With the weather having been rather cold, the first fields being ploughed and along with them the footpaths, it has become that time of year when going out and about in the countryside starts to be a trial rather than an enjoyment. But rather than be a low point for ones who enjoy nature and the countryside there is now plenty of time to catch up with some reading and planning new forays. Here are a few that I found interesting recently.
Cold Blood - Richard Kerridge
(Published by Chatto and Windus)
This is the story of how a young boy –the author – became obsessed with reptiles and a lifelong passion with snakes, newts, frogs and other lizards began. This is part guide book and part semi autobiography. As well as interesting information on a section of UK wildlife that most of us are unaware of, there is a fascinating back story of his awkward relationship with his emotionally scarred D-Day veteran father. Initially not a book that jumps out at you (it wouldn’t have been a book I would have chosen to buy) but once started it quickly became quite absorbing; I am glad I read it.
The book is quite subtle, yet easy to read and gives an insight into different ways and reasons why people interact with the natural world. Recently read on Radio 4, its well worth a look at.
Walking Close to series – Clive Brown
(Published by Clive Brown)
When we first moved here, I was given the Walking Close to Bourne guide booklet. It was good introduction to some of the pathways and byways around town, especially Bourne Woods. Recently I dug it out again to organise a group walk and rediscovered some forgotten gems.
The booklet describes 10 walks which are, on average, 5 miles long and circular. These walks are not particularly taxing and use public footpaths mostly through out. They are great for a family walk on a Sunday afternoon or a few hours out walking a dog.
My only criticism with the booklets is that they are not informative about points of interest to see on the walks. For example one walk near Creeton is named after a place called Thunderbolt Pit. There is no explanation why this is called Thunderbolt Pit; and to this day I have been unable to find out why. Little write ups inbetween the directions would be appreciated.
For newcomers to Bourne it’s a good way to get to know the local countryside. With dozens of Close to guides covering a lot of places in England, they are useful to pack for weekends away too.
Lincolnshire Walks Series – Lincolnshire County Council
(Published by Lincolnshire County Council)
One of the best series of local walking guides you can get and they are free! Each walk is a 3 – 4 mile circular walk around towns and villages of Lincolnshire, with additional information to make it a much longer walk if you wanted.
Each walk is printed on a pocket size leaflet, which makes it very convenient for carrying, with plenty of photos, local history and wildlife information as well as super clear instructions supplied.
You can get them online from the council or you can get them from a local library.
Meadows – George Peterken
(Published by British Wildlife Publishing)
Meadows is the second instalment in a series of books on the British countryside and wildlife. It’s quite a hefty tone but probably the most interesting book I read in the past 6 months. As the title indicates, the subject matter is about that quintessential part of our landscape that is sadly vanishing at an alarming rate.
The book covers the history of meadows, the wildlife that depends on them, the importance of them culturally, reasons for the decline and hopes for the future.
George Peterken is a world authority on British and European meadows and writes with verve, clarity and enthusiasm, making a topic that most won’t give a second thought to, a really enjoyable read. Most serious scientific natural history books don’t appeal to readers outside that circle but this book is so well written that everybody will be able to understand and enjoy it.
Illustrated with lots of pictures and photos, once read you will be looking at Bourne’s meadows in a different way.
This Happy Spirit – complied R K Thornton and Cary Akroyd
(Published by the John Clare Society)
Poetry tends to switch off the majority of us these days. What with Wordsworth wandering as a lonely cloud and getting overexcited by daffodils being forced fed at school, is it any wonder poetry is off most of our bookshelves? If that’s the case with you let me introduce you to the works of John Clare. He was a farm labourer who lived in Helpston near Stamford in the early 1800s, endured great poverty and suffered from what we would call bipolar depression for most of his life. Apart from that he is probably the greatest nature poet ever produced in Britain. His poems cover all aspects of the countryside: birds, plants, animals, farm workers and village life; all written in a style that is so easy to understand and, more importantly, relate too. For anyone who enjoys nature his observations of wildlife are so well described that you can learn more about the animal or insect behaviour from his poems than from a modern guidebook.
This new collection of his poems is a selection of his less well known writing, which in my view is some of his better work. Beautifully illustrated with woodcuts by Carry Akroyd, these help bring a beauty and life to the writing.
Discover John Clare and you will rediscover our countryside.