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Farmers to return area the size of Dorset to wild nature

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Returning an area the size of Dorset to wild nature, reintroducing extinct lynx, pelicans and beavers and championing regenerative farming to restore soil health are the radical aims of a new charitable foundation.

Hugh Somerleyton, Argus Hardy and Olly Birkbeck, who own more than 3,200 hectares (8,000 acres) on their family farms in Suffolk and Norfolk, are seeking to persuade farmers and also councils, businesses, schools and ordinary people across East Anglia to pledge a fifth of their land to wildlife.

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WildEast aims to dedicate 250,000 hectares of East Anglia to wildlife over the next 50 years while also working with schools to enhance children’s knowledge of farming and wildlife and creating an accreditation system to boost wildlife-friendly farmers.

“We want to wake up the regional collective consciousness,” said Lord Somerleyton. “If you’re prepared to rewild 20% of your backyard, that humbles the farmer because you’re not getting a grant for it. We in the east want to do it together and not wait for the government.”

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WildEast hopes that its new accreditation system will help East Anglian farmers using restorative agriculture – with long rotations that revive soil and micro-organisms – or high-welfare, natural outdoor grazing find markets and obtain higher prices for their food.

Source: 12

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