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We're on a mission to create new places for nature in England, not for profit but for wild things and all of us.
Heal launched in 2020 as the world's first charity dedicated to becoming a rewilding landowner at scale
When we launched, we were the world's first charity dedicated to becoming a rewilding landowner. Our name is our purpose: heal the land, heal nature, heal ourselves.
Our mission is to buy land in England and rewild it, not for profit but to help nature recover, to fight climate change and to support people's physical and mental wellbeing. We will take ecologically depleted land and give it back to nature. We acquired our first site in December 2022 in Somerset and aim of creating a site in every English county.
Our sites are for nature and for all of us: they will be free to enter and will be a place where people can spend time in a wild landscape to help heal mind, body and soul. We are also running courses, workshops and gatherings on all sorts of topics relating to wildlife, climate change, sustainable living and wellbeing.
The UK is one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to nature
The state of nature in the UK is dire. We've taken so much land from nature in this country that 188 countries are doing better than the UK for the health of their natural environment - and England is even worse, at 234th in those global rankings. We can do so much better - and we will. We need to give land back to nature so that it can recover. We all know about the climate emergency too, and rewilding helps fight climate change too.
Making rewilding happen couldn't be simpler: find money, buy land and give it back to nature.
Rewilding heals nature and the climate
Rewilding is an amazing way help heal nature and the climate. Nature is in charge instead of us.
And with nature in the driving seat, magic happens.
The land begins to heal. The soil starts to brim with life. Animals browse and rootle and scuff up the land. Seeds drift in, settle on bare earth and flowers bloom. Baby trees spring up. Brambles blossom and feed hungry bees. Ants scurry, moths flutter, mice scuttle. Beetles trundle, butterflies swoop, foxes lope. Birds sing their hearts out. Beavers...beaver.
The air is bright and clear. Rain falls and runs out fresh and clean. The plants and trees capture carbon as they grow stronger. Chemicals no longer harm the land. Within a generation, creatures galore fill this place that nature has reclaimed.
Heal Somerset - our first site
Through donations and impact lending, we raised enough funding to acquire our first rewilding site near Frome in Somerset. Heal Somerset is a beautiful 460-acre site with three tributaries of the River Frome running through it, with huge potential for nature recovery which is now underway. The site opened to the public in summer 2023. There are eight kilometres of mown paths for people to enjoy 50 weeks of the year, any time of the day or night. The website for Heal Somerset is at www.healsomerset.org.uk.
Heal is run by business people who love nature, helped by lots of experts and advisors
The people behind Heal - the Trustees - love nature so much that they give their time for nothing to make Heal's vision real. Heal is run day-to-day by Jan Stannard, one of the co-founding Trustees, with Operations Director Hannah Needham. This founding team together has nearly 300 years of experience in life, business and nature. Our Founding Patron is Ted Green, named in the first sentence of Isabella Tree's seminal book, 'Wilding'. We're advised by scores of experts, from ecologists, ecosystem carbon and pond specialists to entomologists, botanists and birders.
We want England to be rich in wildlife for the next generation
Heal's legacy will be a better natural world for the generations that come after us. We want them to be surrounded by countryside which is teeming with life, not empty. We have a huge following amongst young people who care deeply about the impact that we've had as a species upon the rest of nature and the climate.
Listening to the next generation
To make sure that Heal makes decisions which resonate with the hopes and views of the young, Heal has its own young persons' network for those aged 30 and under, called Heal Future. Leading Heal Future is a panel of ten young people, our 'Future Advisors' who scrutinise Heal's plans and policies as they are developed, create and refine marketing and promotional materials, contribute to awareness campaigns, and suggest new ideas on how Heal can help people of all ages and backgrounds to reconnect with nature.
We have over three hundred volunteers already - our Heal Helpers
Our lean core team is helped every day of the week (and weekends) by over 300 volunteers - our Heal Helpers - with backgrounds including science, conservation, ecology, tech, industry, the civil service, marketing, social media, law, publishing, psychology, media, farming, finance, PR, project management. Our volunteers help virtually from anywhere in the UK or beyond, at events and at Heal Somerset. These good-hearted, kind people are all doing something positive about the nature, climate and wellbeing challenges we all face and here are just a few of them:
We've had strong support so far
We launched a week into the first lockdown and all our fundraising has been done in one of the most difficult periods in history for charities. We are humbled by the huge amount of support we've had since then and are very proud of our achievements. A charity fundraising expert said that the level of donations we've had is amongst the best they've ever seen for a new charity coming from a standing start. But we need more funds to take the rapid action that is so necessary for change.
People love Heal
Since our launch, we've received thousands of messages of support. Here are just a few examples:
"Hurrah! You are doing exactly what I have been wishing somebody could do."
"The world needs more wild places. The sooner Heal can reach its target of buy its first piece of land, the better."
"Found you through a Guardian article and I think what you’re doing is AMAZING!"
