Additional Book Information
Series: New York Review Books
Publication Date: September 17, 2019
WildingReturning Nature to Our Farm
by Isabella Tree, with an introduction by Eric Schlosser
For many years Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell struggled to make a go as farmers, doing everything they could to make the heavy clay soils of their farm at Knepp in West Sussex as productive as possible, while rarely succeeding in making a profit. By 2000, facing bankruptcy, the couple decided they would try something new. They would hand their 3,500 acres, farmed for centuries, even millennia, back to nature. They would let it go wild.
This was no simple matter. What form did the land have before it took on the form that human beings have given it? The answer to that question was controversial and required real, and fascinating, research. And then the land had once been open to whole hosts of animals that had since been prevented from running wild, if not killed off or made extinct. These had been a crucial actor in the landscape and its ecology, and how were they, or their likes, to be reintroduced into it? And finally there were the neighbors, often appalled at the sight of once-tidy fields now running riot with what they considered dangerous weeds.
The experiment however, was a success. With minimal human intervention, and with herds of free-roaming animals stimulating new habitats, Knepp is now full of new life. Rare species such as turtle doves, peregrine falcons, and purple emperor butterflies breed there. The fabled English nightingale, heard less and less in modern times, sings again.
The Knepp project has become a leading light for conservation in the UK, demonstrating how letting nature take its course can revive both the land and wildlife, reversing the cataclysmic declines in biodiversity that challenge Britain and the world. The story of rewilding Knepp points the way to a wilder, richer future—a countryside that benefits farming, nature, and us. Wilding is an inspiring story of hope.
Take a virtual tour of Knepp Estate farm with this 15-minute video and learn more about what Isabella and Charlie have accomplished:
[F]ans of Roger Deakin, Robert Macfarlane, Nan Shepherd, and other British naturalists will follow right along … A fine work of environmental literature that demands a tolerance for detail and should inspire others to follow suit.
This wonderfully readable book, which is partly a memoir and partly a plan of action, is an inspirational guide for how to "rewild" a landscape….This honest, thoroughly researched and deeply hopeful book will appeal to everyone—especially farmers—who is concerned about how intensive farming practices are degrading the environment and how to restore nature to ravaged lands.
—Forbes, “Ten of the Best Books About Climate Change, Conservation And The Environment of 2018"
Wilding is one of the most exhilarating books I know. Knepp Castle is a modern marvel, a wild ancient landscape in a modern domestic country, a place filled with birds and animals leading their own independent and remarkable lives. Isabella Tree, who lives there, tells the rich, complicated story of Knepp. As a writer, Tree is both elegant and deeply informed, and the story is full of poetic awareness and scientific foundations. This story will delight anyone who's interested in nature, wildlife and hope.
—Roxana Robinson, author of Sweetwater
In a story that is part personal memoir, part work of conservation, Tree reveals the capacity of the wild to reclaim the land--as long as humans step out of the way.
—Smithsonian, "The Ten Best Science Books of 2018"
Wilding is both a timely and important book.
—Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books
A poignant, practical and moving story of how to fix our broken land, this should be conservation's salvation; this should be its future; this is a new hope.
Every farmer (and perhaps every conservationist) in Britain needs to go and spend a day at Knepp. The Knepp "wilding" project is a vitally important experiment for working out what we can do to let nature back into our farmed landscapes...This book tells this vital story and deserves to be widely read.
—James Rebanks, author of A Shepherd's Life
The remarkable story of an astounding transformation.
Isabella Tree's apparently quixotic tale of Exmoor ponies, longhorn cattle, red deer and Tamworth pigs roaming free on an aristocratic estate is a hugely important addition to the literature of what can be done to restore soil and soul.
—Caspar Henderson, The Guardian