recorded on Wednesday 27 January 2021
Online conversation with writer and conservationist Isabella Tree who spoke with the travel writer and novelist Philip Marsden about her pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex.
Isabella Tree is an award-winning author and travel writer. She had published five non-fiction books and writes for publications such as National Geographic, Granta, The Sunday Times and The Observer. Her articles have been selected for The Best American Travel Writing and Reader’s Digest Today’s Best Non-Fiction, and she was Overall Winner of the Travelex Travel Writer Awards. Her latest book Wilding – the Return of Nature to a British Farm, charts the story of the pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex where she lives with her husband Charlie Burrell.
Forced to accept that intensive farming on their land at Knepp in West Sussex was economically unsustainable, Isabella and Charlie took a spectacular leap of faith in 2000 and handed their 3,500 acres back to nature. Managed with minimal human intervention, and with herds of free-roaming animals driving the creation of new habitats, their rewilded land is now heaving with life. Rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding at Knepp and biodiversity has rocketed.
The project has become a leading light for nature conservation in the UK, demonstrating how a hands-off, ‘process-led’ approach can restore land and wildlife in a dramatically short space of time.
Wilding is winner of the 2019 Richard Jefferies prize for nature writing and was chosen by the Smithsonian as one of their top ten science books for 2018.
‘The remarkable story of an astounding transformation.’ George Monbiot
‘This is a pioneering, wonderful book, blooming with humour, practicality, science and lessons learned; a story whose heart beats in the same neck of the woods as ‘Walden’ and ‘A Sand County Almanac’. Nicholas Crane
‘Magnificent and inspiring’. Adam Nicolson
‘Highly engaging and very informative…I read ‘Wilding’ in one go. If we can bring back nature at this scale and pace just 16 miles from Gatwick airport we can do it anywhere. I’ve seen it. It’s truly wonderful, and it fills me with hope.’ Prof Sir John Lawton
‘Anyone with any interest in land – from a window-box to a National Park – needs to read this book.’ Simon Barnes
‘A thrilling, inspiring and deeply moving story of a wildlife revolution on an ordinary English farm, Wilding shows us what we have lost and what we could regain if we change our relationship with the countryside.’ Patrick Barkham
‘Every farmer (and perhaps every conservationist) in England needs to go and spend a day at Knepp. My head was spinning with a range of new possibilities for my farm when I left. Knepp is a vitally important experiment for working out what we can do to let Nature back in to our farmed landscapes… this book tells this vital story and deserves to be widely read.’ James Rebanks