Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree
In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.
Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.
Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies, are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of other species are rocketing. The Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again, heaving with life – all by itself.
Personal and inspirational, Wilding is an astonishing account of the beauty and strength of nature, when it is given as much freedom as possible.
I could give Wilding by Isabella Tree so many plaudits. But inspirational and outstanding are just two. This is a story of how a 3,500-acre farm in Knepp in West Sussex owned by Isabella’s husband Charlie Burrell was returned to nature. I am so delighted to see this book now longlisted for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize.
The project on the farm started back in 2000 and the difference now is nothing short of incredible. From the intensive modern farming methods to the point where the farm was no longer a viable going concern and something had to be done to turn this around.
This was a risk but it was a risk well worth taking despite some complaints and objections they tore down the fences and slowly returned the farm to its past. They brought in a select breed of pigs as well as cattle and Exmoor ponies and let them roam free. The ‘rewilding’ of the farm was underway.
The UK has a whole has seen its wildlife plummet with some of our species flora and fauna close to extinction. What has been created on their farm is nothing short of incredible. To see what the farm has become today and the species that have now returned to the farm. Nightingales have returned to the farm where nationally they have crashed and Turtle Doves have started to return to the farm and Purple Emperor Butterflies have also been seen and are now breeding on the estate long with Orchids and other rare plants have been found. This is no coincidence.
This is a part memoir and also I believe a book of hope for the future of farming. A move away from the intensive agricultural policies of the past and what I liked was that Isabella talks about rewilding of farms and also that you can at the same time feed the populations of the world.
Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm is nothing short of astonishing and proves we can bring back nature to our countryside and also farm at the same time. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The Shortlist for the 2019 Wainwright Golden Beer Prize will be announced at midday on the 2nd July.
Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree was published by Picador and was published in Paperback on 21st March 2019 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.