4 out of 5 stars

It wasn’t quite a eureka moment, but there came a day when Brigit Strawbridge Howard realised she knew more about the French Revolution than she did about her native trees. And birds. And wildflowers. And bees. Rather than ignore it, she made a decision to find out as much as she could about these plants, animals and invertebrates that were all around her North Dorset home.

This reconnection with the natural world moved quickly from an interest to a passion as she discovered just how fortunate she was to live where she could see all manner of things around her. One creature though became a borderline obsession, the bee. Her husband is a beekeeper, so she is used to having honey bees around, but she fell in completely in love with the solitary and bumblebee species. Her enthusiasm for the bees in her garden knows no bounds and she set about planting and growing as many plants that were suitable for these pollinators.

As she discovers more about these creatures, she starts to be able to identify more and more species around her garden and in the lanes near her home, such as the buff-tailed bees, cuckoo bees and even has a trip up to the Outer Hebrides to find the Great Yellow Bumblebee on the island of Balranald. There is more to this book than just the bees though, Howard is fascinated about all shapes and sizes of wildlife and the book is as wide-ranging as it is detailed. She is rightly concerned about the effect we are having on wildlife with our blanket use of pesticides and soon realises that each species is interdependent on lots of others in the ecosystem.

It is only when we realise that we are a part of nature, rather than apart from it, and behave accordingly that real change is likely to happen.

I really liked this book, she writes with warmth and boundless enthusiasm for all of the subjects and creatures that she chooses to write about in the book. Howard goes to prove that amateur naturalism is alive and well, we just need more people to be like her, start to care about their local patch, populate their garden with plants that pollinators adore. I love the little illustration at the beginning of each chapter and scattered throughout the book, and the endpapers are gorgeous. Highly recommended.

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