With Tree Tending Tuesdays in hibernation and the evenings drawing in, it is time to get cosy and enjoy a good read. Two books that are a wonderful contemplation of nature are Roger Deakin’s ‘Notes from Walnut Tree Farm’ (Penguin) and Richard Kerridge’s ‘Cold Blood’ (Vintage).
Roger Deakin writes a lyrical prose diary of reflections on what he observes throughout a year at and around his farm. A September entry gives a flavour
Yesterday I noticed that on the tin roof of the woodshed, where I have lined my plums in rows in the valleys of the corrugated-iron roof to dry in the sun as prunes – an experiment – a spider has noticed the numbers of visiting fruit flies and other insects, and constructed a funnel -necked web immediately next to the row of plums, it has got lucky straight away and a dozen victims were struggling in their silky bonds by the late morning.
Often wrily humorous, his writing reveals what can be seen and discovered when you take time to engage in the life unfolding all around you.
Richard Kerridge similarly opens our eyes. His book is an autobiography of his fascination with amphibians and reptiles, during a childhood in London suburbs. Seduced by cards depicting African animals which came in the packets of tea his parents bought, he sought his own safari:
Britain had no wild animals like this…….but if you get close to the ground and saw the forest and savannah down there, Britain did have animals as strange and beautiful and savage…….Small faces were there, looking up from the grass and leaf litter…….there was stalking, there was fighting, there was scurrying dashes for safety……..From the perspective of lying down in the grass ‘ my garden and the park no longer seemed to be enclosed spaces……they seemed part of an infinite space, a depth of wildness on all sides receding into the distance this depth was wild england in its immense completeness held together across the cities by secret corridors railway banks, river banks wasteland. frogs, toads and newts – just the thought of them did it for me.
After reading this book, a walk around Hanwell meadows is never the same again! With chapters on Newts, Frogs, Lizards and Snakes you learn much about the biology and ecology of these creatures but through the entertaining lens of his often funny, but sometimes sad, stories of boyhood adventures: for example cycling without his parents permission to Camber sands in search of Marsh frogs and Grass snakes or taking a potential girlfriend on a date to look for adders which backfired when an adder bit into her boot and they struggled to release it and she wasn’t impressed!
Both books invite contemplation of how we are looking after the habitat around us.
(With thanks to our guest writer Felicity.)