Paul Evans nature writer,
Guardian Country Diarist, playwright, poet,
broadcaster & environmental journalist
The leading international weekly for literary culture.
Where the wild things are
"The latest crop of nature-writing books, and wildness is all. There’s a quiet ferocity running through these three very different volumes, powerful yet subtle, refreshingly practical and quotidian – and leagues away from the teen fantasies of George Monbiot with his schemes for “rewilding”. So we have John Lewis-Stempel retro-farming a field of wheat, John Wright rootling about in hedges, and Paul Evans in rapt communion with the fairy folk .....
....Thus the landscape does not need to be made strange by wheezes to reintroduce charismatic species; it is already magical for those who have the eyes (and imagination) to see. Evans’s book is a manifesto for fey living rather than rewilding: “I am fascinated by the idea that some places frighten us for reasons we don’t understand; places that feel weird, eerie, sinister, the eldritch places (from the Old English for a strange country, the Otherworld)”. Evans wants us to become more experienced in immaterial encounters, alive to the “eco-gothic” rather than being victims of ecophobia – the anxiety that “Nature bites back” despite human attempts to control and harness it through managing (and denuding) the environment ".
Echoes of War Amid The Sound of Nightingales
by Paul Evans
Resurgence & Ecologist
A nature reserve has flourished on the Hoo Peninsula, one home to the military.
"....The military came to the Hoo Peninsula 150 years ago to defend, “the greatest town on earth” and its river of wild ambition and found an ideal place for keeping secrets. It made and tested weapons. It made and tested soldiers. Then, as feudal landlord, it pulled out and proposed to bury its secrets under a town of 5,000 new houses. This proposal was socially divisive locally and conservationists were alarmed at the potential loss of wildlife. However warlike the intentions of the MoD, however lethal its bullets, grenades, explosions and whatever else, birds and butterflies thrived inside its fence.
Most famously, Lodge Hill had the highest population of breeding nightingales in Britain. In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem to the nightingale he found, “But never elsewhere in one place I know/ So many Nightingales;” the birds provoked each others’ song with “skirmish and capricious passaging.” Lodge Hill then was our one place, the line held by a ‘watch’ (collective noun) of nightingales....."
Guardian Country Diary Wenlock Edge
‘A new anthology that explores the many strands of what woodlands mean to us . . . Common Ground and Little Toller plan to revive public interest in woodlands with this anthology, combining essays from a variety of contributors – novelists, botanists, artists, architects, foresters – to explore why these landscapes still matter and mean so much. Contributors include: Richard Mabey, Germaine Greer, Ali Smith, Simon Armitage, George Peterken, Paul Kingsnorth, Paul Evans, Richard Skelton ....
From Shropshire’s Wenlock Edge, which he knows so well, Paul Evans looks at other kinds of ‘edge’ and the wild lives that inhabit them in ruins, strandlines, caves, heaths, islands, marshes, swarms, even bodies. From ice-age caves to ancient hedgerows, this is a celebration of things lost, overlooked or hiding in plain sight.
Herbaceous is a journey which follows the colour pulse of plants throughout the year, searching for new rhythms in a changing world. It begins with yellow: the pulse of early insects and the symbol of the returning sun. It is followed by spring’s vernal whites and the hedonist, spirited pinks of summer. Gradually, the strange and melancholy blues of early autumn are replaced by the ripple of seed-setting and a return to the browns of our subterranean winter dreams.
At Lackford Lakes with Melissa Harrison
Book reading review by Maria Nunzia
I attended Melissa Harrison's talk at the Suffolk Festival of Ideas held at Lackford Lakes nature reserve on the 8th October this year. The event took place in a long narrow two-story wooden building; a double-decker bird hide next to a lake. The second floor of this building doubled up as the venue for poets and writers to tell their stories and read extracts from their books.
Melissa Harrison is the author of three successful books: Clay, (2013), At Hawthorn Time, (2015) both published by Bloomsbury and Rain (2016), published by Faber and Faber. At Hawthorn Time was nominated in 2015 for the Costa Novel Award. She is also known as the Nature Notes column writer in The Times.
Red Squirrels Harbor Leprosy-Causing Bacteria
Researchers were intrigued by an increasing number of sores on red squirrels in the United Kingdom and Ireland, so they decided to run tests on the animals to find out what was causing these mysterious marks.
After investigating, they now say they have found the cause: Some squirrels harbor the same bacteria that caused leprosy in humans in medieval Britain. The squirrels had skin lesions along with swelling of their snouts, ears, lips, eyelids and extremities — which are some of the symptoms also seen in people with the disease.
The Hills of Wales by Jim Perrin
published by Gomer Press
The hills of Wales have haunted Jim Perrin for six decades. And they continue to do so still, inexhaustibly, always offering new perspectives, moods and experiences. This book records forays into both famed and forgotten upland taking in Cader Idris and the Carneddau, Corndon Hill and the Berwyn, Pumlumon Fawr and the little hills of Llŷn, and so many others. They are accounts of personal explorations, journeyings and encounters, each fragment and footstep combining to form a peripatetic literary celebration. "As with the companion volume on Snowdon, what I want to show is the cultural distinctiveness of these hills, as well as their aesthetic dimension and their physical presence." Jim Perrin
Photographs by Maria Nunzia @Varvera