Eighteen years ago, Isabella Tree and Charlie Burrell turned their 3,500-acre farm in West Sussex, England, into a massive outdoor laboratory. They decided to cede control of their land to nature and watched it slowly grow wild again. Now, at what they call Knepp Wildland, herds of fallow deer, Exmoor ponies, and longhorn cows do battle with scrubland and tree branches, while Tamworth pigs rustle in the hedgerows and strengthen mycorrhizal networks in the soil. The result of this experiment is burgeoning biodiversity and resilience, as endangered species like turtledoves, nightingales, and rare butterflies inhabit a landscape unseen in England since the Middle Ages. Isabella Tree joins us to talk about what life is like in a wild world, and how Knepp has ignited a reckoning with traditional methods of land stewardship and conservation.
Go beyond the episode:
- Isabella Tree’s Wilding: The Return of Nature to a British Farm
- Read more about Knepp Wildland (and plan a visit!) on their website
- Watch a short video about Knepp’s beaver-like efforts to return the River Adur to a rewilded state
- Check out the whole range of “Kneppflix” wildlife videos
- Elizabeth Kolbert’s profile of Frans Vera’s work at the Oostvaardersplassen
- Learn more about rewilding efforts across Europe, from Portugal to Poland
Tune in every week to catch interviews with the liveliest voices from literature, the arts, sciences, history, and public affairs; reports on cutting-edge works in progress; long-form narratives; and compelling excerpts from new books. Hosted by Stephanie Bastek.
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Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.