Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris © Shiny New Books

Reviewed by Peter Reason
When our postman handed me the package that contained my review copy of The Lost Words I blurted out, ‘I’ve been waiting for this!’ In the weeks before its delivery I had read hugely appreciative reviews in the national press and on line. The book has benefited from a major marketing campaign from the publishers, aimed firmly at the Christmas market, and attracted much attention. So while delighted to get my copy I was also a bit anxious: would I like it or was it over-hyped? Would I find anything to write about it that has not already been written?
I took the book to my favourite armchair and slowly turned the pages, first taking in Jackie Morris’s illustrations, then reading Macfarlane’s  ‘spells’. After a little while I realized that all the time I had a smile on my face, and I found myself muttering to myself, ‘This is very well done indeed!’  The Lost Words delivers everything it promises.
The story behind the book has been well rehearsed. In 2007, a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was published. Many words describing the natural world had been omitted while words from the ‘technosphere’ such as ‘broadband’ were included in their place. A group of well-known children’s authors wrote an open letter in protest. In parallel, concerns have been raised in recent years about ‘nature deficit’, the fact that children were no longer allowed to roam around in parks, commons and wild places on their own, no longer building dens, collecting tadpoles, unable to name common wildflowers. Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods has attracted much attention; naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham, among others, has joined the call for children to get back into the natural world, showing its importance in his own engaging memoir Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. It was Jackie Morris who first had the idea of a book illustrating these lost words—she conceived of it as a ‘wild dictionary’. She asked Robert Macfarlane if he would write an introduction and this more ambitious project grew from there.
If words are being lost, if we cannot name our world, can we actually experience it? Is not language important in perceiving, even conjuring up our world?  If the names are lost, will we care when the beings evoked are also lost? As I write this, I learn that the population of flying insects has dropped by some 75% over the past 25 years, yet another indication that we living in a time of the Sixth Great Extinction of species in the history of Earth, this time caused by human impact. How come we collectively pay so little attention to this destruction, this ‘great thinning’, as journalist Michael McCarthy so aptly calls it? Are we all asleep?
The Lost Words is offered to wake us from our collective nature deficit, to reclaim words and celebrate a world that seems to be slipping away from us. The Introduction tells us, ‘You hold in your hands a spell book for conjuring back these lost words… [to] unfold dreams and songs, and summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind’s eye’. As Macfarlane points in the Guardian Review, just as Ged, the magician hero of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy, has to learn the true names of beings in the Old Speech of dragons and gods if he is to work his spells, we too must relearn the magic of words.
The book starts with Acorn and moves through the alphabet to Wren (although some letters are omitted and others repeated). Each word is represented in three spreads: the first marking loss or slipping away, where the letters that make the word are scattered across the page; the second containing the summoning spell; and the third being a rich illustration celebrating the word in its wider context. The spells are evocative, as one would expect from Robert Macfarlane; the illustrations gorgeous, from the experienced hand of Jackie Morris, who lives up to the tradition of great nature illustrators, including Arthur Rackham, currently celebrated in the Victoria and Albert exhibition Into the Woods. Author and illustrator have worked closely together to conceive and realize an integration of words and images that is an artwork in its own right.
This is a wonderful book to offer to a child at Christmas or birthday; or on no occasion at all, just for the sake of giving a gift that is beautiful as well as educational.
But this is not just a book for children. It addresses the challenge of how ‘nature writing’ in its broadest sense can reach a wide audience and address the ecological calamity of our times. How do we encompass the loss of other beings in the community of life on earth; and even more the disturbance of the great cycles of the atmosphere, the oceans, even of the rocks, that are destabilizing our planet?  How do we write about nature when day after day we learn of some new way in which the human—mainly Western—fingerprint is to found everywhere; when in many ways we can no longer distinguish between ‘nature’ and ‘culture’? How do we all, adults as well as children, re-enchant our damaged planet?
Macfarlane has always been a literary writer. He goes on his travels accompanied by the writers and poets he knows and loves, notably by Edward Thomas in The Old Ways. He has written elsewhere about the importance of language in appreciation of our world; his Twitter feed features an uncommon ‘word for the day’ that has proved popular and stimulating. In earlier works he shows how the reclamation of words and stories helped save the Brindled Moor on Lewis in the early years of the present century from the construction of a massive wind farm. The energy company claimed that the moor was a barren place, a wasteland, certainly disenchanted; and indeed so it might appear to an outsider. But local people strongly opposed the proposal and devised ways to re-story the moor, to reclaim and re-enchant it in ‘narrative, poetic, lyric, painterly, photographic, historical, cartographical’ forms. What was required, one protagonist argued, was a Counter-Desecration Phrasebook that would help both name the landscape and the community’s relationship to it. The Brindled Moor was saved, at least for the moment. (It is also interesting to note that the speed of development of wind generation technology suggests that a windfarm built in the first decade of this century would be obsolescent toward the end of the second decade; while the moor would be ruined forever.) Words are not just nice for children, they have practical and political consequences.
Some ‘nature writers’ are birders and old style naturalists, some of whom study one creature or ecosystem for a lifetime; others are journalists and broadcasters, photographers and filmmakers, travelers and eco-philosophers. In pursing this link between language, our literary heritage and the natural world, Macfarlane is making his particular contribution, complementing other contributors to this broad field.
In this collaboration, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris have drawn together words and images to create a book of spells that promises to evoke a sense of wonder in us all. As Macfarlane tells us, ‘wonder is an essential survival skill for the Anthropocene’.
The Lost Words Exhibition is at Compton Verney Art Gallery and Park on October 27-December 17, 2017, (click here for more information).

