Iain Sinclair, the celebrated author and psycho-geographer, walks back along the blue-grey roads and cliff-top paths of his childhood in south Wales, rediscovering the Gower peninsula. Provoked by the strange and enigmatic series of paintings Afal du Brogwyr (Black Apple of Gower) made by the artist Ceri Richards in the 1950s, Sinclair leaves behind the familiar murky elsewheres of his life in Hackney, London, carrying an envelope of photographs and old postcards, along with fragments of memory. He soon realises that a series of walks over the same ground - Port Enyon Point to Worm's Head have become significant waymarks in his life. His recollections of a meeting with the poet Vernon Watkins, the art of Richards and the poetry of Dylan Thomas lead him to his final quest, the Paviland Cave where in 1823 human remains 36,000 years old were discovered.
Twenty years after the publication of his classic novel Ulverton, the acclaimed poet and novelist Adam Thorpe revisits the landscape which inspired him. Silbury Hill in Wiltshire has perplexed people for generations. Was it once an island, moated by water? Was it a place of worship and celebration, perhaps a vast measure of the passing seasons? Along with Stonehenge and Avebury, was it part of a healing landscape or a physical memory of the long-ago dead? Silbury Hill is the sum of all that we project. A blank screen where human dreams and nightmares flicker. The hill has been part of Adam Thorpe's own life since his schooldays at Marlborough, which he would often escape in the surrounding downlands. He has carried Silbury ever since, through his teenage years in Cameroon, into his adulthood in England and France: its presence fused to each landscape which became his home.On Silbury Hill is Adam Thorpe's own projection onto Silbury's grassy slopes. It is a chalkland memoir told in fragments and family snapshots,skilfully built, layer on layer, from Britain's ancient and modern past.
Of all weathers, snow is the one that has always affected Marcus Sedgwick the most. While many people's idea of the perfect holiday involves sun, sea an sand, he instead makes trips to cold, snowy parts of the world: Russia, Scandinavia or the Arctic Circle. A few years ago he bought a mountain home, an old chalet d'alpage high in the Haute Savoie, and for the first time he began to understand what it is to live in an environment where extreme snowfall is frequent.Like the six sides of a snowflake, the book has six chapters, each exploring the art, literature and science of snow, as well as his own experiences and memories, asking whether it really did snow more during his boyhood in Kent and whether changing climate patterns might mean,that for some areas of the world, snow may become a thing of the past. He also wonders why snow is so powerful for our imagination, so transformative and as fundamental as our response to darkness, to sunlight.
Havergey does not feature on any maps of the British Isles. Yet this remote island is as real as any, with its limestone stacks, seabirds and human population - a mixture of utopians and nomads who have settled here to build a new kind of society. When a traveller arrives in this small land, bewildered by his long journey and disorientated by the past, he becomes an object of curiosity for the inhabitants, especially the one assigned to watch over him as he spends his first days in 'Quarantine'. Here, in an old building not far from the shore, the traveller is left alone to sift through Havergey's archive, and begins to piece together the fragments of the island's past. As he grows to understand why the people have settled here, fleeing a world in the last throes of ecological and social collapse, he does not know if he, too, will be able to make a home here, on a rock, out in the unforgiving ocean.Havergey reminds us how precious and precarious our world is, and speculates towards a way of living that does not assume people are the most important life form in any landscape.
Richard Skelton spent nearly half a decade living in a small valley high in the Furness hills of Cumbria, in northern England. When not writing or composing music, most of his days were spent beating the valley's bounds, exploring its network of paths, streams and walls. Beyond the Fell Wall is a distillation of his observations and thoughts about this particular patch of land. It is a poetic enquiry into the life of an seemingly inanimate landscape - its otherwise unheard melodies and unseen movements. It considers both vast geological epochs and brief moments of intimacy, and in turn it asks us to consider sentience in all things, whether animal, vegetable or mineral. At the heart of the book is the fell wall itself: vast and serpentine - a vessel for the lives, voices and myths of the landscape.
As climate change erodes the familiar pattern of the seasons, we turn instinctively to the life cycles of herbaceous plants to guide us through the year. The growing, flowering, seeding and dying back of wild flowers, weeds, herbs and garden perennials sustain and enrich our lives. Herbaceous is a journey which follows the colour pulse of plants through the year, looking for the new and emerging rhythms. Beginning with the bright yellow, followed by the vernal whites of spring and the pinks of summer, the blues of early autumn and finally the browns of seeds set as winter comes. Herbaceous is gardening with words - asking us to look again at our relationship with plants and celebrates their power to nourish our spirits.