Thursday, 9 April 2009

Where to go Wild in Britain; an Easter Challenge

A few weeks ago I was contacted by a member of the Dorling Kindersley publishing team out of the blue. Someone in the team had read my blog and I was e-mailed to see if I'd consider writing a review of a soon to be published book. I have to say no money is changing hands in this process, so after a few e-mails back and forth I agreed. I've now had a chance to read it and with Easter banging on the door for a well deserved break for many of you, it seemed apt to post the review today.

Where to go Wild in Britain; a month by month guide to the UK's best wildlife experiences is a substantial tome at 336 pages. ISBN 978-1-4053-3512-6

Dorling Kindersley are well known for producing well researched, clearly set out and easy to read books. This one, produced in co-operation with the RSPB is I have to say a little gem, well actually it's a big gem as it is a bit of a heavyweight. It's too big to taken into the field, but that's not really what it's for. This is a lavishly put together and well planned guide.

Mike Dilger, a friend of mine, writes the forward although I didn't know this before I received the book; in this he says "...a selection of the finest places and most extraordinary sights the British Isles has to offer". And that really sums up the aim of this book. There are a bewildering array of books on the market offering best places to visit in the UK; but I do have to say this one does seem to have pitched itself at the right level and found a niche. A book like this can only ever offer a selection of sites to visit, but having looked through some areas of the UK I know well, it does cover what I'd expect to see very well. This isn't however an identification guide. What I think this does well, is simply puts across where to go and what you'll see when you're there, in an easy to read guide for the family or the enthusiastic amateur naturalist alike.

One of the main things we in the "profession" overlook is that when beginning an interest in Wildlife watching it is often daunting to know where to go, not just to see nature, but to feel safe in the countryside. Often people feel intimidated asking someone for information when out in the field, we've all experienced the frosty look of an optic laden camoflaged wildlife watcher when asking what he's looking at. So this book should go some way to helping find that wildlife site near you, or what to see when on holiday or days out.

Clearely set out on a month by month basis, the beginning of each month gives a 2 page spread of where to go during that month. This is then followed by more in depth information about these places or individual species on the following pages. This is a boon for the beginner. Suggesting a visit to see the massed starlings on the Somerset Levels is one thing, but I've been asked numerous times in the summer months, will I see them today, only to see a crestfallen look as I say you'll need to come back in December or January. We often over look that many wildlife spectacles only happen for a short few weeks, or even days, such as Mayfly emergence. Knowing when to go, how to get there and just as importantly where it is safe to go and see this is well set out in this book.

The left hand column of the in depth pages gives a map of where this place is and clear information such as contact details, getting there, access, opening times and of course if there's a charge for visitors. The right hand column suggests other locations with similar wildlife around the UK. The bulk of the text gives just the right amount of information on the subject, though it would have been nice to have a further reading section on these pages for those wanting to know a bit more. But this is a very minor point.

There are also handy regional maps and a directory in the back of the book to source that piece of wildlife near you. As with all DK books the photographs are stunning and actually I just enjoyed reading through the book and looking at the images, and of course you just have to indulge me in using the Holy Island page as an example for the blog.

I actually liked this book very much (and remember I'm not getting paid for saying this either). It isn't an academic paper, or an identification guide, it is just what it says on the tin, or should that be cover; a guide to where to watch wildlife in the UK. Aimed at families and beginners to wildlife watching, I was surprised how many places I found I'd like to go to myself so would recommend it to everyone with a quest to discover something new out there. My only reservation is it's size, so really this is a stay at home coffee table book, and at £25 a grande cappuccino read. But I thoroughly enjoyed sitting with a glass of wine and planning a few days out with this book.

Wonderful though the photographs are, nothing beats being out there with nature. Go on it's Easter, put your wellies on and get out there......

......... which neatly brings me, now you are all out there doing it, to the Quicksilver Easter Bird Challenge. The rules are simple and this is just a bit of fun really, no prizes I'm afraid.

Details here

I'll do my best but will be travelling to the North East in an hour or so, so it will be interesting to see what I see as I drive around the UK. I'll post the results on the 19th April, so if you could get get your reports back to me by the 18th that'll be great. Unlike last time, please send them to my e-mail address, which is in my profile.

Which just leaves me to wish you all best of luck, wherever you are in the world reading this, a Happy Easter.


  1. Hi Andrew,

    Great review there. We have the book at home and we really like it too. It might just help me with the easter challenge too! I do however agree with you that it is VERY hefty. Not really something you could read on the tube or bus!

    Easter challenge should be fun. I am going to Titchfield Haven Nature Reserve this weekend, so I could see more birds than I thought I was going to be able to. Good luck to you and thanks for organising.

  2. sounds like a bit of fun again, lets get out there!

  3. i had an email from them. I assumed it was junk mail and binned it !!

  4. Thanks Joe, hope you had a good Easter at Titchfield.

    Any luck Warren?

    Hi Pete, I didn't think I'd be the only one getting the call. Oh well a good book now on my shelves