Forced to accept that intensive farming on their land at Knepp in West Sussex was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell took a spectacular leap of faith in 2000 and handed their 3,500 acres back to nature. Managed with minimal human intervention, and with herds of free-roaming animals driving the creation of new habitats, their rewilded land is now heaving with life. Rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies are now breeding at Knepp and biodiversity has rocketed.
The project has become a leading light for nature conservation in the UK, demonstrating how a hands-off, 'process-led' approach can restore land and wildlife in a dramatically short space of time, reversing the cataclysmic declines that have been the fate of nature here over the past five decades. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope.
'The remarkable story of an astounding transformation.' George Monbiot
'This is a pioneering, wonderful book, blooming with humour, practicality, science and lessons learned; a story whose heart beats in the same neck of the woods as 'Walden' and 'A Sand County Almanac'. Nicholas Crane
'Magnificent and inspiring'. Adam Nicolson
'Highly engaging and very informative...I read 'Wilding' in one go. If we can bring back nature at this scale and pace just 16 miles from Gatwick airport we can do it anywhere. I’ve seen it. It’s truly wonderful, and it fills me with hope.' Prof Sir John Lawton
'Anyone with any interest in land – from a window-box to a National Park – needs to read this book.' Simon Barnes
'A thrilling, inspiring and deeply moving story of a wildlife revolution on an ordinary English farm, Wilding shows us what we have lost and what we could regain if we change our relationship with the countryside.' Patrick Barkham
'Every farmer (and perhaps every conservationist) in England needs to go and spend a day at Knepp. My head was spinning with a range of new possibilities for my farm when I left. Knepp is a vitally important experiment for working out what we can do to let Nature back in to our farmed landscapes... this book tells this vital story and deserves to be widely read.' James Rebanks
the living goddess
In a small medieval palace on Kathmandu’s Durbar Square lives Nepal’s famous Living Goddess—a child chosen from the Buddhist caste of goldsmiths whose role is to watch over the country and protect its people.
To Nepalis she is the embodiment of Devi and for centuries the kings of Nepal have sought her blessing to rule. Legends swirl about her. But the facts remain shrouded in secrecy and closely guarded by the Living Goddess’s priests and caretakers. With unprecedented access, earned through her many years of research, Isabella Tree takes us deep into this hidden world. Deeply felt and compellingly told, The Living Goddess is a profound and extremely moving book.
‘An extraordinary story, beautifully told… nothing short of a revelation.’ William Dalrymple.
‘A unique insight into an astonishing tradition.’ Colin Thubron.
Isabella travels into the heart of indigenous Mexico, amongst Mayan shamans in war-torn Chiapas, the peaceful lake-dwelling Purepecha of Michoacan, the powerful matriarchs of Pacific Juchitan and the princely Huichol peyoteros of the northern Sierra Madre.
She discovers a country of violence and tenderness, haunted by its brutal colonial and revolutionary past, with a love of life and a passion for fiesta – a country of extremes.
‘Wry, perceptive, intelligent and irreverently funny. The best of travel writing… Wonderfully successful.’ The Times Literary Supplement
‘Everything about Isabella Tree’s Sliced Iguana is as bright and fresh as a desert dawn. Wide-eyed and sharp-penned, she explores not the backwater myth but a fast-evolving semi-continent… Tree mixes her erudition with ebullience. Such a relief to meet a travel writer who actually has fun’. The Independent
islands in the clouds
Isabella Tree’s remarkable journey takes us to the heart of the remote and beautiful Highlands of Papua New Guinea and Irian Jaya – one of the most extraordinary and dangerous regions on earth. Comic and tragic by turns, Islands in the Clouds is her moving story of the Highland people and the changes transforming their world.
‘One of the most accomplished travel writers to appear on the horizon for many years …the dialogue is brilliant.’ Eric Newby.
‘Isabella Tree has an array of qualities that fit her for writing about wild and remote places: high literacy, insight into alien societies, sympathy, courage, a lucid and colourful fluency, humour that makes many of her pages hilarious, the gift of making friends and an appropriate seriousness about the hazards and problems that can turn Cloud-Cuckoo-Land into an Inferno’. Patrick Leigh Fermor
John Gould, author and publisher of some of the most magnificent works on birds ever created, was an ambitious and unscrupulous genius. His stunning bird illustrations eclipsed even those of his great American rival, Audubon.
Isabella’s lively and evocative biography reveals a story of discovery, ambition and betrayal – touching on some of the greatest wonders of the Victorian era, from the arrival of the first giraffe in London to Gould’s exploration of Australia and his crucial role in Darwin’s theory of natural selection.
‘Thoroughly absorbing’ The New Yorker
‘A marvellous account’ The Sunday Telegraph
‘Biography at its best – well-researched and well-written, but also blessed with a mordant sense of humour that strangely complements the cranky figure of John Gould himself.' George Plimpton