Sunday, 29 October 2017

River Poetry

 
The Roeburn
The invisible river flows through the endless night

Cold stone and loneliness
Deer bark in the woods
Sleeping birds are startled


I sit on a mossy rock and become the stars.
By Paul Michael Fergus Wiggin

Ode to the Roeburn

Your pleasant glades and babbling course helped shape my early life
Our courses set without regret seeing turbulence and strife


You calmly flow but most don’t know the gift that you have been
With twists and turns forgotten like the things that we have seen

Your harnessed strength brought riches once along your flowing course
But in just one day unfettered you showed your might and force

We all forgive what you once did as you raged without control
But will you forgive what we do now as we erode your very soul

I hoped one day I would return to see you again old friend
Your sustenance to life around I thought could never end

With grateful thanks for rewards bestowed to generations gone by
Let the children now protect you and never let you die.


Robert W Marshall
Childhood resident of Wray

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Richard Shilling's Film




Come and experience the beauty of wild Lancashire, the fascinating River Roeburn and the semi ancient woodlands at Backsbottom Farm see Richard's film:
 https://www.facebook.com/richardshillingslandart/videos/1112795642143501/

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Dark Skies Workshop © F.O.B./ Robert Ince



Video © Robert Ince
The Forest of Bowland A.O.B http://www.forestofbowland.com/Star-Gazing is one of the few dark sky areas in Britain where light pollution is at a minimum so it is a perfect place to go stargazing and within this area there are 4 sites to choose from, the nearest being Crook O'Lune near Caton . The others are Beacon Fell Country Park, Slaidburn and Gisburn Forest Hub where this workshop took place.  Incidentally, Gisburn Forest  by day is a fantastic place to explore by bike with all the forest trails available. There's one more star gazing site that is nearer to home: Roeburndale just up from the cottage or Roeburndale West at the cattle grid where a 180° view of the night sky can be seen. For a list of Robert Ince's stargazing workshop He is also available for booking an event.
For more details about Dark Sky Discovery Sites here is the website

Friday, 4 August 2017

Doing Our Bit for Nature

The natural world needs our help so at Roeburnscar, we try to garden with nature in mind. That means not mowing,
weeding, tidying etc. as much as possible. We have put a small insect hotel in the flat garden,
 we leave brushwood piles
around for small mammals and insects to hide in and they will eventually rot  down creating another beneficial environment for soil microbes. Small mown patches

help insects that like smaller grasses and we leave mowing if the lawn has clover growing in it as bees love it. We don't like to kill wasps as they are beneficial to pollination so the waspinators you see hanging around are pretend hornet nests and hopefully deter wasps from settling in the wooden outside of the house.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

From Tree to Door

 Some of the lovely conifers that were a potential hazard in fierce gales re the cottage roof had to be felled. Rod's father planted them in the early 1960's. We are putting the timber to good building use starting by replacing the old hardboard doors in the cottage with lovely pine ones.

Rod preparing tree felling

felled trees with Roeburnscar in the backgound

back of laundry shed -the trees have gone now

Ben up a tree removing branches before felling
the beauty in a tree slice

felled tree

the logs are taken from Roeburnscar to the saw bench on the farm

storing the planks with wedges in between to season the timber in the solar wood store drier

Ben pondering the task ahead

one of the almost finished doors
kitchen door in place showing the beauty of the grain

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Silverdale A. O. N. B




Monday, 13 February 2017

Forest of Bowland Raptor Persecution


The North West Raptor Group are making an appeal to combat the illegal killing of Peregrine Falcons in Lancashire's Forest of Bowland, situated in the North West of England.

Classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it covers 808 square Kilometers of rural Lancashire and North Yorkshire.

The Forest of Bowland is internationally important for its upland bird populations and under the Habitats Directive "Bowland Fells" are designated a Special Protection Area for specific birds of prey.

