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Good Reads  Conservation & Biodiversity  Rewilding

Rebirding Restoring Britain's Wildlife

Monograph Nature Writing
By: Benedict Macdonald(Author), Stephen Moss(Foreword By)
335 pages, 16 plates with 26 colour & 1 b/w photos and 3 colour maps
Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation
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  • Rebirding ISBN: 9781784272197 Paperback Jul 2020 In stock
  • Rebirding ISBN: 9781784271879 Hardback Apr 2019 In stock
Selected version: £19.99
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About this book

Read our Q&A with Benedict Macdonald

Did you know that 94% of Britain isn't built upon? That Snowdonia is larger and emptier than the Maasai Mara National Reserve? That Scotland's deer estates, or the UK's burned heather lands farmed for grouse, both cover areas twice the size of Yellowstone National Park? That livestock farms occupy 88% of Wales but contribute 0.7% to its economy – and provide jobs for less than 2% of its people?

Britain is blessed with space. Huge areas of this space produce little in the way of viable food supplies. They sustain few livelihoods, and no young people's futures. We waste space in a way no other nation would allow. The solution is simple: the restoration of our native landscapes, our wildlife – and most of all, our rural jobs. Nature makes money, creates genuine local income, and affords the prospect of a life without subsidy for our dying rural communities. Rebirding was written as the first book with actual solutions for how beautiful and profitable the UK's countryside could one day look – as well as why the impending extinction of our cuckoos, turtle doves and honey-bees is entirely avoidable. Britain has all the space it needs for an epic wildlife recovery. So what's stopping it from happening in our country – and how can we turn things around?


1 - Taming Britain
2 - The Anthropocene
3 - The First Imperative
4 - The Lost Stewards
5 - A Question of Scale
6 - Memory
7 - A Wild Economy
8 - The Wild Highlands
9 - New Forests
10 - The Golden Hills of Wales
11 - A Grouse Moor Wild
12 - Pelican Possibility
13 - Our Birds
14 - Conservation Begins

Customer Reviews (3)

  • Why Rewilding Britain & its Birds is a Necessity
    By Stephen 7 May 2019 Written for Hardback
    This book is the most 'eye-opening' nature/environmental book I've ever read. and I've read many. It's changed my whole outlook on the landscapes & wildlife around me. Other books have bogged me down with tables of statistics & scientific jargon but Benedict Macdonald has an easy style of writing, as if he's talking directly to you over a cup of coffee. Of course there are plenty of facts & figures to get your head around, there has to be, but the author slips them into his conversation with the reader so to make them understandable to the layman or expert alike.
    This is why I 'Highly Recommend' it to anyone with an interest in nature, ecology, the environment & 'think' they know all about rewilding (like me before reading it) especially in these times when natural climate change solutions are so desperately needed.
    36 of 39 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No
  • Big scale conservation
    By Keith 1 Nov 2019 Written for Hardback
    The subject of rewilding has received wide publicity in recent years, yet a year ago this concept was familiar to just a handful of enthusiasts. It is the notion of taking large parts of our countryside and converting much of it back to what it looked like before either the agricultural or industrial revolutions. To many people, this is just a fanciful idea that simply will not happen because too few people really care about wildlife, and governments will always seek to please the majority and take decisions that reduce our national debt. However, within the rewilding model is an overall message that if we only think on a small scale, we will never manage to maintain habitats that will support many of our currently declining bird species.

    Benedict Macdonald combines energy and simplicity to create a very readable text that really does make you want to change things for the better. He starts by explaining how the UK might have looked around one million years ago before humans first settled. He describes the changes that have taken place since – with the climate cooling and warming, sea levels rising by over 100 metres and wildlife coming and going based on the conditions that suited them. But his focus is on how we have shaped the land ourselves and how the largest influence defining the future of our habitats is now the human factor, even though only 6% of the UK is built upon.

