Further Field Notes from a Small Planet
Another beautiful, revelatory country diary from one of the best nature writers in Britain.
For seventeen years, as part of his daily writerly routine, the author and naturalist Mark Cocker has taken a two-mile walk down to the river from his cottage on the edge of the Norfolk Broads National Park. Over the course of those 10,000 daily paces he has learnt the art of patience to observe a butterfly, a bird, flower, bee, deer, otter or fly and to take pleasure in all the other inhabitants of his parish, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
In turn these encounters have then been converted into literary epiphanies that are now a widely celebrated part of his work. In A Claxton Diary he has gathered some of the finest short essays that he has ever written on wildlife. They range over almost everything he can see, touch or smell, from the minute to the cosmic, from a strange micromoth called yellow-barred longhorn to that fiercest of winter storms the so-called ‘Beast from the East’.
Here also are blackbirds at their dawn chorus, or owls ghosting down the dykes at last light. Here are unwedded queen ants pouring out of the pavement cracks for their nuptial flights, or a garden cross spider spraying a bumblebee with jets of silk that are, gram for gram, stronger than tensile steel.
From the marvellous to the macabre, Cocker tries to capture nature without flinching and in its entirety. In so doing he provides us with a vision of an English country parish that for intimacy and precise detail is comparable with Gilbert White’s diary on Selbourne. Above all he reminds us that we are all just members of one miraculous family, fashioned from sunlight and the dust from old stars.
“Cocker… [is] by turns hugely evocative or bitingly direct… If you already know Mark Cocker’s work, you’ll need no persuading to buy this – if you don’t, treat yourself to a very fine collection of nature essays.”
Matt Merritt and David Chandler, Bird Watching, *Book of the Month*
“Being a naturalist, Cocker’s great strength is in the breadth of his senses: his essays seem to cover almost everything he has seen, heard or smelled in the land around his home. He writes clearly, and with a style that has a ring of poetry about it without being pretentious or precious… Spending time with his acutely observant essays will convince many readers that the Great Barrier Reef and vast jungles of Africa can be understood best only by first understanding the startling drama, diversity and complicated natural dynamics of a humble corner of Britain.”
Ian Garrick Mason, Spectator
“A spellbinding nature diary that’s up there with the greatest… [Cocker] regularly follows up a beady description with a wild, glorious overview, followed by an astonishing fact or two… Hurrah for Mark Cocker! *****”
Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday
“The result of his [Cocker’s] careful observations of the countryside around him… Wonderful.”
The Simple Things
“A master of short-form writing… Cocker combines forensic observation of minutiae with grander universal truths… Exquisite essential reading.”
Ben Hoare, BBC Wildfire
“A Claxton Diary is a collection of his [Cocker’s] finest essays written on wildlife and encounters with nature.”
UK Press Syndication