The Forest of Bowland may be an SPA, but raptors like Hen Harrier and Peregrine Falcon receive no protection.

In 2009 - 25 Peregrine territories in the Forest of Bowland were examined by the NWRG. 17 sites were occupied, 6 nests failed following the loss of eggs, chicks and adult birds. A total of 11 territories produced 24 fledged young.

In 2010 the Government’s Wildlife Adviser, Natural England, withdrew Peregrine licenses for use in the Forest of Bowland from members of the NWRG, following the group’s disclosure on social media of wide scale raptor persecution throughout this moorland region, where Red Grouse are shot. Other licenses issued to group members since 1974, covering additional raptor species including Peregrine for areas outside the Forest of Bowland remained unaffected.

By 2016, 99% of Bowland Peregrine nesting territories were found abandoned.

The loss of an entire regional population of Peregrines (18 pairs) from the Forest of Bowland is unprecedented.

To protect these Peregrines, the NWRG need your help to purchase the following urgently needed kit: Go-Pro camera - 2 mountain bikes - radio transceivers & infra-red night vision goggles.

Throughout the last 43 years members of the North West Raptor Group have self-funded their work.

If the killing of Peregrines continues, they will be lost forever, not only from the Forest of Bowland but also from the rest of England's northern uplands, where Red Grouse are shot for sport.

Help spread the word!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Crowdfunding appeal for new raptor satellite tag project © R.P.U.K.

The campaign group Birders Against Wildlife Crime has launched a crowdfunding appeal to help support a new project to fit satellite tags to raptors in northern England, set to begin later this year.
Satellite tagging has revolutionised efforts to detect raptor persecution crimes, and has also helped draw public attention to the illegal killing of raptors. The power of satellite-tagging was really first realised in 2009 when a young satellite-tagged golden eagle, ‘Alma’, was found dead on a grouse moor on the Millden Estate in the Angus Glens. She’d been poisoned. It’s highly unlikely her corpse would have been detected had she not been fitted with a satellite tag, which allowed investigators to pinpoint her body as she lay face down in a vast expanse of heather moorland. The resulting publicity about her death was phenomenal, and even though nobody was ever prosecuted, this crime turned the spotlight on to an industry that had escaped scrutiny for so long.
alma
Since Alma, there have been many other illegally-killed raptors, including golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, hen harriers, Montagu’s harriers and red kites whose satellite tags have given the game away. These days, the raptor killers are wise to the game and now it’s far more common for a sat-tagged bird to simply ‘disappear’, with all the evidence (carcass, sat tag) simply destroyed to avoid detection, although occasionally there won’t be a ‘clean kill’ and the wounded bird is able to move some distance before succumbing to its injuries and investigators are able to collect the corpse, conduct a post mortem and record it as a confirmed persecution crime.
Some within the grouse-shooting industry have recently been trying to discredit the use of raptor satellite tags, and it’s not hard to see why. They’ve slurred the professional reputations of highly experienced and licensed raptor researchers and have used some photographs of a young golden eagle with what appears to have a ‘slipped’ tag harness as evidence that the tagging experts don’t know what they’re doing. Now, of course, it’s possible for a sat tag harness to slip, and it does happen on occasion, but it’s a rare occurrence. What the accusers don’t mention is the circumstantial evidence that suggests tagged raptors are being caught inside crow cage traps, providing an opportunity for the trap operator to cut one of the harness straps before releasing the bird, with its tag now dangling and looking like it has been badly fitted. There is also evidence of at least one tagged hen harrier being trapped, its harness removed and transferred to a free-ranging corvid, presumably with the intention of disguising the fact the hen harrier was illegally killed.
Strangely, the grouse shooting industry has not tried to vilify the satellite tagging of non-raptor species, such as woodcock (GWCT project) or cuckoos (BTO project); it’s only the tagging of raptors they seem to object to. Can’t think why.
Here’s a photo (taken by Stephen Murphy) of Bowland Betty, a sat-tagged hen harrier found dead on a grouse moor on the Swinton Estate in Yorkshire in 2012. A post mortem revealed she had been shot.
bowland-betty-1
The new raptor satellite-tagging project in northern England is being undertaken by highly experienced and licensed experts in an independent research consortium (all voluntary – no salaries are being paid). The beauty of this independence is that sat tag data will be put in to the public domain very, very quickly. No more waiting for weeks/months/years to find out what happened, which will allow timely and targeted publicity every time one of these raptors ‘disappears’ or is found shot/trapped/poisoned. Greater public awareness of raptor persecution is key to bringing it to an end.
The crowdfunding target is to reach £10,000 by mid-March. It’s ambitious but it’s do-able. If you’d like to make a donation, however small or large, please visit BAWC’s crowdfunding page HERE
Thank you