    He is right to point the finger of blame at us and our ancestors about how we have managed the land, but for me a weakness in his approach is the implied notion that if we could rewild the countryside on a major scale then the birds that have already disappeared will come back. They might – but there are many other factors at play. While there is some recognition in the book of the effects that modern-day climate change is already having on our bird populations the book’s focus is on land management itself.

    Macdonald presents a concise and clearly written account of the state of the nation’s birds. Pulling together the science of the BTO and the practical land management of the RSPB and other conservation bodies, he gives numerous examples of what is being done to help birds – and points the way for us to do a lot more. From the New Forest to the Scottish Highlands there are many case stories highlighted, and some issues benefit from a full chapter – such as the state of our uplands and the conflict between wildlife and the grouse shooting industry. Many facts are quoted based on research from both the desk and field, but I do know whether time was taken to double-check these with the sources. I know that in the case of the New Forest no follow-up was made with the main source to confirm the statistics quoted, and some are not correct.

    The book’s message is clear. The UK has plenty of open spaces, but many of them (including some National Parks) are poorly managed for wildlife. If we want to change this for the better, then rewilding on a landscape scale is an essential part of the solution. I am sure this is widely understood and accepted by those who work in conservation. However when dealing with conservation issues some recent governments have demonstrated that they would struggle to organise a party in a party shop, so while there is much to applaud in this book with its ideas and suggestions, the chance of seeing our political leaders picking up any of these seems slim. Meanwhile, all of us should be advocates for bigger thinking and landscape-scale solutions. That is the biggest message in this book, both for us as readers and the wildlife conservation sector in general.
    23 of 25 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No
  • SOME good stuff in here...
    By Steve 10 Feb 2021 Written for Paperback
    The author creates a fantastic vision for the restoration of nature and wildlife to Britain, much of which is certainly achievable. However, he does position himself as the authority on the subject, suggesting that it is nature conservation charities who are the ones that need to bear the brunt of the responsibility, despite previously pointing out that it is big industry that has created the problems.

    There are some erroneous presumptions too, that nature charities should look to landscape-scale conservation, which they do and have done for decades, with the author neglecting to consider that expanding nature reserves relies on compliance from neighbouring stakeholders within the landscape, and that more land could be bought if charities "cut back many non-essential ... jobs" - to assume that nature charities employ people in "non-essential" jobs highlights a lack of understanding of such organisations.

    Other than these unnecessary criticisms of charities, there is much food for thought and hopefully this will lead to real change across Britain.
    4 of 6 found this helpful - Was this helpful to you? Yes No


Benedict Macdonald is a conservation writer, field director in wildlife television, and a keen naturalist; passionate about restoring Britain's wildlife, pelicans included, in his lifetime.

During his extensive global travel experience, Benedict has found inspiring examples of why desecrating our country’s ecosystems is both entirely avoidable and against the national interest. This book is his attempt to ensure that this generation, for the first time in thousands of years, leaves Britain’s wildlife better off, not worse, than the generation before – for wildlife and people alike.

Benedict is a long-time writer for Birdwatching magazine, as well as a contributor to the RSPB Nature’s Home and BBC Wildlife. He has been fortunate to work on TV series for the BBC, Apple and Netflix – most notably the grasslands and jungles programmes of Sir David Attenborough’s conservation series Our Planet: broadcast worldwide on Netflix in April 2019.

Monograph Nature Writing
By: Benedict Macdonald(Author), Stephen Moss(Foreword By)
335 pages, 16 plates with 26 colour & 1 b/w photos and 3 colour maps
Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize for Writing on Global Conservation
Media reviews

– Winner of the Richard Jefferies Society and White Horse Book Shop Literary Prize

"[...] This is an enjoyable and stimulating book. Its vision of a rebirded Britain should become part of our future mind-set."
– Barry Gray, Ibis 163(1), January 2021

"A splendid new book [...] all rational argument seems to be on his side"
– Professor Tim Flannery, The Guardian

