Their land at Knepp in West Sussex had been farmed by them and the family before them for years, but it had reached the point where the farm had become nonviable as a business. Not sure what to do with the land, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made that decision to let nature take over again. Fences were taken up and they selected some hardy breeds of pigs, Exmoor ponies and cattle to wander freely around the 3500-acre site.
Wildlife under the modern capitalist economies is taking an absolute pounding. A recent report says that we have lost 60% of our global wildlife and figures in the UK show this too; we are ranked 29th in the world for biodiversity loss: 56% of species are in decline and 15% are threatened with extinction. The species that we used to regularly see and hear are no longer around; when did you last hear a cuckoo?
Locals objected to several elements of what they were doing, ragwort was a particular issue with some people, but slowly the recovery began on their land. Species that had plummeted in the weald begun to return. They were finding that they were suddenly one of the top sites in the country for creatures such as purple emperor butterflies and turtle doves. With an abundance of invertebrates come predators and this rippled up until they realised that they had peregrine falcons back. In fact, there were several species that had appeared that were not fitting in the niche that would normally be expected.
This inspirational book shows what can be achieved in just a decade, how we can regain a wilder country. Ensuring that we put things in place to support the natural world will make the world and our own lives a richer place. We can make some attempt to reverse the devastating trend even after a decade and whilst farms might not be able to implement all of what they have done, even some of these will have a marked improvement to our natural world.
Paul Cheney 5*
Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm by Isabella Tree
Picador 9781509805105 pbk Mar 2019