Passionate and poetically compelling, Nicola Chester’s On Gallows Down is a rich and rewarding must-read for nature-lovers, and for readers who adored H is for Hawk. Charting a life lived in - and through - rural landscapes, Chester writes with a painterly eye. Her descriptions of nature and wildlife are staggeringly evocative - sensory, but never overblown or sentimental. Rather, her style has an elegant, measured beauty as she tells a personal story of protest and resistance, of a profound connection to the earth and nature, to offer a story of hope and connectedness in fractured times. Chester shares her experiences during the days of the Greenham Common protests, her experiences as a new mother rearing her children in the ways and words of nature, and her journey to protesting environmental destruction, a journey she’s still consummately committed to. Birds, especially, play a vital and beautiful role in the book, as they do in the author’s life - their migratory cycles, their movement and influence, her fights to combat the destruction of habitats. Moving, stirring, stuff.
Written and illustrated by designer Jani Tully Chaplin, A Greek Island Nature Diary is a joyous journal-format ode to its creator’s love of the islands, as expressed through her detailed watercolours and personal observations of nature and the shifting seasons. Having lived in Corfu, the author’s immersion in - and love for - this alluringly beautiful part of the world is infectious. Through spreads dedicated to different species of plant, flower, tree and animal, she shares her personal encounters with these natural wonders, alongside fascinating information about connected mythology, folklore, medicinal uses, and literature. Take the evocatively-named snake’s head iris, for example. Chaplin blissfully describes encountering these beauties in the undergrowth near her ancient olive trees, before sharing the flower’s connections to Iris, goddess of the rainbow and messenger to the gods. Published in an attractive hardback format, and resplendent with the author’s pencil drawings and watercolours (often vibrant, and always detailed), this will make a splendid gift for friends and family who adore exploring the Greek Islands, and for armchair travellers who’ve yet to discover their delights.
Alan Berger’s The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora serves a creative, flavoursome feast of recipes focussed on wild plants. One person’s weed will often be Berger’s delicious delight, and this book invites readers to pay attention to, and forage, the wonderful wealth of wild plants that flourish in fields, forests and gardens. The chapter divisions say it all - Verdant, Abundant, Aromatic and Nourishing - each of them rich in inspiring, easy-to-follow recipes, from the familiar (soups made with watercress, for example) to the unexpected - who would have thought sunflowers could have so many uses and be so tasty? With 180 recipes in all, plenty of photographs, tonnes of tips on techniques for preparation and storage, plus in-depth detail on plant families, this is encyclopaedic in scope, and is sure to bring fresh wild wonder to tables.
Imbued with infectious personal passion as it shares expert information and plenty of practical guidance, Vicki Hird’s Rebugging the Planet is a brilliant book for bug-lovers of all ages and, given bugs’ vital importance to the upkeep and well-being of Planet Earth (let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge the fact that bees contribute more to the UK economy than the Queen), it deserves to be enjoyed and implemented far and wide - at home, and in classrooms too. In fact, this is perfect for reading and implementing during longer holidays from school, or over the course of a term, especially chapter four which presents an extensive range of how-to ideas for re-bugging your own patch of the world. But back to the beginning. The book sets out its inspirational stall in the opening chapters by explaining all the vital things bugs do for us, among them pollinating plants, feeding birds, feeding humans, defending our food crops, cleaning our water, controlling pests, and healing us. Maggots, for example, can remove (munch) and disinfect rotting flesh, leeches can stop clots, and the honey made by bees has anti-inflammatory properties. To play a role in the author’s re-bugging initiative, readers might find themselves inspired to build a bug palace, buy bug-friendly food from bug-buddy farmers, and much more. This is packed with plenty of ways to live a bug-better life, which in turn means living on a better planet.
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it's that people love parks As horizons shrank, we took stock. At first, a sense of panic set in: nowhere to go, nothing to do... Then we all went to the park, and we realized something: we need greenery - we crave it. Whether we're in Colombia or Korea, America or Australia, urban parks are places where we can find calm amid the chaos. They can also (more often than we may realize) conceal intriguing hidden histories, and can tell us something about modern life in our frenzied world, too. With fondness and humour, travel writer Tom Chesshyre recalls 50 of his favourite urban parks from across the world, in a love letter to the green escapes that bring us joy in our cities.
Truly fascinating, this is one of the most surprising books I’ve read in a while. Seriously, I could rave on and on about it! Journey to what feels like an entirely different planet and explore the wonder of fungi. “Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live...Yet they live their lives largely hidden from view , and over 90% if their species remain undocumented.” Author Merlin Sheldrake caught and held my attention from the outset. I had to stop reading every so often just to contemplate the world that was opening up in front of me. I still feel gobsmacked days after reading it. Fungi has shaped our history and “the ability of fungi to digest plastic, explosives, pesticides and crude oil is being harnessed in breakthrough technologies, and the discovery that they connect plants in underground networks, the ‘wood wide web’, is transforming the way we understand ecosystems.” Entangled Life made me reconsider established thoughts and opened my eyes to new ones. I want to recommend it to everyone, for me it’s a genuine must-read and just had to be included on my list of Liz Picks of the Month and as a LoveReading Star Book.
Tom Kerss is an astronomer, astrophotographer and night sky explorer who has previously worked at the Royal Observatory Greenwich and now runs world-class courses on astronomy. The more adventurous will want to avoid paying a premium to an aurora adventure travel business or resort, and find their own path. This book doesn’t simply list destinations and access, but offers scientifically-backed advice on timings with respect to lunar and solar cycles and practical tips such as how best to position yourself with respect to towns and cities. Not being a scientist myself, it was great to read the science behind auroras explained in an accessible and entertaining manner. The book even explores the history of the lights and their interpretation and impact on our earthly cultures. The Northern Lights are out of this world, and they are here for us to enjoy and marvel at. Northern Lights provides everything that is required to take your trip to another level. *** Don't miss Tom Kerss in conversation at A Day at the Riverside, 18th September when he shares the magic, mystery and the science of the Northern Lights.