"This book made me think. Many writers of the current decade have bemoaned the loss of nature, presented a variety of anthropogenic reasons for the decline (not only in species but also, importantly, in abundance), and hinted at what a more positive future could resemble if we do the right thing. This template makes very straightforward reading for someone like me, who has worked in nature conservation for 40 years. Ben Macdonald’s thesis, on the contrary, is not straightforward at all, and challenges much of the received wisdom about how to bring back Britain’s birds. [...] Rebirding certainly provides food for thought, in any case, and deserves to be read by those interested in a more natural future."
– Andy Clements, British Wildlife 31(2), December 2019

"This is most definitely my book of the year and possibly the whole decade! Regular readers will know I rarely gush and that is usually over the writing skills of authors and not content. This is an unashamed gush for content with an appreciative nod to its very accessible prose and light but deadly serious style. [...] [This book] brings to the fore lessons currently being learned by high profile re-wilding schemes like the Knepp Estate where iconic birds like Nightingale and Turtle Dove have bucked the national trends and then some. This book is a life changer and if we get off our collective backside and scream its messages loudly enough we really could change the entire face of Britain for the better. Buy it, borrow it, but above all read it, and when you have, add your voice to its call for natural salvation."
– Bo Beolens, Fatbirder

"This is a wonderful book, visionary, illuminating and fascinating."
– George Monbiot

"A visionary yet practical book."
– John Burnside, New Statesman

"'It has shaped how I think about my farm, and the choices we make about our land [...]"
– James Rebanks

"An exposé, a plea, and a vision of a better future."
– Simon Reeve

"A wonderfully imaginative book which shows how things could be with our rapidly declining areas of countryside, instead of how – despairingly – they are now."
– Rod Liddle (Associate Editor of The Spectator)

"This passionate, authoritative, up-to-date and ultimately optimistic book is a worthy comparison to such seminal works as George Monbiot's Feral and Mark Cocker's Our Place."
– Jonathan Elphick, BBC Wildlife

"Rebirding is beautifully written, based on deep, personal experience and a genuine love of the subject. You may not have come across Ben Macdonald before now; but believe me, you will hear a lot more from him in the future."
– Stephen Moss

"Having read a number of the recent books about rewilding, I was tempted to think 'Oh blimey, not another one!'. I am now tempted to say 'they left the best till last [...] "
– Bill Oddie

"A book about a key subject at a key time, passionate and deeply thought-through. Anyone concerned with the future of the natural world in Britain will want to read it."
– Mike McCarthy (author of The Moth Snowstorm)

"With George Monbiot's Feral and Isabella Tree's Wilding, Rebirding sits separate from both and is in fact an essential third book to read if you've enjoyed the others. In short, it's a captivating, fascinating and inspiring read"
– Ed Stubbs, Birdwatch Magazine

"This is the best book on nature, conservation and rewilding I read in 2019 – perhaps one of the best I’ve ever read. I finished reading it with a real sense of hope for the future."
– Alex Roddie, Great Outdoors Magazine

"A must read and a good read [...] the type of book that grabs and keeps my attention. You should read it and I think you may well enjoy it a lot."
– Mark Avery

"A beautifully written, thoughtful and yes, provocative book"
– Dr Martin Harper (Conservation Director, RSPB)

"This is a stimulating and important book, beautifully written and well researched [...] It provides a compelling vision for the future"
– Dr Carl Jones (Chief Scientist, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust)

"I thoroughly recommend the book and applaud its breadth and detail [...] Macdonald's book has really surprised me. I have learned much I did not know about Britain's early bird faunas, and even the history of its mammals [...] The level of treatment and scholarly references are on a par with conservation science books"
– Peter Taylor, ECOS Magazine

"Rebirding is an exceptional book from an exceptional author. Visionary, courageous, critical, Benedict maps out how we might finally turn things around, rewilding our national parks, restoring natural ecosystems and allowing our wildlife a far richer future."

"A captivating, fascinating and inspiring read"

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