Isabella Tree is a British author, writer, conservationist, and travel journalist.
Isabella Tree is a conservationist and writer of the award-winning book Wilding: the Return of Nature to a British Farm, which tells the story of rewilding a 3,500 acre farm estate in Sussex, which she oversaw with her husband Charlie. The adopted daughter of Michael Tree and Lady Anne Cavendish, Isabella grew up in Mereworth Castle in Kent, and then in Shute House, a vicarage in Dorset. Following her expulsion from two secondary schools, she attended Millfield School as a sixth former, where mutual friends introduced her to her future husband. After reading classics at the University of London, she went on to work as a journalist and travel writer for the Evening Standard and The Sunday Times. Her first book, The Bird Man, about the Victorian ornithologist John Gould, was published in 1991. She married Charles Burrell in 1993 and settled at Knepp, a dairy and arable farm in Sussex. She continued to travel, writing books about Papua New Guinea, Nepal and Mexico. In 2000 Isabella and Charlie closed the farm business at Knepp, and turned the estate into a conservation project, letting the land develop on its own, and eventually introducing free-roaming animals – cattle, pigs, deer and ponies. Two decades later, the project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife, fungi, and vegetation with extremely rare species like turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons and purple emperor butterflies breeding there. The soil is richer in micro-organisms which help to recapture carbon from the air and promote a functioning ecosystem where nature is given as much freedom as possible. She lives at Knepp with her husband Charlie and has two children, Ned and Nancy. DISC ONE: ‘The Whole of the Moon’ by The Waterboys DISC TWO: ‘These Foolish Things’ by Billie Holiday DISC THREE: ‘Life’s a Gas’ by T. Rex DISC FOUR: ‘Where’s the Telephone Bill? by Bootsy’s Rubber Band DISC FIVE: ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley DISC SIX: Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, played by the Brindisi String Quartet DISC SEVEN: BBC Sound recording of Nightingales And Bombers The Night Of The Mannheim Raid DISC EIGHT: ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ by Toploader BOOK CHOICE: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy LUXURY ITEM: Mask, snorkel and a neoprene vest CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: These Foolish Things by Billie Holiday Presenter: Lauren Laverne Producer: Cathy Drysdale
This week, Gilly Smith is with Isabella Tree, the author of Wilding, which has been hailed as one of the most important contributions to the debate about where and how we get our food and our relationship with the land. As Isabella tells Gilly about the recipe that Tastes Like Home, she explains why grazing animals are an essential mix in our farmland as we battle the effects of climate change.  See for privacy and opt-out information.
What happens when an intensively farmed estate is handed back to nature? In this episode of Informed Choice Radio, something a little different. I recently had the opportunity to speak to the award-winning nature and travel journalist Isabella Tree about the Knepp Experiment. Isabella, along with her husband, the environmentalist Charlie Burrell, are custodians of the 3,500 acre Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex. She's author of the acclaimed book Wilding: The return of nature to a British farm. In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the ‘Knepp experiment’, a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope. So how did this interview come about? A while ago, Nick went on a butterfly safari at Knepp. He often talks to his clients about it, and recently we purchased a copy of Wilding for a couple of clients. Nick then suggested we approach Isabella to ask if she would join us on the podcast. From a personal perspective, as chairman of the Knowle Park Trust, I was interested to learn more about the role of humans in encouraging and supporting wildlife to an area. There's a personal finance angle here too! As you'll hear in this episode, Issy and Charlie were massively in debt when they make the decision to re-wild Knepp. The transformation of their farm has created some interesting new revenue streams and employment opportunities too. Without further ado, here's my conversation with Isabella Tree, author of Wilding.
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Creator Details

South-East England, South Africa
Episode Count
Podcast Count
Total Airtime
1 hour, 15 minutes
Podchaser Creator ID logo 169050