When writer Simon Barnes heard a Cetti's warbler sing out as he turned up to look at a house for sale, he knew immediately that he had found his new home. The fact that his garden backed onto an area of marshy land only increased the possibilities, but there was always the fear that it might end up in the wrong hands and be lost to development or intensive farming. His wife saw through the delicate negotiations for the purchase. Once they'd bought it, they began to manage it as a conservation area, working with the Wildlife Trust to ensure it became as appealing as possible to all species. For their son Eddie, who has Down's syndrome, it became a place of calm and inspiration.
In Wildness and Wet, we see how nature can always bring surprises, and share in the triumphs as new animals - Chinese water deer, otters and hedgehogs - arrive, and watch as the number of species of bird tops 100 and keeps on growing. As the seasons go by, there are moments of triumph when not one but two marsh harrier families use the marsh as a hunting ground, but also disappointments as chemical run-off from neighbouring farmland creates a nettles monoculture in newly turned earth.
For anyone who enjoyed books such as Meadowland, or the writing of Stephen Moss, Roger Deakin or Adam Nicolson, this is a vivid and beautifully written account of the wonders that can sometimes be found on our doorsteps, and how nature can transform us all.
I listened to the audioversion of this book.
This was such a lovely listen. One of those books that transports you away and helps you look at the wonders of nature through the eyes of someone with a deep passion for wildlife and the conservation of his local area.
The author lives by a marsh, so when a larger plot of marsh was available to buy he jumped at the chance and this book is an ode to the natural world, and how he and his family have worked to keep this area as wild as possible for the benefit of the local wildlife, and their own enjoyment.
Their son has down's syndrome so he also shares his experiences of how that changes his outlook and how his son thrives with the connection of the birds and animals surrounding them and it was really touching to see his compassion for the surrounding wildlife.
The author explores the local sights and sounds that he and his family are lucky to see and hear, along with comments on how many humans are seemingly hellbent on the destruction of these natural areas and the devastating consequences that these have on the wildlife.
It's such a gentle and pleasant book, that helps to share the pleasure in spotting the little things that go on around you and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole relaxing and immersive experience of their story shared.