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on 11 September 2013
Really like this book, beautifully produced with loads of ideas for places to go and itineraries for the weekend. Focuses on the really amazing wildlife wonders, so good for wife / kids who are not quite so keen as me. Very useful list of places to eat and stay.
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VINE VOICEon 22 October 2013
There have been innumerable guides giving descriptions of walks in Britain, including lots concentrating on wildlife. This well produced, sturdy and handsome book by James Lowen, does something a little different, with suggestions on how to spend 52 weekends watching the best of GB wildlife.

The sites are invariably interesting, the photographs beautiful and the writing, despite the relatively small amount of space the author allows himself, inspirational.

It's not always made immediately clear how likely it is to see the special species Weekend 24 is headlined "Glamorgan for Fen Orchid..." and there's a big photo of the target plant but reading the walk description carefully... "a 99% decline since 1980...some are off limits..." gives a more realistic appraisal of success than the strapline. This is commendable, as the hopeful weekend naturalist may have travelled a great distance in the hope of spotting the orchid and deserves a fair and realistic estimate of how easy the search will be. Most if not all the site descriptions do give clear appraisals of the chance of success.

There is always a danger in site guides like this that vulnerable species or areas will be too publicised, the only entry I found a bit dubious from this respect was weekend 46 where the wildlife-watcher is advised to drive up and down a raod at night as the best chance to see Wildcats. This seems a bit dangerous for the animal but undoubtedly would give just about the only chance of seeing one without joining a guided walk.

Some of the weekends involve a bit of travelling between two or more rather distant places (eg Walk 7)but I can honestly say that virtually every suggested short break would be a memorable and really rewarding experience.

Well researched and presented this collection of magical weekends would be perfect if only the author would have provided maps for each of the sites. Without them the portable, sturdy format is a bit wasted. Even so, very highly recommended.
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on 27 September 2013
Beautifully written, 52 Wildlife Weekends combines the best of wildlife and travel guides to provide really usefully and flexible itineraries that take in both stunning wildlife and the landscape and culture of the British Isles (the latter through some well chosen recommendations of places to stay). The detailed information on exactly where and when to go help to maximise the chances of a successful wildlife-watching trip for all and the breadth of target species means that even the seasoned wildlife-watching enthusiast is likely to discover something new.

I can't recommend the Kimmeridge Bay snorkelling highly enough - an eye opening experience for anyone who thought (as I did) that snorkelling was an activity best saved for warmer climes. Get your wetsuits on and get out there!
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on 5 September 2013
This is the perfect guide for nature-lovers of all kinds looking to make the most of British wildlife in their free time. Where to go? When to visit? What to do? What to look for? Where to stay? This guide provides the answers. It might help a family orient their weekend excursions to take better advantage of nature's sights, or allow a keen naturalist to make the most of a business trip to encounter some of the country's most wanted wild species. Although seasoned naturalists will make full use of it, the book should also nudge a less expert readership - perhaps a typical BBC Springwatch audience - to go out and experience Britain's wildlife in the flesh.

Most of the wildlife spectacles that have come to be uniquely associated with the UK are covered: hundreds of wintering geese, spring Bluebell woods, ancient Yew trees, Puffin colonies, the aerial displays at Starling roosts, dusk gatherings of crows, and opportunities to snorkel with Basking Sharks. The majority of these would be targets for even the keen naturalist: charismatic species such as Fen Raft Spider and Purple Emperor, Cirl Bunting and Pine Marten, amongst many others.

With 52 chapters, there is one weekend for every week of the year (although one would have to be pretty dedicated to exhaust all the suggestions in one, or even two years). Five wildlife targets grouped within easy striking distance have been chosen for each weekend. For example, a weekend on the Yorkshire coast (#38: September weekend 3) comprises a boat trip from Bridlington, rockpooling at South Landing, and birding at Flamborough, the Outer Head and North Landing. The first weekend trip is one of my favourites: an excursion to see Islay's wintering geese, and perhaps the Lagavulin and Laphroaig chasers recommended by the author. The experience is rounded off with Otters and Golden Eagle and, with a bit of luck, White-tailed Eagle. Thirty years on, this remains one of my most memorable short trips: in fact, I still remember the geese and raptors, not to mention Bruichladdich, Bowmore, Lagavulin and Caol Ila.

For each location, a weekend 'base' is suggested: a local town or a particularly characterful lodgings. Contact details and / or OS grid references of lodgings and wildlife sites are provided. There is a good spread of sites, with the majority of them outside south-east England. An index of sites and species, together with a couple of helpful tables, allow the reader to plan a whole year of rewarding wildlife excursions.

A book to inspire, but above all a guide to be taken out and used. This is recommended for anyone who wants to take a more active approach to experiencing the full gamut of Britain's wildlife, whether the keen naturalist with a wildlife hit list or simply those who want to become better acquainted with British nature. My copy has already found a home in the glove compartment...

Chris Sharpe, 5 September 2013. ISBN-13: 978-1-84162-464-8
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on 12 September 2013
Really useful and a pleasure to read Lowen's writing, the stunning photography has inspired me to explore the British countryside. Recommended.
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on 23 September 2015
A simple book but really useful when planning a visit in the UK. It has helped me decide when to go to the Outer Hebrides and where to spend a couple of nights on the way there from Devon and on the return journey.
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on 14 September 2013
Well I should declare that James is a friend. But I should also declare an interest in promoting British biodiversity in its entirety, and James has written a book that will inspire new naturalists and veteran pan-species listers alike to get into the field and see our wildlife. I love the way this book is written - it would have been so easy to write dull accounts of the logistics of where, when and how. But James has managed to weave all this into a witty and erudite narrative which really brings alive a sense of place and of experiencing wildlife in its natural context. It's very readable.
There is an understandable emphasis on vertebrates, orchids and other more glamorous species but hopefully that leaves the door open for "52 more wildlife weekends" for those who want to see more of the 80,000 species that occur in Britain!
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on 12 September 2013
What a lovely book, great for planning where to go and such wonderful pictures and informative text. Great to have a UK based book from this well established publisher of Guide Books.
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on 1 March 2014
I like this book a lot. It is a fabulous guide to wildlife sites throughout the UK and is invaluable to ensuring that you are in the right place at the right time to have the best wildlife adventures. It is a well presented and illustrated and professional looking guide.
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on 15 December 2013
This book has 52 fantastic and inspiring ideas for weekends getting to know our beautiful countryside and wildlife. I spent a truly magical weekend watching the deer rut in a golden sunset on Dunwich Heath followed by a glorious morning birdwatching at stunning RSPB Minsmere. We didn't spot any otters unfortunately but I will be going back so maybe I'll have better luck next time. Buy the book and get out there - I promise you, it's worth it!
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