Before (2019), During (2020) and After (2021) - Note: the 2021 map was too ambitious. We've only got about half of that past our managers
Our commitment is to “rewilding unused school playing field land” is a simple idea which has lots of benefits to society. From saving the environment to preventing asthma; from better mental health to the protection of species - the list of benefits is long. But we don’t want to talk about the huge number of benefits, we want to get them. My school is in one of the ten poorest areas in Scotland, according to recent figures, we hope rewilding will benefit us.
This is what an unused playing field looks like before any rewilding takes place.
Unused playing fields are ‘green deserts’ - they are almost lifeless. We believe most of this should be left alone to become a natural habitat.
Our commitment actually matches the 2010 Scottish government’s school estates strategy but there’s a gap between policy and practice here. Somehow we have to demonstrate the value of rewilding to the people who manage the land.
The first step towards rewilding was to persuade the land owners not to cut the grass. So in 2018 we got permission to mark out these green areas shown on this site plan. In 2019 the areas produced a bit of colour and some positive comments. Long grass might look untidy but we noticed it caught and hide litter too. That was an unexpected aesthetic improvement that counterbalanced the idea that long grass looks untidy. Some areas we seeded with wild flowers, some areas we just left alone.
We failed to get permission to plant trees. We may have to wait for some mindsets to change before we get permission to plant trees and forest out schools. At first we saw this as a set back, but maybe the idea of rewilding is a step towards something even better than a Forested School that looks like a leafy park. This could be a first step towards adopting EO Wilson’s ‘Half Earth’ plan. The Half Earth plan is to set aside half the earth for natural habitat. That is the target if we are seriously going to protect biodiversity on the planet. To make half this school’s land into natural habitat was thinking the unthinkable until this year, but now I have reason to think it’s possible.
This year, we got permission to expand the rewilded areas. Again we met with Dave the grasscutter and made a plan. It’s not half the school yet, we still need to document and monitor, and see what nature does, and make a case for further expansion. But hopefully the planned rewilded area will look like this in 2021. At that point we will have rewilded approximately 20 acres for local and educational benefit.
We want to see the unused playing fields of Scotland used as orchards or growing spaces, and where possible, rewilded, to fight climate change and protect biodiversity. We intend to win the argument that the overall value of trees makes the local risks and costs of growing trees worthwhile. We hope to see 10 schools in Fife adopt versions of our ideas and grow trees, orchards and food where once only grass was allowed.
Accredited by Clinton Global Initiative University
We aim to present our work at the CGI conference in Edinburgh in 2020. It's now postponed to 2021 because of the world plantdemic but we're still going to be there!