Artificial Wilderness
Artificial Wilderness
Natural reserve Milovice
Artificial Wilderness
Natural reserve Milovice

Liberation of the landscape from human reins

When you pass the uninviting infrastructure of the former military base in Milovice, you find yourself looking at a landscape that does not resemble anything you can recall from Central Europe. The low-growing shrubs and abundance of plants evoke an open steppe. It might be a herald of what our landscape would look like in the future under certain circumstances.

The Milovice Nature Reserve has ceased to function as a production source for human activity. It was left alone for the natural processes to take over and even scientists did not expect such a rapid increase in biodiversity. This is also related to the food habits of its present-day inhabitants – animals that used to be common in the distant past – wild horses, bison and aurochs.

Aurochs were widespread in this area in the Middle Ages and, like the deer, was the locally dominant species. It has been extinct for four centuries now. The last aurochs died in 1627 in Poland. The Milovice specimens of the Taurus breed are the result of back-breeding. Genetically and in appearance they are very close to the original aurochs.

In the face of land and water scarcity in the time of climate crisis, large-scale intensive farming calls for rethinking. The landscape of the future may take on the form it used to have in ancient times, when it was not used intensively by humans to grow crops. It may gradually go wild, like in Milovice, which has become nature's experimental space and a place where diversity can exceed the boundaries.

For the time being, it covers only a small area of 125 hectares, adjacent to a busy road on one side and a golf course on the other. The reserve’s foundation wasn’t an easy process – despite the “advantage” of being a wasteland: the area had been used as a military training ground for the Austro-Hungarian army and then for the Soviet army. Will we ever be able to leave the countryside alone without ploughs and agricultural chemicals and let nature do its own experiments?

Sound archive

Milovice: Rewilding laboratory

The landscape that had been ravaged during the years when it served as a military training ground is gradually becoming populated by large ungulates that used to inhabit the area in the time of prehistoric hunters and early farmers – the wild horse, bison and aurochs. From visitor trails with overlooks, visitors can watch their herds grazing and moving across the local steppe in search of water. The modern-time visitors can also enjoy other recreation activities offered in the area. Just outside the fence is a golf course, a small airport, and a biker track. A busy road or a track designed for off-road vehicles also crosses the land. The soundscape of Milovice reflects on this contrast in an effort to record the native species that our ancestors domesticated amidst the hustle and bustle of the outside world. However, deep in the reserve, Sara finds enough peace to use her instruments to observe the behavior of ancient animals surrounded by thriving biodiversity, and capture the impressions of a landscape freed from agricultural production.

Field notes