Paul Evans nature writer,
Guardian Country Diarist, poet,
broadcaster, journalist, senior lecturer in creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University.
BBC Radio 4 Tardigrade 27 June 11.00 am
Tardigrade. First described in 1773 and so named because they resemble slow-moving bears, these microscopic animals are probably the closest thing to an alien we are likely to encounter. Capable of living without water and then being revived after 30 years, the Tardigrade or moss-piglet as they are also called, challenge our ideas about what defines life. And as if that wasn't enough, they are probably the cutest little creature you could hope to meet! Presented by Bret Westwood with special guests and interventions by nature writer Paul Evans. Producer Sarah Blunt.
Available on BBC Radio 4 iplayer after broadcast
The sun fly - a little fist of bling like the folded gold of Saxon hoards
The sun fly alights on a bramble leaf and alters its position as if by the clockwise clicks of an invisible dial. Gold on black, black on gold, it radiates. The sun fly is one of the syrphid flies, a hoverfly of rough flowery places such as this verge of a long-abandoned railway line through the woods.
It’s a chunky little fist of bling, folding up a cut-glass wingspan of 25mm. Its thorax is black with three vertical yellow stripes – which has earned it the nickname of the footballer or the common tiger hoverfly. It presents a regal, black-banded backside of an abdomen with crescentic yellow markings like the folded gold of Saxon hoards.
The waspish mimicry may warn off predators – it looks dangerous – but this is a fine disguise for a gentle creature, here for the nectar and pollen of wayside flowers.
Helophilus pendulus may get its sun fly name by a misreading of Helos for Helios, but the translation from the Latin is “dangling marsh lover”. There is no nearby marsh, but there are springs and flushes oozing from the Edge, running into fields below the old railway line. In its larval youth, this sun fly sucked sustenance from the muck of a ditch but now, in a miraculous story of rags to riches metamorphosis, it is resplendent.
After a quiet drop of rain, the air under overhanging trees is fresh and makes a wonderful sounding chamber many miles long for the birds. But this is the summer opening of the festival of flowers – buttercup, campion, bramble, guilder rose, honeysuckle, bugle, elder, herb Robert, raspberry – to which the insects swarm.
There is a mass intoxication going on: small white and speckled wood butterflies, bumble, carder and mining bees, capsid bugs, leaf, click and pollen beetles, true flies, micro moths, hoverflies … they are many but far from enough. There is a sense of absence as if many of the insect populations have been dimmed or doused.
Yes, too much going on to worry about flies, but what kind of a perishing would it be if we only had each other?
First published in The Guardian 7 June 2017
Artist Russ Meeha. Photograph by Luby Art
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Field Notes From The Edge
Journeys through Britain's Secret Wilderness
Paperback published 6 April 2017
A Times, Guardian and Independent
'BOOK OF THE YEAR'
Studies in Ecocriticism
Review: Field Notes from the Edge by Prof. Terry Gifford, poet & ecocritic
''From data to dream, from virus to vision, Field Notes from the Edge is not only the touchstone for future nature writers, it is, for readers, an exemplary and challenging reminder of why we should mitigate the Anthropocene from our own edgelands."
For more information or to read what other authors are saying about the book
‘Writing Place’ workshop by Paul Evans
Artist Russ Meeha. Photograph by Luby Art
The Essay BBC Radio 3
From 'new nature writing' to urban psychogeography, from public festivals to new publishers, writing about place has come to occupy a prominent position in contemporary literary culture. A two-day event, at Number 70 Oxford Street, celebrated contemporary place writing through a combination of author events, interactive workshops, panel discussions and walks. Aimed at anyone with an interest in the relationship between place, language and creativity, the event also celebrated the new MA/MFA in place writing at the Manchester Writing School.
The writer and broadcaster Paul Evans traces a family line back through Shropshire's seams of coal. Chawtermaster Peake is the collier ancestor who hewed coal from Coalbrookdale, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Paul evokes Peake's Wood Pit near the Wrekin as it is today, abandoned in the 1970s, after having been scraped out by opencast mining. Nature is now reclaiming the site, but Paul reflects on the irony of the climate change that ended the Carboniferous period when the coal measures were laid down, contrasting it with the changes being experienced today as we enter the Anthropocene.
This is the third of this week's series of essays in which writers reflect on how locations that matter to them are shaped by the underlying geology. Paul Evans, who lives in and writes about Shropshire, contributes to the Country Diary in The Guardian. His latest book is 'Field Notes from the Edge'.
Producer: Mark Smalley.
Lament of the Nightingale
That song - beautiful, fluting, magical - has entranced listeners for thousands of years. But the nightingales' call is growing fainter, and the guardians of the dark are facing their last stand, says Paul Evans.
Published by BBC Countryfile Magazine, April 2017
Photograph by Alamy
First lecture in the Lichfield Literature Festival series given by Dr Paul Evans reading from Herbaceous, Field Notes From The Edge and Erasmus Darwin's poem the Botanical Garden (1791)