Updated: Dec 17, 2020
My work this month involved a fascinating workshop and discussions with Broughton Hall's current custodian Roger Tempest and his team. His ancestors were given the land almost 1000 years ago by William the Conqueror.
In the 25 years since Roger took on running the estate, he has launched the over-subscribed rural business park, the inspirational Avalon Wellness Centre - with indoor pool, vast yoga studio and treatment rooms - and the Utopia Restaurant offering vegetarian and vegan cuisine.
Roger plans to transform Broughton Hall into a future-facing sanctuary and December 2020 sees the estate enter into a new phase of its evolution. The planting of 280,000 trees marks the start of their rewilding project - the largest in England.
The existing landscape is dominated by intensive sheep grazing, with only 6% tree cover. Once their goal of over 1 million planted trees is complete the estate will be a rich mosaic of habitats, teeming with wildlife, with over 30% tree cover.
Several initial years of intense activity will kick-start the land's natural recovery. This will ultimately provide multiple benefits - not only for visitors to Broughton, through health and wellbeing, access and education opportunities, but also to the wider communities in West Yorkshire through reduced flood risk, better water quality, improved carbon sequestration.
Roger's team will also be removing fencing where appropriate to help provide a greater sense of wildness on the estate, and in a few years’ time they expect to be introducing small numbers of large native breed cattle, pigs and ponies. These animals will be allowed to roam freely to help create a rich range of habitats, as they have done successfully in other rewilding projects.
Alongside the rewilding, Broughton Hall is regularly used for retreats and events aimed at facilitating personal transformation and development. Should you wish to visit and experience first-hand, they have holiday cottages for rent, and the stunning hall itself is available for weekends, longer stays and private or corporate events.