Two thought provoking days at the Beth Chatto Symposium 'Rewilding the Mind'.

Four years have passed since the first Beth Chatto Symposium, which was an event I booked onto almost as a whim as I had no idea what it would be like and which turned out to be inspirational and educational and entertaining.  At the time they said they would like to do it in two years time, but of course in 2020 the pandemic stopped most events.  When they announced the symposium would happen again this year I booked my ticket without pausing.  I was not going to miss this.

I had/still have a lot to learn about rewilding and I was interested to know more.  I am not going to write about every talk, that would be a bit testing for you.  The talks varied from their approach to 'rewilding' and all added an interesting aspect.   I wrote quite a lot of notes and some still make sense when I reread them (always a bonus).

The event was hosted by Arit Anderson who kept the flow of talks working and ensured that the speakers pretty much kept to time.  Professor Alistair Driver started day 1 off with a fascinating talk about his work as Director of 'Rewilding Britain'.  Whilst Alistair was clear that rewilding is not all about reintroducing wolves and bears though it would appear that beavers are an important and useful introduction.  Indeed by the end of the two days I was thinking that unlike in the first symposium where sand was the answer, this time the answer is beavers.  Possibly the biggest take-away from Alistair's talk for me though was that size matters.  You cannot properly rewild in a small space, you need a large amount of land to create a workable ecosystem.  Of course most of us have gardens and often very small ones so I was grateful that Arit asked the question that was hanging in the air 'so what can I do in my garden?'  Alistair explained that we can do our bit: we can have water/ponds, we can leave wild margins for insects/wildlife etc and that the sum is bigger than the parts so everyone who does this helps.  Alistair also said that we could petition our local councils/landowners to have more wild-friendly areas.  This made what could have been quite a hypothetical discussion for us garden-dwellers into some realistic and doable.

There were several panels of speakers as well, which meant we got to hear a range of different voices.  Speakers included Poppy Okotcha and Dan Pearson, Tom Stuart Smith and John Little.  John Little talked a lot about holes in things for bugs and gabions (I am being so reductionist here it is untrue, there was a lot more to what he said that this, but that was my take-away action). Tom Stuart Smith talked about his work at Chatsworth and Hepworth Wakefield.  Now I admit I have heard this talk a couple of times (more or less, its not been exactly the same).  When Tom talked about his work at Hepworth Wakefield at the Garden Museum Literary Festival I had said it was now added to the list and so it was - more of this another time (she says mysteriously).  Dr Mike Edwards talked to us about exploring landscapes through sound, and Dr Wei Yang talked about garden cities and the importance of nature in town planning.  It was an eclectic mix that worked well.  The final talk on day 2 was from Fergus Garrett about the biodiversity audit they had carried out at Great Dixter.  Whilst my garden is tiny in comparison in every sense to Great Dixter, this audit gave me hope that my garden was doing its bit and I felt that Alistair Driver's and this talk topped and tailed the event perfectly.  If you get a chance to find out about the Biodiversity Audit then do, it was absolutely fascinating and the perfect conclusion to a magical couple of days.
On the evening of the first day we were treated to a reception at Beth Chatto's garden.  Being able to enjoy them as the sun was slowly going down was very special.
It all summed up to a very special time.  I really hope they hold this event again as I shall be certain not to miss it.

I want to say a special thank you to Barbara for letting me stay with her for the event, this was very kind and gave us a good opportunity to catch up after not really seeing each other at all over the pandemic.  

Take care and be kind.

For more from the Blackberry Garden follow me on Twitter Facebook and Instagram