Wow. I’ve just finished listening to ‘Wilding’ by Isabella Tree. An audio book that has kept me enthralled on my travels, over breakfast and late at night when I should have been sleeping. It’s been a long time since I have been moved by a book quite this much.
The book is about the amazing journey of Wilding the Knepp Estate. Once an intensive farm and for the last twenty years a safe haven for nature from the earthworms, butterflies, insects, mammals and birds to wildflowers, hedges, trees, fungi and mycorrhizae. Isabelle Tree talks movingly about it all but it’s the last chapter that left me with a deep longing to do more. In it she describes how the beauty and vitality of Knepp’s complex ecology means that now, travelling around the country or going on walks that previously she would have enjoyed all she sees is what is missing. The general landscape is barren, it may to the uneducated eye appear beautiful and aesthetically pleasing but that is because this is what we are accustomed to seeing. Insects, birds (and bird song), small mammals and fauna are disappearing and we, many of us nature lovers, are oblivious because we have nothing to compare it too. This is ‘shifting base line’ syndrome in action.
I really want to go on one of Knepp’s Estate safari tours so I can see for myself what I am missing but this is almost unnecessary I can feel it. Spending time thinking about my childhood, conjuring up memories from forgotten archives of my mind of long summer days playing outside, aware of but not listening to the sounds of birds song, picking blackberries and eating them straight from the bush and along the way disturbing multiple butterflies and insects from the undergrowth. It’s not all gone but it is less. There is less volume of bird song, less variety. Now spotting a butterfly is something to be commented on rather than so common it was just part of the landscape. My windscreen is not continually splattered by flying insects when I drive at night. I cannot hear the Nightingale or Turtle Dove or watch the lark ascending.
I know from personal experience how much I longed to be apart of nature and that when given an opportunity to relocate what I wanted was not more internal space to settle in but a place as my friend described it ‘with sky.’
“The need to relate to the landscape and to other forms of life, whether one considers this from an emotional, intellectual, cognitive or spiritual perspective it is in our genes. Severe that connection and we are floating in a world where our deepest sense of ourselves is lost” Isabella Tree
I now have my place with sky and I love it and it has without doubt improved my wellbeing and that of my families but I see it with new eyes and I wonder what is missing? What has slipped away and disappeared barely marked by us as we get on with our busy lives?
Rewilding advocates, ecologists and environmentalists have long been trying to get legislation to expand wild areas and whilst making some headway, there is so much more to be done. If we are to embrace the benefits of rewilding to tackle climate change one of which is growing a trillion more trees to help absorb already dangerous levels of carbon emissions then faster progress needs to happen and we all need to do our bit. What though is our bit?
I am left wondering what can I do? I don’t have 3000 hectares to turn into a haven for nature. I have my patch of garden which isn’t big enough on its own being only a tiny patch of the cloth but perhaps if I join it with others giving room to nature, if I talk to people about it, discuss it, provide opportunities for rewilding through the Pod project and educate myself on the subject, maybe, just maybe others will become interested and it won’t be disparate patches of land but a network.
Mary Reynolds, has already begun an online network, which links those of us across countries who are interested in this topic. Her book The Garden Awakening, is next on my list of books to finish reading (sadly not available in audiobook as yet, so it takes me longer to read as I have so little time these days to sit down with a book). I hope it will encourage me with this positive approach. Mary’s forum ‘We are the Ark’ and ‘The Blue Campaign’ on Facebook have both been very inspiring so far, there is tremendous comfort in making contact with others on this path.
These are the thoughts that helped me drift off to sleep having finished listening to Isabella’s compelling voice. Hopefully I dreamt of clouds of butterflies, owls and trees roots and fungi communicating through a web mycorrhiza beneath the surface of the land, I don’t recall.