Wilding: an inspiring story and roadmap for biodiversity

‘Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm’ is a compelling book! It reads like a cross between a novel and a natural history textbook. Isabella Tree tells the story of the Knepp estate as it evolved from a failing livestock and arable farm into a vibrant wild landscape. Her husband, Charlie (Sir Charles) Burrell, inherited the estate (which had been in the Burrell family since 1789) from his grandparents in 1987. The estate includes Knepp Castle, designed by John Nash with a park in the style of Humphry Repton and the farm that was loosing money. 

Having tried to intensify the farm with the intention of making it profitable, Charlie finds that the hoped for profit doesn’t materialise and so he sells off the dairy business and puts out the arable land to contract. He manages to secure funding to restore the Repton park and introduces fallow deer. In 2002, he informes DEFRA of his intention to establish ‘a biodiverse wilderness area in the Low Weald of Sussex’. This is the beginning of the process of (re)wilding that is graphically described through its many phases throughout the book. 

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