Once upon a time the lake district was covered in trees. My new (old) book – 'The Lake District National Park' – tells me a little bit about ancient civilisations in the lake district. The earliest evidence of humans found in the area are flints from the Mesolithic period, discovered along the coastline where it is likely the dense canopy rainforest that covered Britain was more sparse. The bare ground we see today is a human artefact of deforestation, heavy sheep grazing, and other destructive activities such as the burning of grouse moors. Later, Neolithic axe factories were discovered in the central part of the lake district, evidence of the beginnings of deforestation.
George Monbiot has been campaigning for re-wildling in the UK for some time, in a recent article in UK Hill Walking he answers some key question about re-wildling in light of the recent flood events.
In many places attempts to do this have already begun - in the video below some of my former colleagues, Liz Lewis-Reddy and Clive Faulkner from Montgomeryshire wildlife trust talk about the success of a pilot trial of the trust's living landscape project, the Pumlumon project, which aims to improve carbon and water storage by restoring biodiversity in the Welsh uplands. Clive talks of the simplicity behind this idea whilst Liz highlights the socio-economic issues that hinder the wider implementation of the scheme.
Reading the views of George Monbiot makes a strong case for re-wilding, but the economic cost benefit in not so easy to campaign as erecting strong, visible barrages. It can be hard too to convince people to change the landscape that we see as being normal but which definitely isn't natural. I'm definitely advocating investing money into conventional flood defences but alongside this there must be also investment in natural solutions that can buffer the response especially in the face of more and more extreme events being predicted.