Wilding is an idea whose time has certainly come.

The chance to return huge areas of our towns and countryside to nature is vital at a time of climate crisis.

Returning areas to a wild state helps cut emissions and improves biodiversity.

The loss of biodiversity in this country over recent decades has been dramatic. Once these species have gone it is very difficult to get them back, though not impossible.

In Isabella Tree's excellent book Wilding, she tells how she and her husband rewilded the 3,500-acre Knepp estate in West Sussex.

They stopped traditional farming and let the land recover. Animals were introduced that helped this to happen. These included long horned cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies, red and fallow deer.

The way these animals interact with the land helps bring back other creatures, like nightingales, turtle doves and painted lady butterflies.

Coppicing of woodland is also returning.

It is extraordinary what develops, when the land can breathe.

Humankind has done so much damage by imposing its present, particularly destructive, blueprint for living on the rest of nature. So much of what humans do is totally unnatural, such as the use of damaging pesticides and herbicides.

Rewilding has really taken off across the country.

Local authorities have embraced the idea, allowing areas to go wild, stopping cutting verges and planting wildflower meadows.

In Wanstead, the Grow Zones project is based in this philosophy.

Championed by Wild Wanstead and supported by Redbridge council, it has seen parts of George Green being allowed to run wild.

Similarly on Christchurch Green there has been some planting of wild flower varieties to get things going.

Most recently, Thames Water agreed to establish wildflower meadows around the pumping station at Redbridge roundabout.

The results on George Green have been dramatic, with 80 species of flora found in the area. The Essex Skipper butterfly has also appeared.

But now we need to go further and faster. The Grow Zone concept needs to expand across Redbridge, so that biodiversity can be improved and climate change countered.

It is important that local people are kept informed about what is going on, otherwise they might get the wrong idea and assume the council are just not cutting the grass.

So long as people are told what is going on and why, the vast majority will be supportive.

In Wanstead, there is also the excellent work of the community gardeners, whose efforts are dramatically improving the biodiversity and look of the area.

So, in Wanstead, a start has been made on the Grow Zones and wilding concept but things really do now need to expand and accelerate.

And in Redbridge we have such a rich ecological heritage to build upon, with fantastic open spaces like Roding Valley, Wanstead, Valentines and South Parks. Not forgetting Fairlop Water and Hainault Forest.

The period of the pandemic has seen nature coming back across many areas, it has offered a preview, in many instances, of what can be.

So let's build on that now, adopting a preferential option to wherever possible rewild Redbridge.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See paulfdonovan.blogspot.com.