My last blog on ‘essential’ reading for those leading others in the mountains was very well received, thank you. This time I’m going to take you to the next level. The criteria remain, beautifully written books which are eminently readable by all. Not textbooks, but books which will inform and inspire about nature. Books that can be read cover to cover and then dipped into later, as the mood takes. There are so many nature books around at the moment and most have them have something to offer. You may have some different favourites from me and some of my preferred ones, I considered a little esoteric to recommend whole heartedly. So here goes, your next most important, easy to read, unmissable, glorious nuggets of nature passion. Written so much better than wot I could do!!
I have to start with this year’s Wainwright Prize winner. The work of the youthful Dara McAnulty;
Diary of a Young Naturalist is a sensational piece of writing. His passion, his observation, his skill in engaging you in his story is superb. This is an easy book to read, a joy to read, pick it up and let it flow. Inspirational, but at the same time overpowering, how can the English language be used so well by someone so young…
My next two are here for the writing. I’ll take Meadowland by John Lewis-Stempel first. It’s the story of a meadow, through a year on his farm. Whilst not really ML terrain here is a lot to learn from this book, and, as I’ve said the use of English makes it worth reading just for that reason. Follow the season through the life of the meadow, learning all the way.
The second of my – read for the sake of the English books – is The Last Wilderness by Neill Ansell. Neil is losing his hearing, and there are moments when I wanted to cry as he realises he can no longer hear the meadow pipits ‘mmipiting’ as he walks in the hills around Mallaig and Loch Morar. It’s a sound we take so much for granted that we barely notice it, so to be awoken to it by someone who can’t hear it any more is quite moving. I love some of the routes John walks. He doesn’t walk for the goal of the summit he walks for the pleasure of being in the hills and he describes it so well, I followed all his routes on the map as I read the book. Take inspiration from his wanderings and from his audio observations.
I’m back on to Stephen Moss for my fourth choice, this time with his friend Brett Westwood they wrote Wonderland – A Year of Britain’s Wildlife, day by day. Together they describe a year in nature. Each day of the year has an observation of something that is going on; this book could be your calendar. You’ll enjoy the read, but you could look at this book everyday of every year, this could be the nature lover’s introductory bible.
And finally, I do need to prick your conscientious. Inglorious, by Mark Avery is a must for every lover of British uplands, particularly moorlands. The book revolves around missing hen harriers and takes a critical look at the driven grouse shooting business. I won’t rehearse the arguments here, but I’m not hearing any plausible defence from those engaged in the so called ‘sport’ of driven grouse shooting.
As the evenings draw in, try some reading, not essential for the mountain leader, but hopefully inspirational, you might enjoy it…