A GOOD READ
'Lament for the human destruction of the non-human world dates back to at least The Epic of Gilgamesh, which was written in about 2100 BC,' writes Caspar Henderson in his review of Wilding by Isabella Tree (The Guardian). '“We have reduced the forest to a wasteland,” says the eponymous hero: “How shall we answer our gods?” That such despoliation has accelerated in recent decades is now a familiar idea, but I recommend anyone prone to despair to read Wilding . . . a hugely important addition to the literature of what can be done to restore soil and soul.'
Wilding is the tale of an experimental rescue operation, the focused and seemingly eccentric efforts to resuscitate 1400 hectares of agricultural land after years of intensive farming; to create disorder out of order, which Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell do heartwarmingly well. Farming practices are relaxed, the approach - as far as can be - natural, herbivores left to roam and graze, and the wildlife, especially the birdlife has returned and multiplied.
It's a cheer of encouragement to all people around the world engaged in reversing 'progress' and restoring nature's settings. But the fact the farm is close to Gatwick Airport in England (Knepp, West Sussex) a country where intensive and monocultural farming has trumped so many of the traditional messy ticking-along farms, and where the grand wild places are ruled and legislated and seen as set apart from the modern world, adds a layer of magical poignancy.
This is a memoir rather than a literary campaign, but there will be few who, after reading this book, won't look out of the window at their own piece of land and see the sense and potential for a little rewilding work of their own.
Wilding by Isabella Tree, published by Picador.