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Rewilding pioneer

8th July 2020

Isabella Tree is an environmental pioneer, bestselling author and passionate advocate for rewilding the countryside.

© Anthony Cullen

Twenty years ago Isabella and her husband, Charlie Burrell, made the brave decision to give up intensive farming on their 3500 acre estate, Knepp Castle, near Horsham, and let nature take over. The result has been an incredible story of natural recovery.

Knepp is now a shining example of returning biodiversity – a breeding hotspot for rare birds and butterflies and home to the first breeding White Storks in the UK for 600 years.

Isabella’s bestselling book, ‘Wilding – the Return of Nature to a British Farm’ tells the story of Knepp’s journey from a depleted , intensive arable and dairy farm to a rich wilderness, using free-roaming grazing animals to shape the habitat.

Isabella believes in the power of nature to regenerate itself – that natural woodland regeneration is more effective than organised planting schemes and that the best ecosystems are created when nature is given as much freedom as possible.

Isabella and husband Charlie
Isabella and husband Charlie

She is a champion of the UK’s poor, degraded soil – warning of the damage being caused to it by intensive farming. She advocates rewilding as a means of restoring nutrients, water and topsoil for more sustainable farming in the future.

Isabella’s message reaches far beyond Sussex – she is now in demand globally for her vision and expertise.

Speaking in an international podcast last year (‘Investing in Regenerative Agriculture’) Isabella explained that if we want to heal our planet, we have to relinquish our control and hand it back to nature:

‘I think that a lot of it is down to aesthetics – changing the way we think our landscapes should look,’ she said. ‘It’s really about learning how to be messy again… and I think human beings find that very difficult to do. So, in a sense, I think rewilding is about a mindset and about learning how to rewild ourselves.’

Vote for Isabella in the Empowering Communities Award 2020