Nature and landscape writing featuring Essex.
Over two thirds of the county is agricultural farmland and at about 350 miles has the longest coastline of all the English counties.
James Canton£16.98 £15.79
The Honeywood Oak is a splendid mature tree in the grounds of Marks Hall estate outside Coggeshall, just a few miles away from Colchester. For centuries it was part of a woodland of many hundred ancient oaks – until the 1950’s when the woodland was felled. Somehow, this one tree escaped the chain saws and now it stands alone on the same patch of ground where it has stood for over 8oo years. For years James Canton regularly found time to escape the pressures of work and the stresses of the 21st century to spend time with that Oak tree. He embarked upon a project to explore its nature and connections to the natural world surrounding it. Diary entries describe the birds, the animals and the insects that live in and around this tree following their activity through the ever-turning cycle of seasons. Interleaved with these beautifully written observations of nature Canton also explores the place of the oak tree in the trace of human history. Its use as firewood and timber for building and for boats; the food the acorns provided when times were hard. And its veneration as sacred which stretches back through the ages to the dawn of civilisation It is packed with insights into the Oak’s unique presence in religion, folk lore and literature. He also meets other people who have in differing ways come to know the Oak – the woodsman, craftspeople, a furniture maker and an artist, each adding a different perspective on this most powerful and enduring tree. This is a gentle and richly layered book that describes James Canton’s journey to understand the true nature of the Oak. Canongate hardback
J. A. Baker£12.99 £12.08
J. A. Baker's extraordinary classic of British nature writing was first published in 1967. Between 1954 and 1964, Baker, an unassuming office worker from mid-Essex, spent all his spare time observing and recording the magnificent peregrine falcons that became his passion and obsession. He followed them on foot and on his bicycle, each day recording their behaviour and his observations of the changing landscape in notebooks that that ran to over 1,600 pages. Eventually he edited these down to describe one calendar year of peregrine activity. Despite the association of peregrines with the wild, outer reaches of the British Isles, The Peregrine is set on the flat marshes of the Essex coast, where J. A. Baker spent long winters observing and writing about the visitors from the uplands - peregrines that spend the winter hunting the huge flocks of pigeons and waders that share the desolate landscape with them. Many writers including, Ted Hughes, Robert Macfarlane and Andrew Motion have hailed it as one of the most important books in twentieth-century nature writing. This new edition of the timeless classic, published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first publication, features an afterword by one of the book's greatest admirers, Robert Macfarlane. HarperCollins paperback
Tom Bolton£12.00 £11.16
At about 350 miles, Essex claims the longest coastline of any county. But mudflats, saltmarsh and estuaries make the boundary between sea and land hard to define. And its ever-shifting nature makes measurement difficult. Since medieval times large areas of farmland have been reclaimed from tidal saltmarshes and protected by sea walls. In recent years some of those areas have returned to the sea through either natural or intentional breaches in the sea wall. Essex is full of contrasts and contradictions. At the remote tip of the Dengie peninsula, St Peters Chapel, one of the oldest church buildings in the country, stands just a few miles from the decommissioned Bradwell nuclear power station. It is this land of contrasts that Tom Bolton explored as he walked the coastline in 2016. Taking a look at history, culture and the county’s literary connections, he gets under the skin of Essex character in this fascinating book. Penned in the Margins, paperback,
Robert MacFarlane£9.99 £9.29
The Old Ways The Broomway is allegedly the deadliest path in Britain thought to have killed over a hundred people over the centuries. It is an offshore footpath that crosses the vast expanse of the Maplin sands to marshy Foulness island off the Essex coast. The track of firmer sand, originally marked by broom handles, runs for six miles – but is only passable at low tide. And beware the tide comes in very fast. This wonderful book is included here on the strength of Macfarlanes description of his encounter with this path only to be attempted with a local guide. The rest of the book recounts Robert Macfarlane’s travels on Britain's ancient paths as he discovers the secrets of our beautiful, underappreciated landscape. Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, Robert Macfarlane discovers a lost world - a landscape of the feet and the mind, of pilgrimage and ritual, of stories and ghosts; above all of the places and journeys which inspire and inhabit our imaginations. Penguin paperback
Tony Gunton£12.49 £11.61
An illustrated guide to the best wildlife sites in Essex and east London Each entry includes full-colour maps to help you find your way around, plus how to get there, opening times, best time to visit, and other helpful detail. Sites are organised into sections by habitat, and each section begins with key information on the habitat and the significant wildlife that it supports. Also includes colour photographs of scenes from many of the sites, and 150 colour photos of the animals, birds, insects and plants you are likely to see. Lopinga Books, paperback
Tony Gunton£9.75 £9.06
This attractive book describes 50 different walks in every part of Essex and east London, many easily accessible by train or tube. Full colour route maps include landscape features such as hedges and woods, to make it easier for you to find your way, and are supported by detailed stage-by-stage directions. The maps are accompanied by summaries, including best time, highlights, drawbacks and the going; information on local transport and parking, and places to eat or picnic; notes on wildlife to look out for en route and colour photographs of landscapes and species you are likely to see. Lopinga Books, paperback
Peter Caton£9.99 £9.29
When Peter Caton set out to walk the Essex coast he had no idea of the beauty, wildlife and stories that he would find on the way. He takes the reader up and down the many creeks and estuaries of the longest coastline of any English county, through nature reserves, seaside resorts, unspoilt villages, sailing centres and alongside industry past and present.