What is Smaller-Scale Rewilding?

Rewilding could be one the most holistic and natural solutions to the climate crisis. Large national parks started the practice nearly thirty years ago in places like Yellowstone Park in America. Large scale projects are focused on wildlife conservation and reintroduction through natural, wild habitat regeneration.

Rewilding solves three key problems at once. It restores our soil so that it can become an effective carbon sink, it develops habitats which support wildlife and it helps regenerate natural plant growth. Each are critical ingredients to saving the planet from the effects of global warming. If we get it right, our soil alone should be able to absorb the majority of carbon emissions that we produce each year.

Rewilding is about creating the right balance of three essential habitats: woodland, open scrub and wild grassland. Smaller-scale rewilding also involves the creation of a fourth, which is waterways. Larger-scale rewilding assumes that there will be natural waterways flowing through the land. With smaller-scale rewilding this often has to be created.

Up until recently rewilding has been the sole preserve of national parks and a few large farms. They have proven the model and provided some of the approaches for how to make conservation-based rewilding work. But it needed something else to deliver climate-fixing rewilding at scale.

“A few years ago a Letts Group project started playing with an idea which could end up cracking the code for scalable, mass market solutions to the climate crisis. It is called smaller-scale rewilding.”

We accidentally discovered rewilding in 2005 when we decided to create a small, wild space outside New York for a specific project. We built an ecosystem of wild grasses, wildflower, shrub, scrub and trees on just a few acres. Before we knew it the wildlife started arriving. First insects, bugs and snakes. Then birds and mammals. A wasteland turned into a wildlife haven in just a couple of years.

We decided to do it again in a larger space. In 2014 we bought an old, run down 100 acre park and garden, called Mamhead Park South, on the outskirts of Exeter in the southwest of England. It was a mess. It has become a leading smaller-scale rewilding park.

Smaller-scale rewilding has become an accepted practice and it is classified as a rewilding project smaller than 250 acres. Over the last few years Letts Group have taken it a step further and defined a number of practical and distinct models from garden-scale rewilding through to 250 acre projects.

Smaller-scale rewilding is more involved, more technical and much more scalable. It is also focused on solving the climate crisis and not just limited to certain objectives around conservation. Smaller-scale rewilders make green spaces that are effective carbon sinks and oases of low carbon energy and natural food production. Their spaces also accelerate natural plant growth in a more controlled environment while nurturing habitats for wildlife.

Letts have for years been practising what it is now called ‘Wildlife Gardening’ – a trendy new gardening method for rewilding your garden. But we have also developed practical models for rewilding verges, allotments, commons, parks, smallholdings and corners of farms and estates.

If you tour the towns and countryside in southwest England you can already see a number of the approaches developed and showcased at Mamhead Park South appearing in the region. Clearly something is catching on. Indeed, Letts Group regularly host and educate government and business leaders, environmental experts, landscapers, conservationists and land holders committed to a more regenerative form of farming. We have also established a private sculpture park, called Devon Sculpture Park, which is solely focused on environmental art to extend the climate message.

If smaller-scale rewilding can become a wider movement for change then perhaps there is a glimmer of hope in the battle against climate change. After all, we estimate that there are over a billion gardens worldwide, more than 250 million smallholdings, and millions of smaller farms and parks. Imagine if they were at least part-rewilded.

Wildlife gardening is rewriting the book on how to garden, turning gardens into mini carbon sinks that support insects, birds and small mammals while advancing regenerative plant growth. Wildlife gardening practices zero watering techniques, zero chemical or pesticide approaches and zero use of petrol guzzling tools, making the new crop of electric tools truly du jour. All plants are left to seed and pruning techniques could not be more different. Wildlife gardens use outdoor lights that are solar powered.

oznor

Garden rewilding recreates small woodland with just a few trees, shrubs are carefully selected as proxies for scrub and wild grasses abound. Plants are generally chosen for their year round ability to support pollinators. And each plant is left to seed. We have established a three-tier waterway system which effortlessly links a pond to a bog garden and on to surface water over grasses which creates wetland. The insects and birds love it.

Letts Group has effectively miniaturised large-scale rewilding and repurposed it for mass market adoption – making it effective and understandable for everyone. We can all become a rewilding expert, no matter whether you have a small terrace garden, a roof garden, cottage garden or more. We will soon be launching a new Letts branded venture focused on delivering mass market adoption.

The Letts constantly remind us that in your garden you are the herbivore and herbivores are vital to managing projects that are larger than a garden or smallholding. When you walk across the Wildlands at Mamhead Park South you understand why. The extraordinary selection of conservation grazers that are unique to smaller-scale rewilding help maintain and shape the habitats keeping scrub as scrub, woodlands as healthy woodlands (where you can practice silvopasture techniques) and open grassland free of invasive species, scrub or tree shoots.

You can’t exactly reintroduce the bison, the wolf or a red deer into smaller-scale rewilding so at Mamhead Park you get to see what does work. The grazers are smaller and lighter with a reduced footprint, but no less wild and effective than their larger proxies. We even help to mathematically understand how many of these conservation grazers can be hosted per acre.

Smaller-scale rewilding is an eye opener and you are left with a profound sense of hope. We no longer need to wonder what we can do about the climate crisis. We don’t need to wait for the government or super-rich to act. Any of us can become a rewilding expert and planet saver. Greta Thunberg might soon be telling us about how she has rewilded her school yard!

