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  • Published: 6 February 2020
  • ISBN: 9781787330559
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $39.99


Journeys in Springtime

A masterpiece of nature writing from the author of The Running Sky

'Tim Dee can write brilliantly, beautifully, about anything, and Greenery...is perhaps his best book yet.' Sunday Telegraph

One December, in midsummer South Africa, Tim Dee was watching swallows. They were at home there, but the same birds would soon begin journeying north to Europe, where their arrival marks the beginning of spring.

Between the winter and the summer solstice in Europe, spring moves north at about the speed of swallow flight. That is also close to human walking pace. In the light of these happy coincidences, Greenery recounts how Tim Dee tries to travel with the season and its migratory birds, making remarkable journeys to keep in step with the very best days of the year, the time of buds and blossoms and leafing, the time of song and nests and eggs. After South Africa, we follow European migrants staging in Chad and Ethiopia, and on across the colossal and incomprehensible Sahara. We accompany storks venturing the Straits of Gibraltar, honey buzzards dodging Sicilian hunters, and tiny landbirds finding haven on the curious island of Heligoland. A diary of the spring spreading through Britain with a magic trinity of oak-tree-loving birds interleaves the continental greening. We read of other determined spring-seekers: D. H. Lawrence and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. We hear from a Sámi reindeer herder, a barn-dwelling swallow-devotee, an Egyptian taxi driver, a chronobiologist in arctic Norway. There are bears and boars and bog-bodies too.

Greenery is a masterpiece of nature writing, deeply informed, expansive and often profoundly beautiful. Tim Dee's journey ends where the greenery of the European spring ends: on the shores of the Arctic Ocean in northern Scandinavia, where, yes, there are swallows in midsummer as there were at the Cape of Good Hope in December.


  • Published: 6 February 2020
  • ISBN: 9781787330559
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 368
  • RRP: $39.99

About the author

Tim Dee

Tim Dee has been a birdwatcher all his life. His first book, TheRunningSky (2009), described his first five birdwatching decades. In the same year he collaborated with the poet Simon Armitage on the anthology The Poetry of Birds. Since then he has written and edited several critically acclaimed books: FourFields (2013), a study of modern pastoral, which was shortlisted for the 2014 Ondaatje Prize; GroundWork (as editor, 2017), a collection of new commissioned writing on place by contemporary writers; and most recently, Landfill (2018), a modern nature–junk monograph on gulls and rubbish. He left the BBC in 2018 having worked as a radio producer for nearly thirty years. He lives in three places: in a flat in inner-city Bristol, in a cottage on the edge of the Cambridgeshire Fens, and in the last-but-one house from the south western tip of Africa, at the Cape of Good Hope.

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Praise for Greenery

Tim Dee follows the wake-up call of the wild, treading the path of migrating swallows from South African shores to Scandinavia. A colourful account of spring's awakening with tales from Sámi reindeer herders also in the mix.


A joyful, poetic hymn to spring...[by] one of our greatest living nature writers... Greenery is an education in looking at, and loving, nature. It is a lesson in how to love the world, in how to look at it, and behind everything there beats a deeper message: that spring cannot exist without winter, that life needs death to define it.

Alex Preston, Observer

A superb nature writer. Miraculous. Ardent, playful, quietly subversive - this is how Dee has always written, but his originality and learning mean he never needs to resort to the devotional swooning that has always plagued writing about the non-human world. It's a deeply affecting [ending]. The effect is like a painter's varnish, deepening shadows but intensifying colours. You go back to the start.

William Atkins, Guardian

Greenery is as full of the sensibility and wit that marked Dee's previous books. The prose is as sharp and agile as the beak and movements of his 'most needed' bird, the redstart, and the range of reference and thought is astonishing.

Caspar Henderson, Spectator

Crammed with fascinating, horizon-expanding, life-enhancing tidbits of knowledge from a person who has spent years watching, looking, learning. Of course, as Dee fans will expect, there is blissful poetry in his prose. Greenery is a portal into a deeper understanding of spring and a richer appreciation of the natural world. It is about death, life, love, planetary time: the dynamics of life on planet earth.

Lucy Jones, Caught by the River *Book of the Month*

Extraordinary. Dee has an enormous aptitude for burrowing into research and then opening it out map-like over the tangible natural world. [Greenery is his] most personal and spectacular nature memoir to date.

Irish Independent

Joyful... Hard to resist. Greenery is a book of hope. Each new encounter reads like a script for the very best kind of radio programme, full of insight and lightly-worn expertise.

Isabel Lloyd, Tablet

For a beautiful evocation of this restorative draft of a season, look no further than Tim Dee's new book Greenery - a poetic and profound meditation on the natural (and human) world encountered as he follows spring around the globe. It'll lift your heart and take you places while reminding you that the most important things are close at hand.

Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground, Yorkshire Post

As rich and rewarding as spring itself, this book by one of our leading nature writers is a celebration of the temperate world's most exciting season. It's a multi-layered book, full of memories.science and poetry, history and humour. And great sadness too. This is a lifetime of springs recounted by a man in fall.

Ben Hoare, BBC Wildlife

His writing is a delight, both elegant and provocative. This charming, meandering.book ends with a completely unexpected double whammy, which had me first wiping away tears and then smiling in delight. It's a reminder that, however grim things look, there is always the freshness and rebirth of spring to look forward to.

Constance Craig Smith, Daily Mail

"Nature Writing", says the classification on the back. Partly true. He's good at that. But leaving it there is a bit like saying that Wordsworth was a gardener and Springsteen is a harmonica player. Dee is one of our best living writers of non-fiction, and Greenery...is perhaps his best book yet. It couldn't be more timely.

Michael Kerr, Daily Telegraph

Dee's writing sings. When scattered personal anecdotes finally crystallise into the recent event in Dee's life, the heart breaks. A book best experienced like spring itself, blooming and fading at its own pace.

Josh Pugh Ginn

A masterpiece of nature writing. No one else in the genre shows anything like Dee's command of prose, tone, voice, pace, depth and phrasing. It's the sort of book that, in its expressive power, its creativity, the richness of its humanity, might make the world worth saving.

Richard Smyth, New Statesman

Tim Dee's powers of description are masterful. This sumptuous account of spring's progress is a truly remarkable book, written with exquisite pathos.

Alex Roddie, Great Outdoors

Dee layers.contrasting voices to great effect. And his visual writing shows us more than a camera could

Lucy Ingrams, Oldie

This book has changed the way I think about seasons and migration, humans and birds, time and life. He is a virtuoso handler of sound, knowledge and language. It's a masterpiece. I can't imagine I'll ever stop thinking about it.

Max Porter

Greenery...brims with the same thrilling sense as the season it charts... Dee writes like no other nature author I know.

Mark Cocker, New Statesman *Books of the Year*

Greenery is an anatomy of spring… the lush prose…resonate[s]… When scattered personal anecdotes finally crystallise into the recent events in Dee’s like, the heart breaks

Josh Pugh Ginn, UK Press Syndication

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