Oxford Literary Festival: Nature and Language

I’m going to be discussing nature, language, ecology and wonder with George Monbiot, Caspar Henderson, Cameron Hepburn and Kathy Willis at the Oxford Literary Festival on the 22nd of March. Raymond Williams famously observed that ‘nature’ is perhaps the most complex word in the English language. If the word itself is complex, so too is the way that we talk about nature.  From the language we use to how we frame our relationship with nature, the way we talk about the natural world profoundly affects our perception of it and the related choices we make. It influences relationships with the …

Lost for words

There’s recently been revived interest in a story that I think I first heard about in Robert Macfarlane’s essay “A Counter-Desecration Phrasebook“. Back in 2007 the Oxford University Press announced a new edition of their Junior Dictionary (aimed at 7-9 year-olds) and it was noticed that a number of nature words that had been in previous editions were now absent, in their place were a selection of new words like “broadband”, “voicemail” and “blog”. In all, 47 words for plants, animals and natural landforms were cut in 2007. My reaction to this was a mixture of sadness and dejection. The …

Coverlines

I’ve already posted a washed-out phone pic of the book cover but it really doesn’t do justice to the image or the design and since we now have a fully finished version, with cover quotes and everything I wanted to show it off. Eleanor Crow at Faber has done a great job on the design. As well as making books beautiful Eleanor is an extraordinarily skilled illustrator, I knew when I saw her work that Uncommon Ground would look good, you can see why if you go here (www.eleanorcrow.com). If you click on the full-spread version below you can see …

Hiatus

Uncommon Ground goes to the printers at the end of the month. I’ve just had the proofs back and it’s looking absolutely beautiful. The design is clean, clear and organic. The care and attention of my editors has improved my text immeasurably, and the images, now that I can see them all in place, are flowing beautifully. The image above is of the mock up Guardian Faber produced on some lovely matt paper stock that I think is going to give the whole book a very inviting texture. It’s an exciting time, watching everything come together, but work on the …

Sgwdd yr Eira – by way of an apology

I’ve been so busy writing and shooting for Uncommon Ground recently that I haven’t been able to update the glossary much. I’m really sorry about this because so many people have sent in words and terms. I’m very grateful for all the submissions and I will be adding them asap but that might not happen for a while. So by way of an apology I’ve made a short clip of some footage I shot at Sgwdd yr Eira (fall of the snows) in the Breacon Beacons last month.

The footsteps that made the path

Since the BBC and the Guardian featured the Landreader, I’ve had hundreds of supportive messages and submissions of terms for the glossary from all over the UK and abroad. It has been incredibly encouraging to find so many people receptive to the ideas behind this project. While all the attention is welcome, and gratifying, seeing the project described as “One man’s quest to save lost words…”  has made me slightly uncomfortable since the path that this project has taken has been shaped and directed by many other works. Here are a few of them: Home Ground: Language for an American …

Gaping Gill

For those who don’t suffer from claustrophobia, there are several routes into Gaping Gill, one of the largest and most spectacular underground chambers in Britain. The Southern slopes of Ingleborough in North Yorkshire are punctured here and there by holes big enough and deep enough to be given a wide berth by walkers and gleefully investigated by potholers. These are the entrances to a massive network of underground caves and passages, dissolved out of the limestone by the relentless flow of water. Dissapointment Pot, Bar Pot, Corkey’s Pot and Stream Passage Pot, among others, have all been linked by underground explorers …

Floodgates – opened

I’ve had an amazing response since the BBC put up a short piece about the project (see it here). Scores of people have sent in words, images and example locations to add to the glossary and many more have contacted me to offer support. A huge thank you to everyone who has been in touch, I’m looking forward to sharing the project with you and I’ll do my best to get all the submissions on to the glossary as soon as possible. Dom

Yorkshire Dales – windy day

I was up in Cumbria last week, shooting some work for the ‘Lakes and Dales’ section of the book and gathering more words for the glossary. I shot this film around Baugh Fell whilst looking for shake holes, gills and becks. The clouds were constantly chasing over the landscape in a way that just can’t be captured in stills. I also got to go down Gaping Gill and I shot a bit of film there too, which I’ll edit and upload soon.

Bunyan’s Dell

I took a drive out to the Chilterns yesterday to look for Bunyan’s Dell near Preston in Hertfordshire. For about 90% of the journey I was cruising along busy grey roads – M11, M25, A1(M) – and then, quite suddenly I took a turn and was enveloped by those luminous greens of late spring. Instead of the oily, dusty reek of car fumes the breeze coming through the open window held a mild musk of cow parsley and rapeseed. How quickly the balance can shift, in the city I feel like everything is built and dead but when I escape …