Seeds of Doubt

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

How to save the planet? For Ben Jacob, it means single-handedly ‘rescuing’ live orchid plants from housing-development sites, usually at dawn, always alone and sometimes at risk to life and liberty. At least, that’s how his book’s heroic narrative presents it. Eco-writing has been all the rage for some time now, and it has gone […]

Creature Discomforts

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

While it is not misleading as such, the title of Frieda Hughes’s George: A Magpie Memoir only begins to suggest what riches this thoughtful and deeply moving book holds. True, one of its central characters is a magpie named George, rescued as a fledgling from a nest ruined by storms, but every creature that moves […]

Running Free

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In a specialist running shop, Rachel Hewitt was told that the reason there are lots of shoes for men and only a few specifically designed for women, whose bodies need different shoes, is because women running is ‘a really recent thing’, something that began ‘around 1975’, and kit designers are playing catch-up. Questioning these assumptions, Hewitt started to research women as runners and in the outdoors more generally: as hikers

Fungus Among Us

Posted on by Tom Fleming

When the first reports of the fungus Chalara fraxinea’s arrival in the UK hit the press in 2012, this disease, so deadly to ash trees, became front-page news. Over the past six years, ash dieback, as the disease is also known, has been a regular feature of local newspapers and programmes, having spread all across […]

How Grey Was My Valley

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Mark Cocker is a gifted writer, able to convey vividly and gracefully his vast knowledge of flora and fauna and the passion that they continue to inspire in him. But he is not, as he admits, a polemicist. He cannot do rage; his outrage is of the silent kind. He cannot lash farmers for wrecking […]

Adventures in the Plumage Trade

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in New Mexico’s Red River fishing for trout when he first heard the bizarre story at the heart of this unusual and engrossing page-turner. He was using off-the-shelf flies: hooks wrapped in various materials to mimic the often-drab aquatic insects that trout feed on. His guide, Spencer Seim, showed […]

From Mountain Top to Ocean Floor

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A WINNING COMBINATION of bouncy prose and authoritative science has made Richard Fortey’s previous natural history books bestsellers. (That irresistibly perky exclamation mark in the title of %lobite! can’t have hurt either.) His latest offering deserves the same success. The purpose of this new book, Fortey says, is to show how the Earth’s surface exists […]

Elephants, Never Forget

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

THE ASSAULT ON China’s natural environment has been going on for dennia. Even the most casual traveller notices how few trees, animals and birds remain; and yet a glance at Chinese poems or paintings will reveal constant references to the beauties of Nature. As in the West – although here the environment has not, yet, […]

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RLF - March