It may not be possible to reach consensus over Vera’s hypothesis for how the pre-Neolithic landscape functioned; some elements, such as whether the herbivore population was large enough to have the impact he proposes, are simply unknowable.

Policy in or for the wilderness?

For much of our history, the wilderness has been the place whence prophets came and whither outlaws were banished. I am not one of the former and have no desire to be among the latter. What follows is not the official position of Natural England or any other government body but, rather, a personal reflection

Re-wilding the grazers: obstacles to the ‘wild’ in wildlife management

British wildlife habitats have a multi-dimensional quality that can easily be overlooked. The most obvious dimensions might appear, to the less enquiring eye, as a mosaic of woodland, heath, dry and wet grassland, reedbed, saltmarsh and mudflats, with associated communities of plants and animals.

Herbivores in space: extensive grazing systems in Europe

Our interest in extensive grazing systems developed through a concern for the future of extensive (low-intensity) farming systems that were, and continue to be, integral to the continued biological richness and diversity of large areas of western Europe.

A speculative history of open-country species in Britain and northern Europe

Why are so many animal and plant species in Britain and in some other parts of northern Europe restricted to open habitats when the majority of the landscape would naturally be forested? I argue that the predominance of open-country species is chiefly a consequence of the history of glaciation in Europe, but that the current

Can the pre-Neolithic provide suitable models for re-wilding the landscape in Britain?

Palaeoecologists have been encouraging us to think about the relevance of the Holocene fossil record for nature conservation for many years (e.g. Buckland 1993) but this information seems slow to filter through to the conservation community. Indeed, Willis et al. (2005) report that recently published biodiversity reports and policy documents rarely look back more than


Frans Vera’s book, Grazing Ecology and Forest History, published in English in 2000, has generated considerable debate and not a little controversy. Whether one agrees with his views on the role of wild grazing in shaping pre-Neolithic European landscapes, or its potential to generate wildlife-rich countryside in the future, there can be no doubt that


This special supplementary edition of British Wildlife was conceived as a result of listening to the numerous debates about future directions in conservation policy, many of which have been prompted by Frans Vera’s work and his involvement with the inspiring example of practical conservation at Oostvaardersplassen, in The Netherlands.

Book review: The Flow: Rivers, Waters and Wildness

The Flow is an exploration of moving water, and the wildlife and people that make use of it: the varied springs, streams and rivers that are found across Britain. We walk the banks, glide across the surface (in the author’s beloved kayak), push through the water itself and enter the hidden depths below. Either by

Twitcher in the swamp

“Where they lack a name in everyday discourse, botanists ride to the rescue with such beauties as Eight-stamened Waterwort (uh, is ‘stamen’ a verb? Spellcheck doesn’t think so) or Medium-flowered Wintercress (I hope you all know what a medium-flower is?) or Grass-wrack Pondweed (grass what?).”

Conservation news

Conservation news discusses the efforts to eradicate Mink in East Anglia, the updated Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, the Boothby Wildland rewilding project, and much more.

Wildlife reports

February’s wildlife reports highlight a new species of slime mould split from the bright orange Trichia decipiens, a rare sighting of a blue-phase male Lesser Emperor dragonfly, the discovery of the Greater White-toothed Shrew in Britain, the usual updates on butterflies, sawflies, molluscs, and much more.

How to be wild

“I have no doubt that every reader of this magazine has experienced awe in nature, even if we prefer to shut up about it. Awe probably got you into this in the first place.”

The range of Beech in Britain: lessons from the Quaternary

‘Many ecologists and conservationists, but interestingly not foresters, were blinded for many years by the concept of vegetation as a stable climax.’ (Peterken 1996) Unfortunately, more than 25 years after Peterken published those words, it seems that a level of myopia persists. Identifica­tion books and other texts often define ranges for plant species. These ranges

Letter from Caledonia

“When conservationists insist that the panacea for Scotland’s natural heritage is fewer grazing animals, I want to take them to Inninmore: look, please, to see living proof that the effects of grazing are not universally bad.”

Yardley Chase Training Area, Northamptonshire: a hidden gem

Yardley Chase Training Area, a military training area in Northamptonshire, is little known, but the secrecy and protection it benefits from as a consequence has resulted in an unique site. Jeff Blincow describes the history of Yardley Chase Training Area and the wonderful variety of habitats and wildlife found there. Northamptonshire rarely features in conversations

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