Spring is here and we have put together a selection of our favourite nature writing books from the last few years
Robert MacFarlane£9.99 £9.29
Are there any genuinely wild places left in Britain and Ireland? Or have we tarmacked, farmed and built ourselves out of wildness?In his vital, bewitching, inspiring classic, Robert Macfarlane sets out in search of the wildness that remains.
Helen MacDonald£16.98 £15.79
Animals don't exist to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves. From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world. Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches. Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century's greatest nature writers.
Isabella Tree£20.00 £18.60
In Wilding, Isabella Tree tells the story of the 'Knepp experiment', a pioneering rewilding project in West Sussex, using free-roaming grazing animals to create new habitats for wildlife. Part gripping memoir, part fascinating account of the ecology of our countryside, Wilding is, above all, an inspiring story of hope. Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer - proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain - the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade. Extremely rare species, including turtle doves, nightingales, peregrine falcons, lesser spotted woodpeckers and purple emperor butterflies, are now breeding at Knepp, and populations of other species are rocketing. The Burrells' degraded agricultural land has become a functioning ecosystem again, heaving with life - all by itself.
The landscapes of Britain and Ireland, together with the creatures and plants that inhabit them, have penetrated deep in our collective imagination. From Gilbert White and Dorothy Wordsworth to Laurie Lee and Nan Shepherd, literature inspired by the natural world has become an integral part of our shared identity, and shaped our relationship with the islands we call home. In The Wild Isles, Patrick Barkham has gathered together a wide array of the very best of British and Irish nature writing, characterized by an arresting diversity of moods and voices. His choices are arranged under themes that range from birds, woods and coastlines to childhood, the seasons and urban nature, and juxtapose extracts from much-loved classics with passages by contemporary writers such as Robert Macfarlane, James Rebanks and Helen Macdonald. Here the reader will find joyful celebrations of landscape and the wildlife it nurtures, probing explorations of the environmental problems facing us today, as well as the fresh and vital perspectives of writers from underrepresented backgrounds. 'If British and Irish nature writing is to grow and endure,' writes Barkham in his introduction, 'it must be diverse, complex, multi-faceted and dynamic, and relevant to everyone who lives on this land.'Encompassing the bleak heights of the Cairngorms, the ancient woodlands of Essex, the storm-lashed islands of Ireland's west coast and the lush fields of Devon, The Wild Isles highlights nature's capacity to terrify and to delight, to soothe and to heal, to surprise, inspire and bring wonder.
Dara McAnulty£16.00 £14.88
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.
Nan Shepherd£9.99 £9.29
'The finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain' Guardian Introduction by Robert Macfarlane. Afterword by Jeanette WintersonIn this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape. Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the 'essential nature' of the Cairngorms; her quest led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains, and on our imaginative relationship with the wild world around us. Composed during the Second World War, the manuscript of The Living Mountain lay untouched for more than thirty years before it was finally published.