School of Life Sciences

Through the Bush Backwards

A graphic short story of Britain’s past, present, and future nature

Dr Chris Sandom is hoping the exotic past of Britain’s countryside will inspire people to think bigger and bolder about its future through stunning artwork, encouraging them to rethink the possibilities for how the Sussex countryside could look.

Collaborating with local artist Dan Locke, the pair have recreated Sussex’s wild past (from the last interglacial period – about 125,000 years ago – to the present day) as a graphic short story featuring some of the awe-inspiring beasts which previously roamed Sussex, including the spotted hyena, hippopotamus, and woolly rhinoceros.

Art has long played an important part in driving and designing nature conservation. For example, the Romantic era artists painted a rural idyll of Britain’s celebrated green and pleasant land. These picturesque scenes of a farmed landscape are an important part of our cultural heritage, but they have also been witness to an alarming decline of biodiversity.

The current loss of biodiversity is thought to be the start of the Earth’s 6th mass extinction. Rewilding, the restoration of nature to restore functional and self-sustaining ecosystems capable of supporting nature and society, has been put forward as the optimistic, innovative, and exciting agenda to overcome this problem.

Through the bush backwards is asking the public what natural environment they want to be surrounded by, and how humans integrate into this. With populations increasing, changes in farming methods and impacts of Brexit, there is a lot to consider. The project is particularly encouraging young people aged 15-25 years old to get involved. As the landholders and policy makers of the future, it’s essential these people are engaged early in the conversation. Nearly 100 people have taken part so far by drawing their vision of future Britain.

Outputs of the drawings and discussions will be incorporated into future rewilding research projects, to ascertain the feasibility of the public’s key ideas, while also collaborating with local landholders and policy makers to innovate new ways to integrate nature and society so that both can thrive in the future.

Want to share your ideas for Britain’s nature?

Download the template and send it back to us by uploading below, or tweeting the picture to @SussexLifeSci @Nature_Based.

Through the Bush Backwards was created through funding from the School of Life Sciences Public Engagement Proof of Concept fund and the People’s Postcode Lottery.