Smiley Movement logo

Rewilding activists gain audience with the Crown Estate

Words by Smiley Team

Environmental campaigners had a breakthrough on the morning of 15 December, gaining an audience with the Crown Estate. In the meeting, they wished to explain why managers of Royal Land should protect the planet by rewilding 850,000 acres of land they own across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The organisation responsible for this win, Wild Card, has been campaigning since the start of the pandemic with the hope of engaging high profile landowners to restore the countryside to its original state of natural abundance.

“Rewilding is a radical idea. But it's also a radically popular idea that most people can agree on,” says Joel Scott-Halkes, a co-founder of Wild Card. “So I think our big success isn't just to have gained a meeting with the Crown Estate, it’s also to have spread this really positive, life-affirming idea in what is probably the darkest of times for humanity.”

[Discover more positive news for life on land, about initiatives restoring nature and wildlife]

Joel and a group of others concerned about the climate crisis came together after realising that there wasn’t yet a dedicated campaign to demand rewilding of large landowners across the UK. Each of them has come on a long journey to reaching the point at which rewilding is their priority.

“Before, I wasn't particularly concerned about the environment, working in the film industry,” recounts Joel. “I was trying very hard and it was making me increasingly miserable. But now I’ve found this incredible community of interconnected people who - like me - feel much better for doing something about the problem we all face - the climate crisis.”

Joel now works alongside a range of individuals including an ecologist, a secondary school teacher, a web developer and a graphic designer among others. Convinced by their vision, scientists and celebrities such as TV presenter Chris Packham have also joined them. 

Together this diverse group built the foundations of Wild Card, for which the campaigners say they’ve taken on the role of the joker - hence the name - to convince powerful landowners they must rewild their estates.

[Read other uplifting stories from Smiley Movement about individuals and organisations doing good]

“The thinking behind Wild Card is that we want to play the trickster,” explains Joel. “In ancient, medieval courts, the fool was the one person who could speak truth to power. In King Lear by Shakespeare, for example, the fool is constantly mocking the king, telling him he’s a terrible leader. So in some ways, we're playing a similar role, appealing to the wisdom of powerholders in a joyful, playful way.”

Now that they’ve caught the attention of the Crown Estate, they hope to drive forward their campaign with ambitions to persuade the Duchy of Lancashire, that they too need to rewild their estate of 18,454 hectares that they’ve owned since 1265 and the ancient Duchy of Cornwall, owners of 52,000 hectares.

In the New Year, their focus will turn to the Church of England and Oxbridge universities, which own nearly 250,000 acres of land between them.

To help build momentum for rewilding and return the UK to its former natural glory, join or support Wild Card.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

You might also like…