Free workshop announced : NEW CREATURES OF THE FOREST?


The return of beavers, boar, lynx and wild grazing to the landscapes of Britain

1 October  2011,   10.00 – 12.30

A free workshop @ the woodland edge conference venue, Neroche.

Experienced practitioners will give illustrated talks on how these wild animals can shape the environment around them. The discussion will consider whether and how these animals might become more widespread in Britain.

Key issues to be addressed will include:

·   What are these species’ effects on the ecosystem?

·   What is the recent experience with these animals in the UK? 

·   How do practitioners, policy makers and the pubic feel about returning these species?

10.00  Welcome & Introductions

– Rick Minter and Gavin Saunders –

10.05  The Awakening Forest – re-wilding the land or the people?

– Peter Taylor & Rick Minter –

10.15  Current experiences with beavers in the UK and future prospects for beavers in England

– Derek Gow & Lisa Schneidau –

10.35  Discussion on the potential for beavers in England

10.50  Realising lynx in our wildwood – how might it happen

– James Thomson & Peter Taylor –

11.10  Discussion on the potential for lynx back in Britain

11.25  Wild grazing, including experience from managing heck cattle in Devon

– Derek Gow –

11.45  Discussion on wild grazing – issues, policies and practices

12.00  Optional walk to view and discuss the longhorn cattle in Neroche

12.50  Close

Lunch will be available to purchase from the outdoor conference catering facility. A discussion article based on issues raised at this event will be prepared for ECOS.

Speaker details:

Gavin Saunders is Project Manager of the Neroche Scheme

Peter Taylor is author of ‘Beyond Conservation – a Wildland Strategy’

Rick Minter is editor of ECOS and adviser on public perceptions in the outdoor environment  

Derek Gow advises on mammal restoration projects, including beaver reintroduction schemes

Lisa Schneidau is Director of Conservation at the Somerset Wildlife Trust

James Thomson is a media adviser who has researched the potential for lynx reintroduction


Imagining the wildwood

I’m intrigued, not only because the Woodland Edge conference will somehow be happening within the forest itself, but just a stones throw from Taunton Racecourse. I’ve a loose affiliation with this place and a grey memory of photographing some hardy punters there one very breezy February afternoon. I learnt two things that day… 1. If your trains heading due north to Cheltenham, you’re going to the wrong race meeting  2. Having a camera round your neck can be a passport to generous hospitality, but a compass is a more reliable source of direction. I’m expecting something quite different from the Woodland Edge to what I experienced in the Members Enclosure a few years ago and I reckon that’s a positive. Wishfully, I’m hoping there’ll be a lovely stew simmering away in Camp Neroche to guide me in off the M5 when I make my way down from Edinburgh in a few weeks time (that was part of the deal yeh Gavin?)

Call this work?! Overlooked by the oaks on the edge of the woods, the team try to get down to timetable planning

If you don’t know the precise whereabouts of the event, from what I understand you’ll need to aim for a pub called the Greyhound Inn and then go north-west for a bit. I might claim to know something about what the venue looks like by peering down at it from space, but I prefer to let Gavin Saunders’ photos fertilise the roots of you’re imagination. After browsing the fruit’s of the Neroche Landscape Partnership Scheme’s website, I can’t help but speculate on the possibility of glimpsing a wild boar in the undergrowth or listening to the damp chorus of rooks homing in for the night. Having spent the last two months in Edinburgh putting up with whiny seagulls at my window like something out of a Hitchcock film, Michael Palin’s desire to escape the confines of his pet shop for something wilder feels quite pertinent.

Considering I was only introduced to Monty Python a few weeks ago by my flatmate, Alex Mitchell’s cartoon was completely lost on me when I received it back in August. First impressions can be deceiving, in haste I had initially mistaken Neroche as the event’s corporate sponsor. Having done some research on the matter though, I realised it was actually the name offered to the forest site in the 13th century when it was kept as a royal hunting estate. According to this nifty leaflet ‘Neroche’ is derived from the Old English nierra and rechich, meaning “the camp where hunting dogs were kept”… I guess a lot has changed since it’s royal days I will have to wait and see. Unless the racecourse now doubles up as a greyhound track during the week, I probably don’t need to worry too much about being savaged by dogs in the darkness of the night.

The conference planning group sit in the sun at the conference site, dreaming of the day when all the tents and people start arriving...

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will try to report back to you bits and bobs of what I see, hear, smell and eat from within the Woodland Edge as the event unfolds. So with 120+ attendants and delegates expected to land on Camp Neroche from all over the UK later this month, be sure to grab yourself one of those last remaining pairs of tickets as we announce the line-up here. As the leaves begin to fall, volunteers have been out and about crafting seating areas for participants over the weekend. I can just imagine myself sunk into one of these rustic creations now, lazily sipping on some local cider and reflecting on the days proceedings in front of an open fire. To top that off, I guess all we need is one of those better-late-than-never Indian summers…

– James