Wilding : The return of nature to an British farm
by Isabella Tree
Editor: Pan MacMillan
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Forced to accept that intensive agriculture on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp in West Sussex was economically viable, Isabella Arbre and her husband, Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take overThanks to the introduction of free roaming, cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – large animal proxies that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acres project saw an extraordinary increase in wildlife and diversity in just over a decadeOnce common species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, pomarin woodpeckers and violet emperor butterflies, are now breeding in Knepp, and populations of other species are soaringThe Burrells’ degraded agricultural land has become an ecosystem functioning, again, the uprising of life itselfThis recovery took place in a context of catastrophic loss.According to the 2016 “State of Nature” report, the United Kingdom is ranked 29th in the world for biodiversity loss: 56% of species in the United Kingdom are in decline, and 15% are threatened with extinctionWe live in a desert, compared to our glorious wild pastIn Wilding, Isabella Arbre tells the story of the “Knepp experience” and what it reveals about how we can find the wildest, richest of the countryIt 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 from nature and from us – and that all this can happen amazingly fastThe memory grip part, a fascinating part of our campaign ecology, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.
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