Landmarks and word-hoards

20170717_090621“This book is about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. … Landmarks has been years in the making. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the work of writers who use words exactly and exactingly when describing landscape and natural life.” (Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks, Penguin Books, 2016, p. 1).

MacFarlane’s book is in the genre of ‘nature writing’ that seems to be enjoying a renaissance now – or perhaps it has been there but has recently become more mainstream. Gilbert White’s The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne is an early exponent of the genre (originally published 1788, my Folio Society edition is from 1994 – it was an unbound copy which I bound myself. However I haven’t read it!). Continue reading


Tararua Forest Park

I’ve just returned from a night at the Holdsworth Lodge in the Tararua Forest Park, near Masterton. The park and the hut we stayed in are administered by the Department of Conservation.

New Zealand’s forest parks differ from national parks. There are 19 forest parks whose primary purpose, in most cases, is to protect the catchments of forested mountain ranges throughout the country. They generally provide a less restricted range of recreational activities than national parks and reserves.[1] Continue reading

The Plot: A biography of an English Acre

This is the title of a book I read in 2013. The author is Madeleine Bunting and it was published by Granta in 2009. It was the 29th book I read that year, finishing on 2 April – I was keeping a list!

The Plot book cover 2

I was reminded of it now due to the Environmental Humanities online course I’m doing – see my previous post ‘Nature and Culture in harmony’. At the end of week 2 learners were invited to add ‘further reading’ resources. This book was my contribution. Many others had already made contributions, including someone who had started a discussion on literature and artworks (I contributed a link to Fiona Pardington’s recent still life photographs that sometimes include objects she’s collected on her local beach). Continue reading

‘Nature and culture in harmony’

“It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; – and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste.” (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, first published 1813)

My title ‘nature and culture in harmony’ comes from the 1996 television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice – Elizabeth Bennet’s uncle Mr Gardiner says it in the carriage as they are on their way to visit Pemberley House. However, I don’t think it appears in the book, but is likely to be an adaptation of the quote above. Continue reading