Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet by Mark Cocker - review by Diana Athill

Diana Athill

All Things Bright & Beautiful

Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet


Jonathan Cape 238pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

The naturalist Mark Cocker lives in a Norfolk village called Claxton, where most of what he chronicles in this book took place. I spent my first twenty-five years in a nearby village, and loved my place as intensely as he loves his. What’s more, I believed that I knew it intimately. I am now ashamed of myself. The ‘Claxton Parish Species List’ appended to Cocker’s text explains why. It runs to 1,108 items. This awe-inspiring list is presented under a number of headings: Fungi, Vascular Plants, Bryophytes, Lichens, Flatworms, Slugs and Snails, Millipedes, Spiders and Relatives, Dragonflies, Bugs and Relatives, Butterflies and Moths, Birds, Mammals, and so on. Never again will I claim to know a place ‘intimately’.

This doesn’t mean that these field notes are formidable. Cocker’s erudition is only fully displayed in his appendix, while in the rest of the book it is simply the fertile foundation underlying a thoroughly engaging text which will give pleasure to anyone who truly enjoys country matters. This is remark-able,

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