We haven't always been able to get to our favourite NWT reserves for the last year, but nature writing is the perfect way to bring the outside in. This World Book Day, I'd like to share a few of my favourite examples of contemporary nature writing to bring everyone closer to the natural world - even from your own sofa.
Cox's writing is akin to taking a long, leisurely walk with a good friend - warm, soothing, full of gentle laughter and the occasional otter. His more recent memoir, Ring The Hill, and short story collection, Help the Witch, are equally compelling, but I have a particular soft spot for 21st Century Yokel as there are several chapters centred around East Anglia, and it was published in 2017 when I was preparing to make the life-changing move from London to Norfolk. Cox ruminates on the irrevocable links between landscape and folklore, drawing comparisons between the flat, muted topography of Eastern England's fields, heaths and coastlines and the formidable moors and cliffs of Devon, with affection, witty personal detail and a hint of folk horror legend. I didn't really know Norfolk & Suffolk when I impulsively decided to make the move, but reading 21st Century Yokel during my final weeks in London gave the region a familiarity and soothed my nerves, leaving me excited for my foray into a more bucolic lifestyle and itching to pull on my walking boots and explore my new environment.
It's easy to think of nature as being something that happens only in open fields and ancient forests, when really, even in the middle of a sprawling city, it's everywhere - if only you look for it. The Stubborn Light Of Things is a nature diary in two parts - beginning with a 'City' section from Harrison's life in London before switching to 'Countryside', following her relocation to a rural Suffolk village. Both sections are awash with beautifully illustrative details of flora and fauna, peppered with ecological facts, but it's the 'City' half I find most enchanting, a reminder that wherever you are, simply going outside with keen eyes is all you need to connect with an extraordinary array of wildlife. As a bonus, the book includes stunning artwork by illustrator and printmaker Joanna Lisowiec.
Tree makes a science-focussed chronicle of an experimental conservation project to revitalise land impoverished by decades of intensive agriculture as vivid and captivating as any work of literary fiction. Beginning as Isabella and husband Charlie are plagued with anxiety and debts, their farm failing due to depleted soil and the plummeting price of milk and crops, they become inspired by a seminal rewilding program in the Netherlands, and sought to recreate this return to nature in West Sussex. By relinquishing the land to herds of grazing herbivores, using minimum human intervention, the previously almost barren land quickly flourished with incredible biodiversity. The account is spliced with fascinating information about natural history and ecology, from mycorrhizae fungi to ragwort controversy and prehistoric megafauna, scientific enough to enthral a professional conservationist but accessible enough for an amateur naturalist like myself. At this time of climate anxiety, Wilding gives a beacon of hope and shows that environmental destruction can be reversible, if we only begin to prioritise nature.
Chloe Webb is a UEA student on a voluntary placement with NWT.
The hyperlinks take you to WildSounds website, the suppliers of books to NWT's five visitor centres. They are long-standing Investors in Wildlife and generous corporate donors, most recently through sales of titles featured in our digital events programme at Cley Marshes.
Top image credit: Linda Smith