A Londoner for over twenty years, moving from flat to Tube to air-conditioned office, Melissa Harrison knew what it was to be insulated from the seasons. Adopting a dog and going on daily walks helped reconnect her with the cycle of the year and the quiet richness of nature all around her: swifts nesting in a nearby church; ivy-leaved toadflax growing out of brick walls; the first blackbird’s song; an exhilarating glimpse of a hobby over Tooting Common.
Moving from scrappy city verges to ancient, rural Suffolk, where Harrison eventually relocates, this diary — compiled from her beloved Nature Notebook column in The Times — maps her joyful engagement with the natural world and demonstrates how we must first learn to see, and then act to preserve, the beauty we have on our doorsteps — no matter where we live.
The autumn of 1933 is the most beautiful Edie Mather can remember. But in the fields and villages around her beloved Wych Farm the Great War still casts a shadow over a community impoverished by economic depression, and threatened by change. Change, too, is coming to Edie, who at fourteen must soon face the unsettling pressures of adulthood. Constance FitzAllen arrives from London to document fading rural traditions and beliefs, urging all who will listen to resist progress and return to the old ways — but some wonder whether there might be more to the glamorous older woman than meets the eye. As harvest approaches and the future of Wych Farm itself grows uncertain, Edie must somehow find a way to trust her instincts and save herself from disaster.
All Among the Barley was published by Bloomsbury on August 23, 2018, with maps by Neil Gower. The paperback came out in March 2019. Four limited-edition screenprints by the artist Lewis Heriz are available to order here. For UK press enquiries please contact Ros Ellis at Bloomsbury.
Four-thirty on a May morning: the black fading to blue, dawn gathering somewhere below the treeline in the East. A long, straight road runs between sleeping fields to the little village of Lodeshill, and on it two cars lie wrecked and ravished, violence gathered about them in the silent air. One wheel, upturned, still spins.
Howard and Kitty have recently moved to Lodeshill after a life spent in London; now, their marriage is wordlessly falling apart. Custom car enthusiast Jamie has lived in the village for all nineteen years of his life and dreams of leaving it behind, while Jack, a vagrant farm-worker and mystic in flight from a bail hostel, arrives in the village on foot one spring morning, bringing change. All four of them are struggling to find a life in the modern countryside; all are trying to find ways to belong.
Building to an extraordinary climax over the course of one spring month, At Hawthorn Time is both a clear-eyed picture of rural Britain, and a heartbreaking exploration of love, land and loss. It is out now, published by Bloomsbury, and has earned the admiration of A.S.Byatt, Helen Macdonald, author of the bestselling H Is For Hawk, and the award-winning novelist Evie Wyld, who called it “intensely moving… careful, precise, and hypnotically beautiful.”
Eight-year-old TC skips school to explore the city’s overgrown, forgotten corners. Sophia, seventy-eight, watches with concern as he slips past her window, through the little park she loves. She’s writing to her granddaughter, Daisy, whose privileged upbringing means she exists in a different world from TC — though the two children live less than a mile apart. Jozef spends his days doing house clearances, his nights working in a takeaway. He can’t forget the farm he left behind in Poland, its woods and fields still a part of him, although he is a thousand miles away. When he meets TC he finds a kindred spirit: both lonely, both looking for something, both lost.
Because it sends most of us scurrying indoors, few people witness what happens out in the landscape on a wet afternoon. And yet, every day, as natural and inevitable as breathing, weather fronts form, clouds gather and rain falls, changing how the English countryside looks, smells and sounds, and the way the living things in it behave. The rain alters the land itself, too: dissolving ancient rocks, deepening river channels and moving soil from place to place.
To write a book about rain I had to get used to going outside and getting wet. I visited four parts of the country in showery weather and, when others looked apprehensively at the sky and went indoors, I put on waterproofs and headed out. I blended these expeditions with reading, research, memory and a little conjecture in order to describe the course of four rain-showers as they pass over English soil.
Rain was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2016 and chosen as a finalist in the National Geographic Traveller reader awards 2017; an abridged chapter was broadcast as part of the BBC Proms on Radio 3, read by Melissa herself.
The four seasons roll through English literature, budding, blossoming, fruiting and dying back: lazy summer days and golden harvests, misty autumn walks and frozen fields in winter, and all the hopeful romance of spring.
This new series, edited by Melissa and published in association with The Wildlife Trusts, is a true celebration of the seasons. A collection of writing both classic and modern, and from all corners of the UK, these anthologies mix prose and poetry dating back a thousand years to tell the story of each season’s progress across these isles. They feature writing by members of the public as well as extracts from classic works of literature and new work from the best of contemporary nature writers, the result a fittingly diverse range of voices to sing out each season’s joy.