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‘We have a long way to go’: can the UK hit its ambitious 30% rewilding targets?

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More than 5 million tonnes of coal were hewn from land at West Chevington in Northumberland in the 1980s. Lorries, cranes and bulldozers crisscrossed the vast opencast mine that had been created there, flinging clouds of coal dust into the air and brutalising the landscape to provide fuel for the nation’s power stations and factories.

Today, the 327-hectare (808-acre) site faces a remarkable transformation. It is to become the focus of a major rewilding programme that will allow the land to return to a mix of scrub and wood and in the process provide homes for animals that could range from water voles to marsh harriers, and from curlews to harvest mice.

“We don’t know exactly what animals or birds will end up making homes here over the coming years but we are confident it will be a pleasant surprise,” said Duncan Hutt of Northumberland Wildlife Trust, which is running the project.

The West Chevington rewilding – which has £2m of funding donated by the Reece Foundation – is one of the biggest land restorations in the UK in recent years and is designed to make a key…

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