It's free, it's fun and it's very tasty! Harvesting your own produce from the hedgerows, meadows and woods rather than just ordering food online from the supermarket is all the rage with both towndwellers and countryfolk. The joy of turning nature's bounty into delicious produce to enjoy with the family or to use to make a lovely gift is being rediscovered in kitchens across the country. Explore the deliciously different flavours of wild food, from bilberries and nettles to hazelnuts and damsons - all of which are free for the picking. Learn how to use a range of wild foods creatively in over 100 easy recipes, ranging from jams, jellies and chutneys to starters, main courses, cakes, puds, cocktails and cordials. With chapters on Flowers & Hips, Leaves, Berries, Fruit with Stones, Fruit with Pips and Nuts, why not treat yourself to fruit leather, cheese, rose petal syrup or a wickedly alcoholic drink?
Author Nick Hayes argues that "If ... power is sourced in property, then the fences that divide England are not just symbols of the partition of people, but the very cause of it.” And so off he goes, trespassing through the estates of England, checking out what we are all denied access to and along the way unpicking bigger stitch-ups. This book is not simply a diary of naughty incursions - amongst other things it’s a meticulous deconstruction of the legal history which has led to a situation where owners will often intimidate walkers with arguments that do not stand up in court, or at best are open to interpretation. Hayes begins the book with an amusing account of a celebrated incidence of civil disobedience - the mass trespass of Kinder Scout in the Peak District in 1932 - and from there he unravels decades of frustration. The Book of Trespass is also notably a collection of intriguing and beautiful pen and ink illustrations by the author which unveil and frame these forbidden landscapes as quite mysterious and dream-like. The book is radical and persuasive, and I’m not sure I will ever treat a fence or a private land sign with the same respect again.
Befitting its beautiful subjects, Jon Dunn’s The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds is a dazzling work of nature writing. Blending a thrilling sense of personal adventure with bewitching detail on the habitats, habits and mythology of these most handsome of birds, the book has huge appeal for both dedicated bird-lovers and general readers. Framed by the author’s inspiring viewing of the Natural History Museum’s hummingbird cabinet, Dunn shares how he was driven to feed his hummingbird addiction by immersing himself in their world - “I had to see them for myself. Stuffed historical specimens had sown a seed that had, in time, flourished into a consuming hunger”. To that end, he plans and embarks on a journey to see these birds with their “otherworldly, metallic and jewel-like plumages”, their “rainbow array of colours, shapes and sizes” across their global range - from the wilds of Alaska, to the very tip of Argentina. As well as taking in hummingbirds’ full geographic range (with each place and its people evoked in glorious technicolour), the book’s style has a broad wingspan too - it flits and flutters from having the tension of a thriller, the poetic impact of a literary prize-winner, and the unadulterated glee of a piece of personal passion. Having failed to find one myself (to date, at least), boy was I envious of the author’s enraptured description of seeing Bee Hummingbirds (the world’s smallest bird) during an entrancing Cuban experience that left him feeling “a little like Alice in Wonderland”.
A year of looking, listening and noticing across four unique seasons and thirty-five beautifully illustrated poems. The world changed in 2020. Gradually at first, then quickly and irreversibly, the patterns by which we once lived altered completely. The Heeding paints a picture of a year caught in the grip of history, yet filled with revelatory perspectives close at hand: a sparrowhawk hunting in a back street; the moon over a town with a loved-one's hand held tight; butterflies massing in a high-summer yard - the everyday wonders and memories that shape a life and help us recall our own. Across four seasons and thirty-five luminous poems and illustrations, Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes lead us on a journey that takes its markers and signs from nature and a world filled with fear and pain but beauty and wonder too. Collecting birds, animals, trees and people together, The Heeding is a profound meditation to a time no-one will forget. At its heart, this is a book that helps us look again, to heed: to be attentive to this world we share and this history we're living through, to be aware of how valuable and fragile we are, to grieve what's lost and to hope for a better and brighter tomorrow.
Calling all outdoor adventurers who want to walk on the wild side by the light of the moon! While there’s no shortage of brilliant books to inspire and guide nature exploration in young adventurers, Chris Salisbury’s Wild Nights Out is the first nature guide to focus on night-time activities, which gives both the book and its activities a distinct and decidedly magical edge. With a foreword by Chris Packham, this is a brilliant book for grown-ups to use with 7+-year-olds who share their passion for the great outdoors. The text addresses adults, as opposed to chattily speaking to children direct, but with a background in theatre and environmental education, and currently working as professional storyteller alongside directing the Call of the Wild Foundation programme for educators-in-training, the author is well-placed to advise on how to engage young explorers. As for the activities, the book covers a blend of games, walks and sensory experiences, the latter of which form an excellent foundation from which to explore the world at night, with exercises designed to focus and enhance one’s sensory perceptions. Then there are practical activities covering the likes of learning to call for owls, detect bats and understand the night sky alongside immersive theatrical activities, such as hosting nocturnal animal performances and fireside storytelling. With black-and-white illustrations throughout and activities to last the entire summer holidays, this certainly shines an inspiring and informative light on night-time nature. You can find more recommended adventure reads in our curation for the London Mountain Film Festival Bookfest 2021.