Chair of NAEE Trustees, William Scott, reviews The Long Spring: tracking the arrival of Spring through Europe. Author: Laurence Rose; Illustrator: Richard Alen.
On a couple of occasions in the 1990s, when I travelled a lot on the continent for research meetings, I had the good fortune to experience Spring from the south of Spain to the middle of Sweden, pausing in southern England in-between. This glorious triple helping of the easing of winter’s grip at three latitudes and in such different cultures has stayed with me, and Laurence Rose’s wonderful book, The Long Spring: tracking the arrival of Spring through Europe brought these memories back.
In 2016 Rose journeyed from Morocco via Spain, France, the UK, Sweden, and Finland and then to the Arctic Circle in Norway, and kept pace with the arrival of Spring. He traversed 34 degrees (and 49 minutes) of latitude mostly by train and bus. The book reads like a celebration of the renewal of life and is a pilgrimage of sorts. It’s a tale of wildlife, landscape, people, policy and history, and of sights, sounds and smells. It’s an affirmation of our inextricable connection to the rest of nature, and of Rose’s own humanity. Understandably, from someone with a long involvement with the RSPB, there’s a lot about birds.
In each country Rose explores a number of different locations. In the UK these range from the South Downs to Loch Garden via Wicker Fen, Rhostryfan, and four other places. The start of each section is prefaced by an illustrated map of the country in question by Richard Allen. It’s mostly birds that feature in these delightful images. There’s a final section to the book (Missed connections) and the last part of this concerns a train journey into southern England. It’s the day after the Brexit referendum and the writing focuses on politics both in the UK and in the EU. It’s about our collective cultural severance from nature, and is a mixed read. On the one hand, Rose is “dismayed” by the outcome of the referendum vote; on the other, he looks forward to land which is “free of the arbitrary restrictions, idiocies and injustices of the Common Agricultural Policy”. Amen to that.
The book reminded me to some extent of Anna Pavord’s magisterial Landskipping in its scope and ambition. This is a book that sits on my bookshelves in front of me as a I write this. I don’t have to get up to take hold of it, and it’s a book I open in an idle moment for its ability to hold the attention and inspire. The Long Spring will sit alongside it waiting to be pulled down for similar reasons.
The Long Spring: tracking the arrival of Spring through Europe
Author: Laurence Rose; Illustrator: Richard Alen
Publisher: Bloomsbury Natural History (March 2018)
£9.34 in hardback (online from the publisher)