How Wild Horses are Rewilding Britain
“Now for a film that’s been 14 years in the making. Back in 2002, we told you how wild horses have been introduced to Kent to help with the countryside and we’ve been watching them ever since. If you’re out enjoying the Kent countryside you may come across this enchanting scene these are the wild horses of Kent. They now call several nature reserves across the county their home. The horses are called conics. They’re genetically the closest thing to the wild horses which roamed across England 7,000 years ago and they aren’t here for decoration, they’re working for a living.
Peter Smith from Wildwood trust Nick Canterbury is a big fan of the conic horses many of the niche reserves that we couldn’t manage properly on mail manage thanks to these wonderful horses so where did they come from in a word Holland many years ago wild horses were successfully introduced to a nature reserve near Amsterdam called boost Vadis blossom boost flawless Klaassen is fantastic I mean what a wealth of wildlife I’ve never seen so much rare bird so many rare forms of plant all living in one area so in 2002 Peter raised some money and bought some wild horses to bring back to Kent you the first ones were released in STAAD marsh near Canterbury 14 years later these are at all marshes near Faversham
Peter is the first to admit that in the early days they were rather making it up as they went along we just didn’t know what we were doing it was all news exciting you know we were becoming Cowboys instead of conservationists this is how it works if this land was left alone the scrub would grow and it would eventually turn into woodland but conservationists want to keep the land like this as a habitat for rare animals.
it’s too difficult and expensive to cut back the scrub with machinery but wild horses will eat anything they’re stopping field from scrubbing over and creating wetlands the natural way providing a home for all sorts of wildlife it’s an example of what’s becoming known as rewilding across the whole of the community of people who work Mitch conservation ecologists academics they are all coming to understand that rewilding is the future of nature conservation the horses started off managing the wetland at staad Marsh near Canterbury and ham fen their sandwich they then spread across the county nature evolved to live in harmony with the grazing of these horses and then all the rare beasties things that we think of incredibly red will have a place to live and we could have them all back in that and it’s not just Kent soon the horses were heading to pastures new across the border and into Sussex; for instance the breed valley near hastings, you’ll notice that they’re all fairly scraggly.
their coats have been rolling in a lot of mud we met Philip Newton five years ago when he converted 100 acres of his farm into wetlands and needed the help of wild horses.
about 15 years ago this whole area that you can see was arable and it was all drained and ironically I reversed process as a friend of mine says just add water and see what happens that’s what you want me to scratch so five years on what has happened the whole of this landscape of where they are was changed considerably a lot of open grazed areas and it’s providing the perfect habitat for the nesting waders and the overwintering waders and wetland Birds it’s the habitat is nearly what I would consider to be exactly as required the optimum the word spread and many different conservation organizations became interested Peter isn’t in charge of some kind of coordinated rollout program but over the years the idea gained momentum and soon the horses set foot or rather set hoof all across the country, for instance, Wicken Fen nature reserve in Cambridgeshire received 13 conic horses 13 years ago and now has over 90.!
The births are always lovely when you come down to the herd in the morning, and there’s a brand new Teufel foal it’s always really exciting. More horses have made their way to Blacktopped Sands reserve near GU the East Riding of Yorkshire normally they’re quite calm and then all of a sudden you’ll just get this burst of energy where they start rustling and tussling with each other and the visitors love it yeah we’d be lost without them really the team at the lock of Strasburg reserve in Scotland use GPS devices on their horses to keep track of them they are wild and untamed so it can be a little bit interesting if they choose to be a bit frisky but hopefully they’ll behave themselves today but the horses can’t be left completely alone.
sometimes they have to be swapped between locations to make sure they don’t become inbred but what we’re going to do to get genetic diversity is will take scallions away and put new stallions on that’s the best way so it’s like all hurt structures ladies are in charge and the other they’ve got the knowledge and the true and instincts to protect the herd so we’re going to try to keep the ladies together as much as we have and the men superfluous just have to move around and do their job.
Back over in Sussex, Phillip Newton has left his horses wild and free and hasn’t had to interfere with their day-to-day business apart from one memorable occasion the only time we’ve ever had a problem was when there was a serious flash flooding somebody on the train considered that they were stranded in the field and the RSPCA lady turned up police fire and rescue and it was pathetic the horses could have swum if they’d wanted to and yet these chaps turned up in dry suits breathing apparatus!
I was forbidden to go near them and they just walked out so that is how the wild horses are rewilding the countryside Peter Smith hopes that this is the way nature will be preserved in the future we need to rebalance we need to learn to stop taking from nature and start giving back and that’s the future of nature conservation rewilding let me to get on with it and have bigger niche reserves to bequeath to our children so wild horses were in Kent 7,000 years ago and at this rate, their relatives will be here in 7,000 years time”
Thanks, BBC for your superb program. (Transcripted)