"I came across Heal just yesterday and I have to say your mission, ethos and plans for the future have been on my mind ever since. What Heal is aiming to achieve has been a breath of fresh air! (without trying to sound to corny)."
"Amazing cause. I truly believe in rewilding and giving us the opportunity to help and be a part of it is fantastic."
"Light in the darkness - thank you for making a vision a reality."
A donation of £1 made us happy
We've had a donation of £1. Why did that make us happy? When we set up Heal, we wanted anyone - no matter how little they had to give - to be able to contribute to a rewilding project. And someone gave us a small donation and said this:
"I can't tell you how excited and relieved I feel [about Heal launching]. Having a very low income myself, I felt helpless, that there was no chance of making a difference."
Companies are supporting us
We now have support from 20 companies and we are increasingly being approached about corporate partnerships. Everyone we work with is special to us, so we’re serious about making sure we’re right for each corporate supporter. For instance, our Trustees help make sure there is alignment of values and we also consult our Heal Future Panel. We evaluate whether a company has a meaningful commitment to environmental and sustainability goals, can already demonstrate change, or are on a journey of change.
Company support currently includes:
- Straightforward donations
- Online retailers offering customers a choice of charity for a donation, including Heal
- Merchandise with profits to Heal (eg sustainable clothing with special designs)
- Employee volunteering
- Patient loans - provision of soft, long-term lending at very low interest rates to accelerate our site acquisition
- Free or reduced cost services or products
Here is more information about Heal and its plans
- How will you run your first site?
Heal Somerset is a 460-acre former dairy farm on heavy clay in Somerset, half way between Frome and Bruton. At the heart of the site are buildings waiting to be converted to visitor facilities and accommodation. At this scale, we can bring small numbers of cattle, ponies and pigs onto the land all year round, to act as 'ecosystem engineers'. This is the blueprint that we’ll use for all sites - we’re aiming to create one in every English county by 2050, covering at least 25,000 acres (10,000 hectares).
- How will your sites be run?
We are creating sites which are welcoming to people from all backgrounds and abilities. Sites will be free to enter - all visitors will have the option to donate what they can. We are taking steps to ensure that our sites are accessible and welcoming for everyone, through consultation with experts and community groups. We are determined to ensure that we create an inclusive culture and provide facilities to satisfy a wide range of needs. It is essential to us that everyone feels safe and at home on our sites, and that our work helps to address the barriers that many people face in the countryside, particularly people from ethnic minority backgrounds and people with physical disabilities.
We will open around half of each site to general public access and an area dedicated to families and younger children. We will keep the rest of the land closed for nature, to give it the seclusion it needs to thrive, with access only by our staff, volunteers, scientists, and occasional supervised access for major donors and supporters.
At each site we aim to have visitor facilities, a local membership scheme, a cafe or refreshment pop ups and sustainable local produce and products on sale. We are still fundraising for this phase at Heal Somerset, which has 100,000sq ft of buildings and a main farmhouse for events and community use.
- Doesn't rewilding mean wolves?
In some places in the world, it does, but they aren't in Heal's plans. Beavers might be, if the local community wants them back and the ecology is right for them. At Heal Somerset, there are wild-living beavers in two family groups close to the site. Other rewilding sites are helping many wonderful species become re-established, like bison, cranes, white storks and corncrakes. We will make individual decisions at each site about any reintroductions and we'll be led by the science and evidence.
- What else will people be able to do on your sites?
As well as being able to spend time in nature, Heal sites will be a place of learning. We will use the buildings for courses and workshops in our three areas of work: nature recovery, climate change action and wellbeing. We want people to come and be inspired to help nature and the climate and go home vowing to live more sustainably and make more space for wildlife where they live. Many of Heal's Trustees, donors and supporters are either vegetarian or vegan, for planetary health, personal health or animal welfare reasons, and though we will have 'kept wild' large animals - cattle, ponies and pigs along with wild deer - we have no plans to kill our livestock for meat sales. We are developing herd management approaches to make this possible.
- Will your sites be sustainable long term?
We have done months of detailed business modelling with input from rural business development and ecotourism experts, and identified many different revenue streams for sites. We're using a blend of established and novel approaches. The spread of income means that no single stream is greater than ten per cent, which ameliorates risk.
- What about your farming neighbours and local communities?
We want to develop good relationships with our neighbours. Ideally, our sites will be part of a Nature Recovery Network, joined-up landholdings where wildlife can move freely through spaces with safe and varied habitats. This is the case at Heal Somerset, where we are located in an area where many neighbouring landowners are keen to support nature recovery. Otherwise, we will be a hub for wildlife and we will work with surrounding landowners to create wildlife corridors - land and water - enabling safe transit to other habitats.
- Will you create jobs?
Yes, we will create 5-6 new roles at each site and these could bring much-needed employment, especially for younger people. We have already created five new roles based at the Heal Somerset site.
If you want to speak to us about any aspect of our work, please call 020 3355 2149 or email us at [email protected].