As in my recent six month sojourn with The Wild Places, I realise that these books just can't be rushed.
I am currently and variously on a slow read of Wildwood by Roger Deakin, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit and Deep Country - Five Years in the Welsh Hills by Neil Ansell...which reminds me of that poem by Christopher Logue
To a Friend in Search of Rural Seclusion
When all else fails,
So with my thoughts on The Wild Places pending, and those on the other books unlikely to appear any time soon, and with another little queue of similar-themed books in the wings, I thought I would just share the next batch with you in advance. Text is taken from blurbs and websites with some additions of my own, and yet again, you'd be delighted to find any of these under the tree in ....eeeeek... twelve days time.
My thanks to Carol for this book which I have been saving to start reading at the beginning of a year, and to then follow it month by month through that year. Somehow I missed 2012 so 2013 it will be.
"Colin Alford spends his days lone but for the deer, the squirrels, the rabbots, the birds and the many other creatures inhabiting the woods.
From the crisp cold of January, through the promise of spring and the heat of summer, and then into the damp autumn, we accompany the forest ranger as he goes about his work - stalking in the early morning darkness, putting an injured fallow buck out of its misery, watching stoats kill a hare, observing owls, and simply being part of the outdoors."
This is the Gamekeeper's life too...the life that, as Kathleen Jamie suggests, is not all 'otters and primroses'. If he takes me out for a drive around the estate he works on I get a real feel for those realities and the hardships too. It is no easy life working with the light, from sunrise until sunset and through every conceivable weather, much of it alone... and I still marvel that from a 50% genetic inheritance that loves her bed, there comes a son who jumps out of his crib every morning as dawn breaks and without fail, and who won't return to it until he is sure all is well with his bit of the outdoors.
"Naturalist and author Stephen Moss lives in one of the longest villages in England - Mark, on the Somerset Levels. This watery wonderland is steeped in history: it is the land of King Arthur, where King Alfred burnt the cakes and where the last battle was fought on English soil.
This ancient country parish, dating from before the Domesday Book, has been reclaimed from the sea over many centuries. Today the landscape bears witness to its eventful past, and is criss-crossed with watery ditches and broad droves, down which livestock was once taken to market. These are now home to a rich selection of resident and visiting wildlife: rooks and roe deer; sparrows and snowdrops; buzzards, badgers and butterflies. Amongst these natural wonders are the 'wild hares and hummingbirds' of the book's title: one of our most iconic mammals, the brown hare; and a scarce and spectacular visitor, the hummingbird hawk-moth.
As the year unfolds, Stephen Moss creates an intimate account of the natural history of his parish. He witnesses the landscape as it passes from deep snow to spring blossom, through the heat haze of summer to the chill winds of autumn; from the first hazel catkins to the swallows returning from Africa; the sounds of the dawn chorus to the nocturnal mysteries of moths.
But this is not simply the story of one small corner of the West Country; it also serves as a microcosm of Britain's wider countryside. At a time of uncertainty - as our landscape and wildlife face some of the greatest changes in recorded history - it reveals the plants and animals that will adapt and thrive, and those that may struggle, and even disappear from our lives.
This is a very personal celebration of why the natural world matters to all of us, wherever we live. Wild Hares and Hummingbirds is nature-writing at its finest, expressed through the natural history of one very special place."
Well this should be our life too. We have lived on the very edge of the Parish, three miles from the village, for eighteeen years now, but I am interested to see whether there are parallels in my perceptions of life here to that as seen be Stephen Moss.
In 1987, the greatest English storm for three centuries laid flat fifteen million trees across southern England and devastated a nation of tree-lovers. The storm marked a turning point in our perception of trees and a dawning realisation that they have lives of their own, beyond the roles and images we press on them.
In Beechcombings Richard Mabey traces the long history of the beech tree throughout Europe, writing about the bluebells, orchids, fungi, deer and badgers associated with them, the narratives we tell about trees and the images we make of them. It is an engrossing, exciting, poetical and profound book that will stimulate debate about man's relationship with nature and enchant the reader.
With my focus on 'our' Beechwood and the walking of my own Wild Places I am hoping this will be the perfect book to graft onto (sorry couldn't resist) my reading of Roger Deakin's Wildwood.
'In summer 2010 Simon Armitage decided to walk the Pennine Way. The challenging 256-mile route is usually approached from south to north, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm, the other side of the Scottish border. He resolved to tackle it the other way round: through beautiful and bleak terrain, across lonely fells and into the howling wind, he would be walking home, towards theYorkshire village where he was born.
Travelling as a 'modern troubadour' without a penny in his pocket, he stopped along the way to give poetry readings in village halls, churches, pubs and living rooms. His audiences varied from the passionate to the indifferent, and his readings were accompanied by the clacking of pool balls, the drumming of rain and the bleating of sheep.
Walking Home describes this extraordinary, yet ordinary, journey. It's a story about Britain's remote and overlooked interior - the wildness of its landscape and the generosity of the locals who sustained him on his journey. It's about facing emotional and physical challenges, and sometimes overcoming them. It's nature writing, but with people at its heart. Contemplative, moving and droll, it is a unique narrative from one of our most beloved writers.'
I am intrigued to see how a poet imparts his skills to the land of psycho-geography especially in the light of this from Simon Armitage which I chanced upon as I browsed the book...
'...when I swapped social work for poetry, part of the idea was to get out of the office and into the wider world again, to rejoin the adventure. But the sediment has built up. The stodginess of routine has set in. So even if I'm writing about the Sahara or the Antarctic I'm usually doing it in a chair, behind double glazing. The Pennine Way is about getting OUT THERE again. Its about taking the air and clearing my head.'
'Winter takes us on an intimate tour of the artists, poets, composers, writers, explorers, scientists and thinkers who helped shape a new and modern idea of winter. We learn how literature heralds the arrival of the middle class; how snow science leads to existential questions of God and our place in the world; how the race to the poles marks the human drive to imprint meaning on a blank space. Offering a kaleidoscopic take on the season, Winter is a homage to an idea of a season and a journey through the modern imagination.'
I like the premise for this one, a series of lectures given by Adam Gopnik, thus pieces that retain the spontaineity of the spoken word, that are 'meant to sound vocal.' and having already made my bookmark selection as this card for its plenteous snow..
I was then really intrigued to see there is a big chunk on the art of Caspar David Friedrich in this book. It was ages before I had spotted the detail beyond the snow, I had missed the crutches, the man presumably beseeching the shrine... that gothic castle, so I clearly have much to find out.
And if you have any more reading suggestions around similar themes please do add them in comments and perhaps we'll have ourselves another list.