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Wilding: The return of nature to a British…
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Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm (2018)

by Isabella Tree

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762241,502 (4.65)8
Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp in West Sussex 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. Once-common 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. This recovery has taken place against a backdrop of catastrophic loss elsewhere. According to the 2016 'State of Nature' report, the UK is ranked 29th in the world for biodiversity loss: 56% of species in the UK are in decline and 15% are threatened with extinction. We are living in a desert, compared with our gloriously wild past.In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the 'Knepp experiment' and what it reveals of the ways in which we might regain that wilder, richer country. It shows how rewilding works across Europe; that it has multiple benefits for the land; that it can generate economic activity and employment; how it can benefit both nature and us - and that all of this can happen astonishingly quickly. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.… (more)

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What an amazing book which recounts how nature-led conservation has helped reintroduce nature and wilderness back into urbanised lands, in particular at the 3,500-acre, ex-intensive farming, Knepp estate in West Sussex. A restorative balm to the soul, this book is part of the re-nature-ising narrative that is a glimmer of hope in the incessant cycle of bad news about climate change, natural disasters, environmental pollution, and species decline.

I was a bit sceptical at the beginning, not of the conservation efforts, but of the amount of privilege that seemed to be required for someone to be in a position to kickstart a conservation effort like this. Tree and her husband in inherited this massive estate: an estate that has been in the family for over two centuries, an estate that had been visited by king/s for royal hunts before then, an estate that was intensively farmed until the threat of bankruptcy and government funding for conservation stepped in. Knepp's position and indeed the Burrell name and position in the area seem to attract an amount of (free?) professional academic advice, and charitable and government help than if an "ordinary" farmer had started this.

All this, and their oversea trips (ostensibly to observe and learn from other conservation efforts but funded by who), and the unknown fates of the eleven farm employees they fired (while they themselves didn't seem to suffer financially despite apparently already being in a million pounds overdraft) added to my discomfort.

Of course this is another example of nature-restoration requiring an inordinate amount of privilege and wealth but that's got me thinking about what could I, as a still relatively-privileged individual, can do. On a much smaller and different scale closer to home, I was reminded of Wendy Whiteley's Secret Garden in Lavender Bay where she (without council approval and her own money) transformed an abandoned railway land into this lovely community greenspace.

But still, the successes of Tree and co's conservation efforts cannot be denied. They could have not decided upon conservation and the world would have been poorer in its understanding of the importance of biodiversity in rejuvenating endangered species (both flora and fauna) and neglected lands.

Now, how can this be translated to Australian landscape and animals, and what can I do to contribute? Perhaps it really is time now for me to pop over to Bunnings and finally buy that reacher-grabber I've been eyeing and start strolling the streets for litter on the weekends.

Update: An interesting Australian-drought specific type of wilding and a rewilding of the Iron Curtain. ( )
  kitzyl | Jul 15, 2019 |
Detailed scientific book about the benefits of letting nature take its course. The moral of this story is that nature needs a combinatio if animals and vegetation to do it’s job properly. Lots of good information about the way in which modern industrial agricultural methods have depleted the soil and its produce of its natural goodness and vitality. ( )
  jvgravy | Jun 25, 2019 |
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'The remarkable story of an astounding transformation' George Monbiot, author of Feral. 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.
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