Plant numbers double at Wild Ken Hill


The number of different plant species in sampled areas has roughly doubled at Wild Ken Hill between 2019 and 2022, a study has found.

Some 404 ha of poor-quality farmland and some woodland at the 1,600-ha nature site in Snettisham, Norfolk, was rewilded in 2019. Project leaders said the results from survey were "exciting" for wildlife.

Wild Ken Hill is a rewilding project in west Norfolk (Wild Ken Hill).

The vegetation survey, which was carried out in 2019 and repeated in 2022 by ecologist Graeme Lyons, shows the average number of plants in sampled plots roughly doubled from 16.8 to 33.2. Several rare plants with conservation status, including Smooth Cat's-ear, had spread and scrub and tree species were beginning to naturally regenerate.

Wild Ken Hill said it credited the improvements to rewilding, particularly the introduction of free-roaming livestock. Project manager Dominic Buscall said: "There is a popular misconception that rewilding is simply about species reintroductions, afforestation, or bringing back specific species like beavers. But the truth couldn't be more different at Wild Ken Hill.

"The very fabric of the ecosystem is being restored from the ground up in a science-based, nature-led, and low-cost manner, benefiting the full suite of species, from plants and invertebrates to birds and mammals."

Conservation manager Hetty Grant added: "The results from the survey are very exciting for wildlife. For example, take Graeme's work showing the increase in the variety and abundance of nectar sources.

"We know that increasing food resource for invertebrates like this will have positive knock-on effects right up the food chain, benefiting all manner of birds, bats, and more."

Mr Lyons said the "standardised and repeatable survey" was not only important for "generating meaningful data" to inform Wild Ken Hill but also the rewilding movement as a whole.