February 23, 2010

The new nature writing

The publication of Penguin's English Journeys series is as clear an indication as any that there is a revival of interest in writing about the English countryside underway. It includes extracts of books by Gilbert White, Gertrude Jekyll, Edward Thomas, Dorothy Wordsworth, Richard Jefferies, Ronald Blythe and John Stuart Collis, among others - writers whose quiet vision fell out of favour for a long time. I love the fact that there may be a market for it again; it bodes well for me.

I had a look at my own bookshelves and found that these classics are mirrored by a new generation of nature writers. For me it began with the brilliant Richard Mabey; then Robert MacFarlane's wonderful 'The Wild Places' led me to Roger Deakin; I loved 'Wildwood', but I loved 'Notes From Walnut Tree Farm' even more. Then there's Mark Cocker's lovely writing about birds, and, of course, Simon Barnes. And the Guardian are doing a sterling job with a series of books about the countryside, including their collected Country Diary columns from the last 100 years.

And when Granta call it 'The new nature writing', well, who am I to argue?