Find out more about our climate projects at Letts Environment and keep up to date with the latest Letts Group news on twitter.

Letts Group’s Incubator

Corporate incubators have been all the rage. Around 10 years ago, a number of corporates started to set up some kind of corporate incubator or accelerator to nurture new business lines and innovative products. They had a limited vision of ‘incubator’ – generally designed to host new startups within their facilities. They offered them resources, support and, as they matured, market access.

10 years later many of these corporates have scaled down their efforts or largely abandoned them. Corporate incubator 1.0 did not realise its somewhat loose ambition. A number of the more innovative corporates and a few management consultants are working on the next generation of corporate incubator.

Letts Group has taken a different approach. Our incubator is an internal function that is central to the organisation. It is our growth engine – period.

“We see our incubator as a strategic, internal, centralised function. We have repositioned the group as a ‘branded incubator group’ to underscore this. We don’t just make small bets on our incubator or outsource it’s core capability. We’ve bet the entire shop on our incubator. It is our core capability.”

The concept of incubator has been with us for 225 years. In 1996, our original founder, John Letts opened a stationery shop and publishing incubator in the city of London. The front rooms the shop and the back rooms the incubator studio. From this setup he launched the world’s first commercial diary in 1812. It was market tested exclusively in the store and designed and made in the back rooms.

Letts Group’s Chairman, Philip Letts, started to develop the latest generation incubator in 1998. It was a separate entity, called Prophete, that nurtured external, non-branded innovations. It developed concepts such as Beenz, the Web currency, and Surfkitchen, a mobile operating system and media platform. It was an important parallel initiative as we started the process of divesting some of our book publishing interests.

In 2007 we further developed Letts Group’s latest generation incubator, after initial successes. We built a proprietary incubation methodology, which is called Innov@te™, and we designed our first incubator studio with a clutch of then, very new, cloud systems and processes. From this base we launched b-uncut, a social network for artists and blur Group, an online marketplace for creative services. Both were successfully spun out and became independent businesses.

It took much of the last 10 years to perfect the methodology, systems and processes to get to the point where we felt comfortable that our incubator was ready to develop multiple Letts branded businesses and products from scratch – and in parallel.

At the end of 2020 we gave the go ahead for 3 new Letts branded ventures to go to ‘live concept phase’. The tech industry would call it ‘beta launch’. The first hits the market in June. We have engineered the group, and developed the incubator, to the point where we feel comfortable that we will be launching a new Letts venture per year, starting this year.

It’s taken us 20 years to get to this point but we believe that we might have a line on corporate incubator 2.0. The proof will be in the pudding – starting next month!

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Letts Media Publication Examines Solutions to the Climate Change Crisis for Earth Day

Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ outlines a possible roadmap to reduce global warming – for Earth Day.

We should all understand the challenge by now. If we don’t keep global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels we risk an irreversible climate crisis.

“There are two ends of the problem that need to be addressed. We need to both reduce emissions and get better at capturing and storing carbon in the right places, rather than letting it escape into the atmosphere which adds to the heating problem.”

From ‘Surviving’

The article goes on to look at 5 macro-level solutions to the crisis that are proven, deliverable in the shorter term and internationally relevant. As we celebrate Earth Day 2021 it is important to not just focus on the risks that climate change presents – but to highlight the advances and approaches that can start to solve the problem.

“We have boiled it down to just 5 macro-solutions to the problem that combined should get us there – they include renewables, electrification, replacements, rewilding and lifestyle.

Extract from Letts Media’s ‘Surviving’

Letts Media publication ‘Surviving’ is about navigating business, innovation and life. It is edited by Philip Letts who is supported by some amazing analysts and researchers at the Surviving thinktank.

To read this and other articles go to Surviving.


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Letts Media Publication Examines Rewilding in London

Letts Media publication DSP Online is currently running a series on rewilding in London.

When we think of rewilding, too often we imagine vast wilderness or national park’s such as Yellowstone Park. Less known, but potentially as impactful, is smaller-scale rewilding which yields similar benefits in smaller green spaces in cities and the countryside.”

Sebastian Letts

This series is timely given that researchers and scientists have recently stated that we could reverse much of the damage of global warming by rewilding around 15% of key lands. A study in the Journal of Nature has shown that by doing this we could avoid 60% of expected wildlife extinctions while sequestering 30% of the CO2 increase in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.

To achieve wider rewilding targets we will need to develop rewilding techniques for urban and rural settings. One of Letts Environment’s rewilding experts is producing a series of reports which looks at approaches that could be taken in smaller, well known public spaces in London.

Rewilding such spaces would enable them to absorb the cities emissions while creating habitats which support wildlife. It would also educate Londoners about the importance of rewilding and hopefully inspire them to rewild their gardens.”

DSP Online

Rewilding could prove to be the most cost effective and holistic approach to reversing the damaging effects of climate change by absorbing emissions back into the soil while restoring and rebuilding wildlife populations. We have lost 68% of our animals worldwide in the last 50 years.

DSP Online is the leading publication for people who want to understand the affects of climate change and the growing array of solutions. It also examines eco-futures, research, findings and the environmental arts.

By subscribing to DSP Online you also get to support one of the worlds leading centres for smaller-scale rewilding based in southwest England.

If you want to understand more about climate change and the range of solutions being developed, subscribe to Letts Media publication DSP Online today – CLICK HERE.


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