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This month’s issue celebrates a wonderful, diverse range of nature titles. As we emerge from our homes and venture beyond our own streets to experience the outdoors, we become aware that nature plays an immense part in how we live our everyday lives – part of living fully in the world as well as being a precious resource for our wellbeing. Nature books – and the connections people have with the natural world - have become a publishing phenomenon.

It’s not just confined to the countryside. There are deeper issues underlying an appreciation of landscape, flora and fauna in this month’s choices – combatting and managing climate change, balancing the needs of wildlife with the needs of rural economies, more intelligent land use, and celebrating nature in the most unlikeliest of urban settings.

And not least is the creative response to the natural world which comes to the fore in the fiction and memoirs. We hope you enjoy this month’s choice.

The Secret History of Here is the story of a single place, a farm in the Scottish Borders. The site on which Alistair Moffat’s farm now stands has been occupied since pre-historic times. The fields have turned up ancient arrow heads, stone spindles, silver pennies and a stone carved with the rune-like letters of Ogham. Walking this landscape you can feel the presence and see the marks of those who lived here before. But it is also the story of everywhere. In uncovering the history of one piece of land, Moffat shows how history is all around us, if only we have the eyes to see it. Under our feet, carved into the landscape, in the layout of paths and roads, in the stories we pass down, our history leaves its trace on the land.

 

Extract taken from The Secret History of Here By Alistair Moffat Published by Canongate

 

3 May

This morning I was much moved by a trivial, simple detail.

Amongst the birches on the margins of the Bottom Track, one with a rich, red bark took a terrible beating in last year’s summer storms. About halfway up its peeling trunk, a major limb had almost been torn off and come to rest not on the ground but on the branches of a sitka spruce that stands beside it. To my great surprise, the bough had kept enough of a connection with the trunk to come into leaf this spring and help the birch to photosynthesise and grow. I liked that – mutual support amongst the community of the trees.

 

4 May

It is very cold this morning, a bitter wind blowing out of the north-east that feels as though it has come straight off the wastes of Siberia. Even though the sun is brilliant in a cloudless, cerulean blue sky, the eye-blearing, ear-nipping cold means it does not feel like a May morning. The buds are closed tight against the overnight frost and, having been out all ni...

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This is a book about abandoned places: ghost towns and exclusion zones, no man’s lands and fortress islands – and what happens when nature is allowed to reclaim its place. This book explores the extraordinary places where humans no longer live – or survive in tiny, precarious numbers – to give us a possible glimpse of what happens when mankind’s impact on nature is forced to stop. From Tanzanian mountains to the volcanic Caribbean, the forbidden areas of France to the mining regions of Scotland, Flyn brings together some of the most desolate, eerie, ravaged and polluted areas in the world – and shows how, against all odds, they offer our best opportunities for environmental recovery. This extract is about nature reclaiming what was thought to be ruined land – the shale bings of West Lothian.

 

Extract taken from Islands of Abandonment By Cal Flynn Published by William Collins

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ALSO IN THIS ISSUE

The Nature of Summer, The Nature of Spring click

The Nature of Summer, The Nature of Spring

‘It was a telling example of one of the bird’s character traits that distinguishes it from the golden eagle: it has no fear of humankind and its works, humankind’s settlements and humankind’s noise.’

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A Biologist Abroad click

A Biologist Abroad

‘No written description can really do it justice: the noise, the power and the spray of it.’

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Of Stone and Sky click

Of Stone and Sky

‘They did not speak their names or venture the reasons for their departures for fear of what that might reveal. They just carried on.’

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David Robinson Reviews: Restoring the Wild click

David Robinson Reviews: Restoring the Wild

‘If, in his hero Aldo Leopold’s famous phrase, we ‘think like a mountain’, and realise the interconnectedness of all living things, restoring nature’s balance will become feasible again.’

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The Secret Life of Otters click

The Secret Life of Otters

‘I would like the reader to join me in my growing sense of wonder.’

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Wild Winter: In search of nature in Scotland’s mountain landscape click

Wild Winter: In search of nature in Scotland’s mountain landscape

‘Out of the gloom swaggers a powerful creature, the master of this glen. He is so close that I feel the sound of his call vibrating the air as much as I hear it. He shakes his antlers, his breath clou …

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Home of the Wild click

Home of the Wild

‘I have had many animal companions in my life and all of them have touched me greatly, but the one that stands out was my rescue Greyhound, Smoky.’

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Back From the Brink click

Back From the Brink

‘Canoeing slowly along the tree-shaded Blue Spring, it was the sound of frequent nose blowing on the water’s surface that made the experience particularly surreal. These loud exhalations and intakes o …

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Shocked Earth click

Shocked Earth

‘She’s more interested in dead birds than in living ones.’

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The Corrour Bothy: A Refuge in the Wilderness  click

The Corrour Bothy: A Refuge in the Wilderness 

‘Today, all old buildings that survive in the wild solidly enough to still provide basic shelter are known as bothies. Some walkers now seek them out as others bag Munros, in a pursuit that has become …

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A Guide to Climate Change Impacts on Scotland’s Historic Environment click

A Guide to Climate Change Impacts on Scotland’s Historic Environment

‘The hottest day of the year is now on average 0.8 centigrade hotter.’

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This Is Our Undoing click

This Is Our Undoing

‘The bear came forward, growling again, swung its head and lifted its wounded paw from the ground. Honey, she thought to it, honey. Not sure if it was enticement or endearment.’

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Land Reform in Scotland: History, Law and Policy click

Land Reform in Scotland: History, Law and Policy

‘This engagement with the history of the land question continues throughout the twentieth  century. It is evident in the work of Aonghas MacNeacail, especially in his poem ‘oideachadh ceart’ (‘a prope …

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An Orkney Tapestry click

An Orkney Tapestry

‘The wind is rarely still. It shifts from airt to airt, and everything – flowers, clouds, birds, animals, boats – are caught up in the invisible stream. In late summer afternoons the wind goes through …

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Rathad an Isein / The Bird’s Road click

Rathad an Isein / The Bird’s Road

‘fàd, a single, cut peat’

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The Black Cuillin click

The Black Cuillin

‘What is special about the Cuillin is that they are Britain’s only true mountains, comprised of narrow rock ridges and jagged peaks.’

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Eat Bike Cook: Food Stories and Recipes from Female Cyclists  click

Eat Bike Cook: Food Stories and Recipes from Female Cyclists 

‘There is no cream in a classic carbonara but its addition is merited by any cycling cook looking to add ultra-richness to this delicious comfort food.’

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Nature playlist click

Nature playlist

‘Light in Scotland has a quality I have not met elsewhere’ – Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain

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