5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Every day possible, Mark Cocker has taken a walk from his home alongside the Norfolk Broads National Park, down to the river near his home. These two-mile walks get him outside in the natural world and away from any screens or other distractions. It also gives him time to see the minute daily changes that happen, the imperceptible way that a tree changes from skeletal branches to the first flush of leaves, glimpsing the first of the spring flowers, spotting the first of the butterflies and noticing the arrival of the migrants after their long journeys. These are the things that flit through his vision and are then written about.

We know that at some level there is no such thing as season or month or week or even a day. There is just the liquid passage of time flowing across our lives that we chop and segment with these invented names to give it all clarity and structure.

He has distilled these walks into a series of columns that first were published in the Guardian and have now appeared here in a month by month diary. They are reproduced in day order, so the years jump around, but for me, that adds to the charm. You have the sense that these columns show the way that the world is changing too. His subjects vary from badgers to owls, to bees and flowers, as well as trees, climate, weather, bees, deer, fungi, frogs, oh, and bees again.

He doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of life; that the hedgerow full of juvenile birds are more than likely to be the next meal for the sparrow hawk that he has just seen, the spiders catching and wrapping wasps and bumblebees and the swifts cutting through the sky eating the insects that are never going to get out of the way in time. But this is about the beauty of his regular haunts too, seeing the first flush of wildflowers, hearing the dawn chorus and the smell of summer rain. He does occasionally venture further afield and there are columns from Greece, Scotland and elsewhere in Norfolk.

This is another wonderful book by Cocker. He has been writing about the natural world for the past fifty years and while he has seen some of the world great creatures, he gets as much pleasure from the exotica that we can find around us if we care to look for it. It is a worthy continuation to his first, Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet, which I can also highly recommend along with this.

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