On the trail of a top nature book

Author Rob Cowen, of Harrogate.
Author Rob Cowen, of Harrogate.
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AN author’s account of a year in the natural life of a rustic corner of Harrogate has been shortlisted by Leeds academics in a poll to find Britain’s favourite nature book.

Common Ground, in which Rob Cowen forages in the footpaths around Bilton, is praised for “celebrating an environment that lies at the very edge of urban development”.

The Wind In The Willows and Tarka The Otter are among the other works on the shortlist, which was drawn up by a panel of nature writing experts from hundreds of nominations by the public.

Poems by John Clare, and Gilbert White’s seminal 18th century work The Natural History Of Selborne are also nominated for the accolade.

Graham Huggan, a Leeds University professor who chaired the shortlisting panel, said: “We were blown away by the phenomenal response from the public. We received hundreds of nominations and witnessed some of the extraordinarily rich conversations which took place on social media as people championed their favourite books.”

Contemporary works among the 10 include Fingers In The Sparkle Jar by TV naturalist Chris Packham and The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

The list demonstrated that the country’s love affair with the written word had not diminished in the face of nature programmes on TV, said Pippa Marland, a Leeds University research fellow.

“There is definitely something precious about engaging with words on the page,” she said. “People are turning to literature as well as other cultural forms because of their love for the natural world and their great fear at what appears to be happening to it through climate change and the loss of species.

To vote, visit www.ahrc.ac.uk/favouritenaturebooks.

Jason Greenwood of Mamas & Papas

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