Review – The Accidental Countryside by Stephen Moss

My own shot – one of several Rooks feeding in the car park of Southwaite services on the M6 near Carlisle today

I bought this book recently and have read it whilst I have been away. It’s a book about sites created or altered by humans where nature flourishes or at least subsists effectively. It’s a path that’s been well trodden by other writers over the year, which Stephen openly acknowledges in the prologue. The epilogue dedicates the book to three of Moss’s predecessors in this endeavour – Kenneth Allsop, Chris Baines and Richard Mabey.

The publication of this book a couple of years ago passed me by, which was a bit surprising given the lockdowns and opportunity to both keep tabs on new nature writing and find time to read more. I am very glad I did stumble across it in Waterstones the other week though, as it’s one of the most engaging pieces of nature writing I have read recently. It’s lucid and engaging without shying away from strident opinions on occasion.

There were some parts that I did think were a little derivative. The Great Crested Grebe protection and formation of the RSPB is well rehearsed elsewhere and felt shoehorned in a little bit. Generally though it was thought provoking stuff, which challenges many preconceptions on what land use is bleak and sterile but also includes lots of evidence of good practice that could be adopted more widely to protect our urban and brownfield nature.

Above all like other works by the author but more so it wears its deep knowledge of nature and birds in particular really comfortably, and draws the reader in. I got through it in a handful of sittings and learned quite a lot. It was also nice to see a passing reference to my beloved Out Skerries, even if it was probably plucked out of the air as a place which somebody could have to themselves as a local patch.

Recommended. As ever if anyone would like to read my copy I am happy to share, and can drop off in the Blackpool area.

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