Wilding by Isabella Tree is a hopeful book that shows that restoration of our lands and souls is possible. Tree recounts a unique experiment where 1400 hectares of overexploited agricultural land in Sussex, England, were turned over to nature. However, the book is not a simple account of the project - it also gives insight into the history of modern farming and agriculture with its reliance on artificial fertilisers, at the same time, it is a lyrical and poetical ode to nature. "The land, released from its cycle of drudgery, seemed to be breathing a sigh of relief. And as the land relaxed, so did we", Tree writes in her beautiful and lyrical prose.
This inspiring book has been arguing for a new approach to conservation and sustainable farming that focuses on the ecosystems and their ability to sustain and regenerate themselves if given a chance. The book shows that allowing nature to take back the reign and feeding 10 billion people are not contradictory goals. It has inspired new conservation efforts and is likely to change the way you garden – even if it is just your backyard or windowsill.
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.
Praise and awards
Winner of the Richard Jefferies Society and White Horse Book Shop Literary Prize
Highly Commended by the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize
'A passionately personal, robustly argued and uplifting book . . . One of the landmark ecological books of the decade.' Sunday Times 'Books of the Year'
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