‘He describes the landscape with a deeply personal precision’ – Ronald Blythe
The discovery of a batch of old photographs of a farm in Herefordshire that once belonged to his great-grandfather, and a conversation with his grandmother about her memories of life on the farm, inspired nature writer Colin Williams to go there on foot and walk the land his ancestors once tended. The journey prompted reflections: what is it about our relationship with where we live that gives us our understanding of ‘home’, and how has that changed over the generations since the days when his family worked the land of Wolf Point?
Drawing on his experience of the natural world in many of the places that he loves – the floating world of the Norfolk Fens, the roll of the Hampshire Downs, as well as his explorations of the land and lore of Herefordshire – the author reflects on what it must have been like to live alongside nature and the seasons as his family once did on the farm, and whether and how those of us living in very different circumstances today can find our own relationship with nature.
Along with the photographs, a sequence of maps – by which the author is clearly fascinated – provide starting-points for a deeper understanding. Initial explorations are made with the help of the Ordnance Survey map, but in the course of his research, he discovered a beautiful demesne map of 1686, estate maps of 1906 and 1919, and – most movingly of all – a detailed 1917 map of a specific section of the trenches, from which, after years trapped in the maze of those spidery lines, his great-grandfather returned to buy Wolf Point and use his skill with horses in those peaceful fields.
Through sensitive observation and clear reflection, Colin Williams gives us a sense of what it once was, and what it could perhaps still be, to live as part of the natural world that surrounds us, as did the people who look out at us from photographs taken almost a century ago.
Colin Williams is a writer who explores our relationship with the landscape and its wildlife. He grew up on the open country of Norfolk’s fens with a childhood full of nature but now lives on the chalk downs of Hampshire. He’s worked as a conservationist, wildlife guide and has written for BBC Wildlife, Earthlines and Orion magazines as well as curating collections of new work by some of the world’s pre-eminent writers on the natural world. His work on landscape has been praised as having ‘a deeply personal precision’. Shadows in the Hay is his first book.
Hardback | 144 pages | 210 x 170 mm | Nov 2014