a year in the woods

A Year in the Woods is the story of Norwegian writer Torbjørn Ekelund who spent a whole year taking a little time away each month, to spend alone in the woods. He communes with nature in quiet reflection, leaving the city after work one day each month to camp near the same tiny pond in a forest, then returns to work the next day. Being alone is something that many people used to do a lot anyway. Getting away from the ratrace does not have to mean becoming a hermit, but being a hermit for just a little while is good! The ritual is far from rigorous and never perfect. One evening, Ekelund grows so cold in his tent, that he hikes out before daybreak (it’s Norway!)

But as Torbjørn greets the same trees and boulders each month, he begins to appreciate the sameness alongside their quiet beauty. He wonders how long they have stood silently in this place, and reflects on his own short existence among them. The book asks us to reconsider our relationship with nature. Are we anxious wanderers or mindful observers? Do we honour the seasons, or let them pass by? The perfect book for anyone who longs to connect with nature, but is realistic about time.

Also read Torbjørn’s other book In Praise of Paths. This tells the story of how he took up hiking, when an epileptic fit prevented him from driving. He began to venture more into nature, and walks with shoes and Torbjørn Ekelund started to walk everywhere, and the more he ventured out into nature, and walks through forest creeks and across urban streets. Contemplating the early tracks made by ancient snails and traces the wanderings of Romantic poets, amongst other musings. He asks ‘What do we lose in an era of car travel and navigation apps? And what will we gain from taking to paths once again?’

Kate’s book on connections with nature

Kate on conservation connections with nature

Connections with Nature is a wonderful read, by one of our favourite wildlife bloggers and campaigners. Kate has a first-class English degree, and has used her writing skills for 15 years to help all animals – she’s made friends with everyone from Sir David Attenborough and Chris Packham to wildlife camerman Gordon Buchanan and Queen guitarist (and badger hero) Brian May.

This is basically an anthology by 50 members of her ‘wildlife crowd’, on a journey to meet the wild. From wondering at the moon (rather than stare at a screen), studying the details of a barn owl feather (along with a 7-year old!) and watching the ‘moorland fairground’ at dusk, this book shows how entwined we are with the natural world. And you’ll be hooked, once you visit her upbeat and interesting blog!

Kate is a conservationist and campaigner for animal welfare, who is passionate on educating future generations. She was the youngest trustee of Born Free and head of communications at Whitley Fund for Nature.

stories from women who work in nature

wild woman

Wild Woman is an engaging blend of conservation stories and personal humorous anecdotes by TV presenter Philippa Forrester who has chosen to live and work in the wild (wildlife fans will know her from programmes filming otters with her husband Charlie Hamilton-Jones). In this book, she studies and celebrates women who have chosen to live and work in wild and challenging landscapes.

Relating some of her own experiences (she has a degree in ecology & conservation) from 30 years of travelling to some of the wildest places on earth, she looks how at how women benefit from a life spent in the wilderness, and considers what the natural world gains from them. And as she explores our relationship with the wild, Philippa contemplates what we expect and need from nature, and ponders why we still feel a pull towards it.

For six years, Philippa lived in Wyoming, encountering wolves, grizzly bears, moose and the odd cowboy. But after returning to live here in summer 2020, she is rediscovering her own patch of wilderness and the joys of the English countryside (especially her favourite wild animal – otters!)

When I see a fox run by, my immediate thought is ‘What’s he up to? Where’s he going?’ Journeys are so much of life. Philippa Forrester

the collective intelligence of life on earth

the internet of animals

The Internet of Animals is an illuminating account of the untapped knowledge of the animal kingdom, from animal migration to how elephants can detect tsunamis. What do animals know that we don’t? In this book, scientist Martin Wikelski argues that animals have a unique ‘sixth sense’. If we give animals a voice, our perception of the world could change forever.

As they tag animals around the world with tiny tracking devices and link their movements to the International Space Station, this taps into the ‘internet of animals’, an astonishing network of information made up of thousands of creatures communicating with each other and their environments. This project ICARUS is poised to change the world. We learn how barnyard animals become restless when earthquakes are imminent, African animals sense when poachers are on the move and frigatebards in South America depart before hurricanes arrive.

We also now know that animal migrations are not triggered by genes encoded in DNA but by elaborate cultures. By learning from them, we can better prepare for earthquakes, floods and hurricanes – and also learn to live alongside animals in harmy. Martin is director of the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavour and honorary professor of ornithology at University of Konstanz.

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