2018 - WILDING - Isabella Tree


The judges voted on 16 May 2019 to award the prize to Isabella Tree. The appeal of this book was summed up by one of the judges saying that it was a publication that Richard Jefferies himself would have strongly supported.

The short-list was agreed on 13 January 2019 as follows:

  • Kings of the Yukon: an Alaskan river journey  by Adam Weymouth, (Particular Books)
  • The Bumblebee Flies Anyway by Kate Bradbury (Bloomsbury Wildlife)
  • Wilding by Isabella Tree (Picador)
  • Our Place, by  Mark Cocker (Jonathan Cape)

Isabella Tree gave an illustrated talk about her prize-winning book at St Mary's Church, Marlborough to a capacity audience of 180 people on Thursday 25 July 2019 (the hottest day of the year) and was then presented with her award by Barry Sloan, Chair of the Richard Jefferies Society.

Professor Sloan wrote:

We were delighted when Isabella expressed her readiness to travel to Marlborough to receive her prize in July, and further excited when it became apparent that the demand for tickets quickly exceeded the capacity of the Bookshop. In the event, St Mary’s Church provided the venue for an audience of just under 200, representing a wide range of ages, who gathered on the evening of the hottest day of the year and were captivated by Isabella Tree’s riveting account of the extra-ordinary project she and her husband have overseen on their estate at Knepp, West Sussex, since 2000. She used a wide range of photographs and video clips to illustrate the radical changes to the agricultural landscape that have taken place and to show how cattle, ponies, deer and pigs now enjoy freedom and space to roam and live almost entirely without human intervention. This, how-ever, is not all: the wilding of the estate has led to the return of seriously endangered species such as turtle doves and butterflies and the land is now host to all species of British owls and bats and provides a rich environment for wild flowers, a number of which are also struggling to survive elsewhere.    

 The questions from the audience after the talk not only showed how Isabella had fired people’s imaginations, but also their interest in how the project at Knepp might be taken forward in other locations―even at small-scale local level―and it was good to hear that there is a plan to produce a practical handbook to wilding to encourage more people to get involved.