Through the story of one man, Caleb Bawcombe, a shepherd whose flocks graze the Wiltshire, Hampshire and Dorset borders, we meet men and women of humble birth, poachers, gypsies, farmers and labourers striving to survive on the land. As we read, the cumulative affect of their stories becomes much more than a record of rural life.
Winner of the 2020 Wainwright Prize, Diary of a Young Naturalist chronicles the turning of Dara McAnulty’s world, from spring to summer, autumn to winter, on his home patch, at school, in the wild and in his head. Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special book vividly explores the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist. With a sense of awe and wonder, Dara describes in meticulous detail encounters in his garden and the wild, with blackbirds, whooper swans, red kites, hen harriers, frogs, dandelions, skylarks, bats, cuckoo flowers, Irish hares and many more species. The power and warmth of his words also draw an affectionate and moving portrait of a close-knit family making their way in the world.
“The concept of ‘following your dream’ seems like a very modern concoction, but here we have an example of it in the first half of the twentieth century . . . And, for a few brief years between the wars, the dream blossomed.”Amy Liptrot
In 1927, R. M. Lockley became the custodian of Skokholm and its derelict farmhouse, where he spent twelve years with his wife and daughter, building his utopia from the bounty of the sea, recording and studying migratory birds, working the land, living out his dream until it was shattered by the outbreak of the Second World War. Dream Island is an inspiring journey of how R.M. Lockley, a naturalist of international renown, discovered his love of nature and the freedom and struggle of living a self-sufficient life.
First published in 1932 and written in simple, direct prose, Farmer’s Glory is a portrait of a farming life in southern England and in western Canada, and is a model of the genre: warm and humorous as well as an astute and unflinching account of the hardships of a farming life. Introduced, in this new, edition by James Rebanks, bestselling author of The Shepherd’s Life.
Showcases some of the most compelling parts of the J. A. Baker Archive, containing previously unknown details of Baker’s life as well as extracts from his own personal writing. It provides an invaluable new insight into both the sensitive, passionate character of J. A. Baker, and the state of late twentieth-century Britain, a country experiencing the throes of agricultural and environmental revolutions.
Hetty Saunders was first introduced to J. A. Baker and the Baker Archive as a literature postgraduate at the University of Cambridge. She was instantly captivated by the astounding prose of Baker’s first book, The Peregrine, and the mysterious life of its author.
Hailed a masterpiece when it was first published in 1960, the story of Gavin Maxwell’s life with otters on the remote west coast of Scotland remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man’s relationship with the natural world.
In the depths of winter in 1705 the young Johann Sebastian Bach, then unknown as a composer and earning a modest living as a teacher and organist, set off on a long journey by foot to Lübeck to visit the composer Dieterich Buxterhude, a distance of more than 250 miles. This journey and its destination were a pivotal point in the life of arguably the greatest composer the world has yet seen. Lübeck was Bach’s moment, when a young teacher with a reputation for intolerance of his pupils’ failings began his journey to become the master of the Baroque.
In 1939, on the eve of the Second World War, Robert Gibbings launched his home-made punt on the River Thames and began a slow journey downstream, armed with a sketchpad and a microscope. From the river’s source at the edge of the Cotswold Hills to the bustle of London’s docks, Sweet Thames Run Softly is a charming, often eccentric account.
In the early 1930s Clare Leighton began work on a sequence of wood engravings depicting traditional farming in England over the course of a calendar year. The country was in the grips of the Great Depression. Unemployment had doubled. Hunger marches were beginning to spread through towns and cities. Machines were replacing men and women on the land.
Clare Leighton (1898-1989) was born in London and studied at Brighton, Slade and Central schools of art. Travel in Europe nurtured an empathy for rural workers and their culture, reflected in much of her work. An accomplished writer, Clare Leighton was encouraged to write a series of sketches to accompany the twelve engravings she produced. The Farmer’s Year was the result, published in 1933 to great acclaim in Britain and North America, running to three impressions by February 1934.
Over three decades and through two world wars, in the deserts of Libya and the woodlands of Italy, in the chalk downs of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire, he searched continually for his most beloved and elusive Orchis militaris, the military orchid. Jocelyn Brooke blends memoir, botany and satire to recall this lifelong quest.
A century before Charles Darwin, decades before the French Revolution, Gilbert White began his lifelong habit of measuring and observing the world around his Hampshire home. Daily rainfall levels and temperature shifts were recorded with home-made instruments. Bird song and seasonal migrations were noted. The feeding habits of frogs, bats and mice were jotted into his diaries and nature journals, as were the simple delights he felt hearing a cricket in the meadow or a blackbird in the hedgerows. The extraordinary detail of the natural history he described has given us, two hundred years later, a glimpse into ecosystems untouched by industry and an account of how changes in global climate can affect local weather patterns. Gilbert White is now considered England’s first ecologist. The Natural History of Selborne is one the most published books in the English language. Yet the most enduring quality of his writing is the spirit of curiosity that bounds across every page, inspiring us to explore the abundance of life at our doorsteps and around our parishes.
‘…a rich trove of such secrets, flinty reminders of what we have forgotten. It is a journey into society’s subconscious’Patrick Barkham
The Pattern Under the Plough unearths the vanished and vanishing customs and culture of the rural communities of East Anglia in the first half of the twentieth century and shows us the importance of these old traditions and beliefs.
As lyrical and precise as Fowles’ novels, The Tree is a provocative meditation on the connection between the natural world and human creativity, and also a rejection of the idea that nature should be tamed for human purpose.
During the early 1970s Richard Mabey set about mapping his unofficial countryside. He walked crumbling city docks and overgrown bomb sites, navigating inner city canals and car parks, exploring sewage works, gravel pits, rubbish tips. What he discovered runs deeper than a natural history of our suburbs and cities. The Unofficial Countryside prescribes another way of seeing, another way of experiencing nature in our daily lives. Wild flowers glimpsed from a commuter train. A kestrel hawking above a public park. Enchanter’s nightshade growing through pavement cracks. Fox cubs playing on a motorway’s scrubby fringe. There is a scarcely a nook in our urban landscape incapable of supporting life. It is an inspiration to find this abundance, to discover how plants, birds, mammals and insects flourish against the odds in the most obscure and surprising places.
H.E. Bates carried a woodland in his imagination. He fell under its spell as a boy growing up in the Midlands, becoming increasingly enchanted each time he stepped below the wooded canopy. Memory magnified its mystery over the years, enriching his stories as he grew successful as a writer.
Immersed in the detail of this ancient landscape, its people and the habitats of its wildlife, what emerges from Jefferies’ dazzling prose is his sense of perpetual wonder and the deep affection he felt for his homeland, from the clatter of a milkmaid’s boots to a pike lying in ambush.