.

A role for people like me

I’m in the very fortunate position to have more money than I need and I also have certain skills and some time to offer to do my bit to help tackle the climate & ecological crisis.  I hope that by telling my story I might inspire a few more people to do similar  and help secure more land in the care of our Wildlife Trusts for the benefit of nature and people.

Having sold a company that I helped set up, I had a pot of money that I could use to help secure action on the Climate & Ecological Emergency.  It dawned on me that if I used that money to buy land to rewild myself that would be just one project and one bit of land secured.  However, if I loaned money to a conservation group to act as a bridge so that they could act quickly to make an offer on land when it became available, that then gave them time to recoup those funds from other sources, many of which only become available once they own the land.  Eventually once the loan was repaid to me, I could then help facilitate another land purchase for nature and people and so on.

So in the summer of 2020 I started negotiating the purchase of land south of the village of Bere Regis in Dorset and at the same time started discussing the land with local conservation groups.

After agreeing a purchase of the land I continued discussions with local conservation groups and eventually agreed to work with the Dorset Wildlife Trust to secure the land in their expert care.   We Have The POWER funded a new role within the Dorset Wildlife Trust which was filled by a very experienced conservationist, Rob Farrington, whose first job was to pursue funding for the land acquisition.

By leading on the purchase I gave the Dorset Wildlife Trust time to obtain funding for the land including from our local councils.  Wildlife in Dorset will now get more of the space it desperately needs to spread and regenerate and local people and visitors will get access to a wonderful new nature space.

A reading journey through nature

Here’s the core of the reading journey I took in case you’re interested:

Wild : An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths

Wilding : The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree about the Knepp Estate

Rebirding : Restoring Britain’s Wildlife by Benedict Macdonald

Rewilding : The Radical New Science of Ecological Recovery by Paul Jepson and Cain Blythe

Next steps

The land acquired is close to the village of Bere Regis in Dorset and there are many other villages and towns near by.  An important first step will be community engagement and ensuring that a diverse range of voices are heard.

It’s really important that, alongside nature restoration, we consider how our food needs can be met without just exporting land degradation through agriculture abroad. That’s why eating sustainably is so important.  I’m particularly keen to explore increasing community food growing on the land which already contains allotments.

You can follow updates on the site from the Dorset Wildlife Trust here. 

Learn more about Julia Davies and her support for environmental charities, campaigns and start-up companies and community initiatives here

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