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On Nature: Unexpected Ramblings on the British Countryside Hardcover – 23 Jun 2011
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‘Quirky and often fascinating’
Stephen Moss, Guardian
“An entertaining and diverse collection of rural musings from 26 authors.” 3/5 Stars. BBC Wildlife
Top customer reviews
The mix and match approach of the authors is a clear strength of this book, with few of them taking themselves too seriously, as can be the case in longer works where authors sometimes struggle to find something new or different to say. The essays tend to have one thing to say (this is not a criticism) and once this has been said they stop. I have to say I rather enjoyed this aspect of the book.
Although the essays are very different in content and style there does seem to be a theme that runs through the book - connection only comes through contact. This is not profound, but it is important. Change contact with hidden ponds, planned contact with fish, the contact of unfamiliar soil in a new garden or unfamiliar people on a bike journey . Each of these allows people to get unexpected insights into the world around them.
The book also contains about five sections called "how to tell the difference between X and Y" - grasshoppers and crickets as an example. These are very short and do seem a little out of place. As the sub-title of the book suggests the essays are "unexpected ramblings", and the differences section read a short bursts of low key taxonomy. As a result I feel they jar a little in the context of the whole book.
The book probably does not say anything that is really new or startling - although the proud section on being a lazy naturalist is one of the best statements I have read about not having to climb mountains, wade through bogs or battle through dense jungle to see interesting wildlife.
Recommended as a gentle, discursive, but not really ground breaking read.
My plunge into these various worlds began well, with an evocative account of 'A Chain of Ponds' and childhood by Chris Yates, stalled on an earthbound 'Falconer's Tale', recovered with Stuart Maconie's gently humorous 'Wainwright Walks', and maintained this uneven pattern almost throughout. Perhaps the problem is also the focus of this collection, as the editors admit themselves, having originally intended it to be a 'how to' book, the contributions submitted often took it into a more inspired celebration of Nature, in all her guises. Those who stuck with the original, narrower brief struggle understandably when they try to give technical advice, unleavened by either a sense of wonder, or a sense of humour. It also has to be said that some of the 'travelogs' were more of a slog, substituting perspiration for inspiration. Thankfully though, a number of writers overcame all the technical difficulties, to transform the overall feel of this anthology.
Charles Rangeley-Wilson achieves this in 'How to Catch Trout', his sound technical advice given a magical, personal context against a variety of backdrops. John Andrews 'Winter Pike Fishing' similarly creates something creepily atmospheric with his tale. 'Drinking the Seasons' by Mark Dredge, an account of local, seasonal real ale, had my mouth watering, and Colin Elford's 'How to see Wildlife' delivered sound advice clearly and simply, although on binocular use, "move your hands and face very slowly", contrasts sharply with Ceri Levy, who likens the approach to an "optical gunslinger" where "speed of the draw is king": confusing. Finally, Nick Small's 'Lazy Naturalist' is a warmly engaging approach about the importance of attracting wildlife to the garden; his light touch makes it sound like fun.
Anyway, this is mostly a collection of impressive, lyrical writing about the wonders of the outdoors, which are available to even the mildly curious. If you're already a 'Nature Nut', you'll find some treasures to cherish here; if not, I'm unsure how many this may convert. Should also mention that this comes attractively bound, with a nicely tactile cover, original illustrations, quality paper and decent text-size. Sadly, for this 'Nature Nut', the inconsistency of some of the 'ramblings', reduced the appeal to about 3.8 stars, but if you love the outdoors (or know someone who does) this should do very nicely (even if you're holed up indoors in winter).
My favourite short is by Nick Hand, who chronicles his journey cycling around the British Isles. I've been a big fan of Nick's writing for a while, and if you like this particular rambling I'd recommend you check out his blog [...] which covers his trip in more detail.
I don't think there's a dud in here, but I would recommend reading a ramble at a time and setting the book aside for a few days before starting the next one, otherwise they do tend to blur and run into each other.
Recommended for all countryside lovers.
The title "On Nature: Unexpected Ramblings on the British Countryside" sums up this book well.
There are a series of essays wriiten on various aspects of the countryside and nature in general. These are faily easy reads and great just before bed or when have some spare time.
I really liked the short passage on how to tell the difference between swallows, martins and swifts - something up untill now has been a real struggle! So for this alone I
have found this book to be worth reading.
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