The enormity of climate change and biodiversity loss can leave us feeling overwhelmed. How can an individual ever make a difference?
Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell know firsthand how spectacularly nature can bounce back if you give it the chance. And what comes is not just wildlife in super-abundance, but solutions to the other environmental crises we face.
The Book of Wilding is a handbook for how we can all help restore nature. It is ambitious, visionary and pragmatic. The book has grown out of Isabella and Charlie's mission to help rewild Britain, Europe and the rest of the world by sharing knowledge from their pioneering project at Knepp in Sussex. It is inspired by the requests they receive from people wanting to learn how to rewild everything from unprofitable farms, landed estates and rivers, to ponds, allotments, churchyards, urban parks and public spaces. The Book of Wilding has the answers.
Rewilding is a spectrum of possibility, and everyone is on it. Whether you have a garden, roadside verge or window box, there is no space too small. Rewilding is learning how to contribute to a living landscape, to connect with other areas of nature and help forge the life-support system that will save our planet from calamity and provide humankind with a prosperous and sustainable future.
Deeply researched and with original illustrations by Jeroen Helmer, Europe's foremost environmental artist, this book explains why rewilding is important and how every one of us can play a part. The Book of Wilding is a practical guide and call to action. Above all, it is a manifesto of hope.
Introduction: The ripple effect of rewilding 6
1. What is Rewilding? The essential principles 14
2. Rewilding in the UK: Healing our broken land 56
3. Rewilding Water: Recovering our natural water systems 94
4. Rewilding with Plants: How to create dynamic habitats with vegetation 138
5. Rewilding with Animals: How to balance numbers, scale and timing 188
6. Types of Herbivore: Traits, ecological benefits and management 226
7. Becoming the Herbivore: Mimicking nature in smaller-scale rewilding 288
8. Your Rewilding Project: First steps, planning, funding and income streams 308
9. Recording and Monitoring Wildlife: How to use science in your rewilding project 358
10. Where Do We Fit In? How rewilding affects people, and how people affect rewilding 382
11. Rewilding Your Garden: How to apply rewilding principles in a small space 402
12. Urban Rewilding: Bringing nature back into our cities 458
How Wild Are You 516
Notes & Further Resources 520
Isabella Tree is an award-winning author and travel writer, and lives with her husband, the conservationist Charlie Burrell, in the middle of a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex. She is author of five non-fiction books. Her book Wilding: The Return of Nature to an English Farm has sold quarter of a million copies worldwide and won the 2019 Richard Jefferies prize for nature writing and was one of the Smithsonian's top ten science books for 2018.
"Rewilding is possibly the most important and empowering revolution to have evolved out of the conservation movement in the last hundred years. This book shares the knowledge and wisdom of that movement that we all need to better understand how we can all play our part in helping nature restore the planet"
– Benedict Cumberbatch
"As the Roman poet Horace said, "Drive nature out with a pitchfork and she'll come roaring back". That hopeful and demonstrably true observation lies behind the urgent optimism of this wonderful book. Rewilding works and it works fast: nature does reclaim with stunning speed and power. In The Book of Wilding Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell take us on a fabulous adventure that demonstrates how almost every single one of us can contribute to the grand project of rewilding. Beauty, wonder and dazzling variety are the rewards for surprisingly small amounts of input and labour. Get this great guide and be inspired to go wilding yourself, no matter how small the patch of our earth you call your own"
– Stephen Fry
"Five Years ago, Isabella Tree's phenomenal book Wilding started a national conversation about restoring our flat-lining landscape. The Book of Wilding, co-authored with her husband Charlie Burrell, takes that conversation to the next level. It is both brilliantly readable and incredibly hard-working, offering all of us the opportunity to get involved. Let's do it!"
– Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
"This is a deep, dazzling and indispensable guide to the most important task of all: the restoration of the living planet"
– George Monbiot
"The definitive wildlife survival manual [...] Visions of paradise with all the practical advice to make it"
– Chris Packham
"One of the wisest women alive, Isabella Tree has produced a handbook of hope. Her advice is invaluable; it reaches everyone who wants to make a better world out of the mess we humans have created. Buy it, read it, start changing things right now"
– Joanna Lumley
"What an amazing book, a profound and passionate guide to returning the land to its natural state, a must, I think, for anyone who hopes for a sustainable future"
– Raynor Winn
"A revolutionary and realistic recipe for restoring nature, nurturing new life and filling our homes, habitats and hearts with more wild joy"
– Patrick Barkham
"Rewilding offers new hope for our beleaguered biodiversity. Buy this inspiring book and get rewilding!"
– Davie Goulson
"This beautifully written and lavishly illustrated book is essential reading for anyone with an interest in rewilding, landscapes or indeed nature"
– Tristan Gooley
"Protecting the ecosystems we have left is no longer enough. Given our long delays we must actively support the regeneration of our web of life. This brilliant book tells us how"
– Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change
"Rewilding has a firm place in my heart and it's great to see it presented as a possibility for everyone, regardless of where they live. This book answered all my rewilding questions. I'm inspired to give my modest garden back to nature"
– Lara Maiklem, author of Mudlarking
"[The Book of Wilding] is an eloquent yet hard-hitting synthesis of how a little helping hand can allow nature to heal itself, resulting in astounding outcomes for wildlife, while enriching our own lives in every conceivable way. With rare honesty and thoughtful reflections, the authors share their experiences and vision for greening farmscapes and cityscapes at every scale. This book is not merely important, it is epoch-making and world-building"
– Dr Gabriel Hemery, author of The New Sylva
"All is not lost. Nature's capacity to heal can still overcome our tendency to disrupt and destroy. This inspiring book shows how it can be done"
– Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control
"This beautiful book is both highly accessible and deeply practical and does a lot to break down any idea that wilding is only for those with vast wealth and large tracts of land. It should be compulsory reading for all Master Planners, landowners and gardeners as it will become a handbook for anyone seeking to create a wilder world. I love this book because it is at once humble and expansive, spiritual (with a small s) and resolutely practical. If you know anyone owning a window box or a country estate buy them this book, it will inspire them . A Bible for a new green enlightenment"
– Tim Smit, co-founder of the Eden Project
"A game changer for sure. Informed and visionary. Easy to digest and persuasive. Just jolly well buy this book. It's a lifetime must that's essential"
– Derek Gow
"Just in case you're someone who thinks that 'rewilding is an exotic, elite activity for a few rich landowners,' The Book of Wilding will more than set you straight on that score! It's something very different: a way of seeing, thinking, affirming, sharing and recrafting our relationship with the natural world"
– Sir Jonathon Porritt, Environmentalist
"We know we need Nature back, and that's why national laws and global agreements now say it must happen. The gap between ambition and practical action is, however, vast. In The Book of Wilding Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell make a powerful case for action and with many examples show how we can achieve Nature's recovery from the scale of entire landscapes to small gardens, and from wild wetlands to urban centres. I thoroughly recommend [The Book of Wilding] to anyone who wants to be part of the solution to fixing our depleted world"
– Dr Tony Juniper CBE, Environmentalist and Chair of Natural England
"A gloriously produced and carefully researched educative guide to rewilding. Full of valuable advice for all who want to help restore nature – whether you have a country estate or a window-box on an estate, this book will help you on your rewilding journey"
– Dr James Canton, author of The Oak Papers
"What stands out from this beautiful book is the invitation for us, as humans, to become and create the wild at whatever scale we are able. As well as being full of practical examples of what we can do in our gardens, it highlights our birth-right and responsibility as a keystone species to enhance the natural world for all other species, as well as ourselves"
– Frances Tophill
"When it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss, rewilding restores 'a sense of agency and ambition'. With their comprehensive and timely book, the authors are passing that agency onto others"