Wilding, by Isabella Tree, is a book based on an experimental re-wilding of a 3,500 acre farm in West Sussex.
Forced to accept that the intensive farming of the heavy clay soils of their farm at Knepp was driving it close to bankruptcy, they handed the farm back to nature.
The results in terms of biodiversity, soil fertility and increased wildlife have been nothing short of astonishing.
This is a pioneering book describing a brave and far-reaching experiment. If we can achieve these results on a piece of intensively farmed, chemically fertilised, biologically sterile land situated under the flight path at Gatwick, with time and patience we can achieve them anywhere.
Books like this provide inspiration and reinforcement of the thought that given half a chance, nature will fight back and thrive.
What we do to our little six acre pocket of land on Skye will be much less impactful than the 3,500 acres at Knepp, and the soil, weather and environmental challenges will be very different, but to the local area of Sleat it will be just as important.
So many ideas and plans. We can’t wait to start.
On the reading pile this weekend (between flooring catalogues and kitchen cabinet fittings) is this poignant read.
Written by David Craig and originally published in 1990, this is now out of print and was a purchase from a second-hand bookseller.
It contains interviews with the descendants of those cleared from the Highlands and Islands who settled in Novia Scotia.
Some have letters from the period describing the atrocities in faded but visceral detail. Some have tales passed down through three generations from their great, great grandparents and recount them in detail.
There’s is something incredibly real and intimate about a book that contains a reference directly to the croft or township that you live in. For me it creates a tangible link back through time.
I look over the ancient but still visible lazy beds on the moor above the croft and feel a real link to the lives of those who wrestled them from the soil.
Working for a Publishing House means that I’m privileged to be surrounded by books of every kind in my normal day.
Books have always been a huge and important part of my life, and husband and I probably have a collection of many thousands between us, which we are going to have to prune out to more manageable levels before we move to the croft.
Having said that, there are some classics that I’d never part with. I fell in love with the River Cottage handbook set many years ago. I’m a sucker for a well bound hardback, and these little books in their sturdy covers are just the right size for a small shelf in the corner of the kitchen or to pop in your pocket on a walk through the countryside.
Covering everything from shoreline foraging to home brew, cheese making and jams, they’re a great entry level into each of these worlds, leading on to more specialist reading for any specific area of interest.
I’m looking forward to having the time and space over the winter months on the Croft to curl up by the wood burner and plan and dream with these old friends.
After all, as Neil Gaiman said, “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands”.