Vesper Flights brings together a collection of the H is for Hawk author Helen Macdonald’s best-loved writing, along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, catching swans, hunting mushrooms, 20th-century spies, numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches.
It’s a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of our greatest nature writers.
As a boy, James Rebanks's grandfather taught him to work the land the old way. Their family farm in the Lake District hills was part of an ancient landscape: a patchwork of crops and meadows, of pastures grazed with livestock, and hedgerows teeming with wildlife. And yet, by the time James inherited the farm, it was barely recognisable. The men and women had vanished from the fields; the old stone barns had crumbled; the skies had emptied of birds and their wind-blown song. English Pastoral is the story of an inheritance. It tells of how rural landscapes around the world have been brought close to collapse, and the age-old rhythms of work, weather, community and wild things are being lost. And yet this elegy from the Lake District fells is also a song of hope: how, guided by the past, one farmer began to salvage a tiny corner of England that was now his, doing his best to restore the life that had vanished and to leave a legacy for the future.