We review a selection of inspiring and informative books about rewilding and connecting with nature
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Interest in rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature – is growing. More and more people are wanting to strengthen their connection with nature while helping to combat the climate and nature emergencies. These books inspire and inform, while encouraging us to deepen our appreciation for the natural world.
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Wilding is the inspiring and uplifting story of the transformation of an intensive, nature-depleted farm into one of the most renowned rewilding sites in the world. Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie began rewilding the Knepp Estate in 2001, aiming to boost biodiversity and bring back some of the species that had been missing from the landscape for decades.
Within a few years they had introduced old English longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, Tamworth pigs and deer to promote natural grazing – with the resulting ground disturbance creating ideal conditions for wetland areas to form and plant life to thrive. These new habitats attracted invertebrates such as solitary bees, small copper butterflies and dragonflies. Many bird species followed – redwings, fieldfares, lesser redpolls, skylarks and ravens – as well as bats and lizards. And three remarkable endangered species – nightingales, turtle doves and purple emperor butterflies – are some of the most exciting arrivals at Knepp in recent years.
Knepp is a shining example of how much of the UK could look: a variety of healthy habitats supporting an abundance of wildlife. Tree tells each part of this astounding success story with beautiful descriptions that impart a wealth of knowledge about the natural world – and offer the reader much-needed hope.
Insects are remarkable – and in Hird's book we learn about some of the extraordinary things they can do. Hoverflies, for example, can fly up, down, forwards, backwards and sideways. Ants use a navigational system that's as complex and sophisticated as the internet. And insects help humans too. Bumblebees and other pollinators are responsible for pollinating around a third of our food – including fruit, vegetables, coffee and chocolate. This contributes an estimated annual £650 million to the economy in the UK alone.
Insects are beautiful – think of the shimmer of a dragonfly's wings or the gorgeous colours of a peacock butterfly. But with insect populations in drastic decline – the number of insects in the UK has crashed by an alarming 60% in 20 years – our six-legged friends need our help more than ever. 'Rebugging' is essential – and this book will offer plenty of ideas, from allowing dandelions and other wildflowers to grow to avoiding pesticide use. Rebugging the Planet also inspires wonder for, and appreciation of, the hundreds of thousands of species of invertebrates that we share this planet with.
Jane V Adams
A wonderful book that fosters a love for nature. Nature's Wonders is packed with information about which plants, animals and natural phenomena to look out for season-by-season, from bluebells and solitary bees in spring to winter frosts and robins. There are suggestions for mindful activities that will help you connect with nature, such as appreciating petrichor (the smell of earth dampened by rain) or looking for animal tracks and other signs of wildlife. The author's vivid descriptions of each natural wonder are accompanied by beautiful photography – making this an ideal book to give as a gift.
In Losing Eden, Jones sets out to answer the question: 'How and why does nature make us feel good?' The book opens with a bleak description of an imagined future if humanity doesn't act to stop climate change – a barren urban environment where being outside is dangerous and the only green spaces are artificial trees and plastic grass. This prediction isn't so far-fetched – as a species, humans spend as much as 99% of time indoors, and with each generation we are becoming less and less connected with the natural world. The impacts of this disconnect on our health include a range of physical and emotional illnesses.
But Jones's book is full of hope. Beautifully written, it explores how nature and our wellbeing are intrinsically entwined. Drawing on extensive research and her own personal experience – including nature's role in the author's own recovery from drug and alcohol addiction – Jones investigates the significance of our relationship with nature. The final paragraphs are an antidote to the book's apocalyptic opening – an optimistic vision of how our future world could look if we get it right. This book will leave you in no doubt about the healing power of nature – and will inevitably inspire you to get outside more.
A heartfelt account of one family's rewilding journey in rural Scotland. Tom Bowser describes his book as a 'love letter' to the magnificent fork-tailed raptors that shaped his life. Red kites were once widespread in the UK, but by the early 1900s they had been wiped out – largely a result of persecution. The Bowser family's farm is home to the Argaty Red Kite Project – since 1996 red kites have visited the Argaty estate, and are now a wildlife spectacle that attracts visitors from all around the world. But Argaty has become about much more than the red kites – it has grown into an ambitious rewilding project that is home to pine martens, red squirrels, beavers, otters and dragonflies, and which is a member of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance. Bowser paints a vivid picture of the wildlife he shares his home with – and his passion for wildlife, nature and protecting the planet is evident throughout the book.
'Let me take you for a stroll. We'll start at the top of the drive, to the north of the house, by the big horse-chestnut tree.' Dave Goulson guides us around his near-derelict farmhouse with a personable writing style that makes the reader feel like an old friend, visiting the house for the first time. When Goulson bought the house, deep in the French countryside, in 2003, he got more than he bargained for: years of neglect meant that all sorts plants and animals had moved in. While this would deter many buyers, Goulson was delighted – the house was a haven for wildlife. A Buzz in the Meadow documents his encounters with the insects, mammals and birds that share his new home, and also explores the fascinating world of insect science. Each chapter begins with a diary-style account of Goulson's morning run – even while running he records his sightings of insects, lizards, hedgehogs, birds and other creatures.
As a Professor of Biology specialising in bee ecology, Goulson knows a thing or two about the natural world, and imparts his scientific knowledge with skill. His joy for nature – and especially insects – is infectious; the book is a delight to read. But there's also a serious, and sometimes depressing, message within these pages: like so many wildlife species, insects are declining – and without them we can't survive.
Brigit Strawbridge Howard
Strawbridge Howard's love of nature – and especially bees – shines through the pages of this book. It's a charming account of her rediscovery of the natural world around her, focusing in particular on the remarkable lives of solitary bees, bumblebees and other pollinators, and on the threats they face. Strawbridge Howard's meticulous research about these wonderful and important insects is eloquently interlaced with personal observations and stories – resulting in a book that will both fascinate and inform.
After walking 630 miles along England's South West Coast Path – as portrayed in her debut book, The Salt Palt – Raynor Winn and her husband, Moth, settle down in a Cornish farm. They have struck a deal with the farm's owner: a free tenancy in return for increasing biodiversity on the farm. The first part of the book explores the couple's search for a connection with the land, with Winn reminiscing about trips taken with Moth to beautiful rural areas of the UK. In the second half, they get to grips with nature restoration on the farm, encountering weasels, badgers, toads and buzzards. Winn's skilful writing includes poetic descriptions of flora and fauna, and honest accounts of the couple's struggles – not least Moth's debilitating illness – which are interweaved to produce a book that's touching, compelling and full of hope.
Little Green Space September 2023
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