Category Archives: Nature writing

The Wild Frontier: storm season

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My latest column for Prospect talks about living at the meeting point of air, earth and sea. Find it on the Prospect website here, or after the fold.

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Country Diary: Wacky Races

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A brief vignette from spring-time Orkney for the Guardian’s Country Diary: a brief stand-off with a brown hare. Full text on the Guardian website here, or after the fold. Continue reading

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Slowing down on the rocky strand

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I’m still contributing a monthly column titled ‘The Wild Frontier’ to Prospect magazine, as well as a monthly wildlife column to the Scottish Field (not online). My latest Prospect article is about remembering to slow down in times of stress. Full text online here, or after the fold.

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Country diary: the cannibal seals

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A second dispatch from Orkney for the Guardian’s Country Diary section. It’s about the darker side of nature, and a murder mystery now solved: the dead seal pups and the cannibal bulls. Full text on the Guardian website here, or after the fold.

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The Wild Frontier: night walker

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My latest column for Prospect magazine is about the joys of walking at night time, an enthusiasm I share with Dorothy and William Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dickens. Full text on the Prospect website here, or after the fold. I’ve been doing a lot more of it recently, while staying up writing into the early hours. Sometimes I do wish I was an early riser, who got their most efficient work done before breakfast. But other times I really enjoy those long hours of darkness, after everyone is in bed, when I can get in great stretches of concentrated writing time – and a wander through deserted lanes and fields under starlight.

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The Wild Frontier: settling in

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A new column for Prospect, on moving across the country during a time of migrations. Full text here, or after the fold. Illustration by Kate Hazell.

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Hive minds and the wisdom of crowds

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My most recent column for Prospect deals with collective intelligence and decision-making, with inspiration taken from the natural world. Full text on the Prospect website here, or after the fold. Continue reading

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Country Diary: the super-pod

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Another brief postcard from Orkney, this time from the shores of the island of Flotta – a short ferry ride from where I live (in the west of what we call ‘mainland’ here on the archipelago). A super-pod of porpoises has been in residence for several weeks, as they have every autumn for the last few years during their breeding season. Full text on the Guardian website here, or after the fold. Continue reading

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The emptied island

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The latest entry from my ‘Wild Frontier’ column in Prospect magazine. It’s about a solitary night on an abandoned island, and what it means to be truly alone. Full text here, or after the fold.

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The big move: now based in Orkney

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I recently moved to Orkney with my partner Richard, where he has been posted as a probationary teacher. At times like this I am reminded what a wonderful privilege it is to be self-employed – and able to up sticks easily, and work from such a beautiful and remote location. (Although it doesn’t feel at all remote, once one is actually here.)

I wrote about moving house – and how the task of packing up my belongings made me think rather wistfully of our six weeks living the ultralight lifestyle on the Colorado Trail – for Prospect, in my latest ‘Wild Frontier’ column. (Text can be found online here, or after the fold.)

I also had a nice surprise when my first Country Diary entry for The Guardian from Orkney was an unexpected hit, racking up more than 30,000 readers in its first few hours online (quite unusual for this section, which features gentle snippets of nature writing). It dealt with the arrival of stoats on the archipelago, and why conservationists believe that might be disastrous for the ground-nesting birds that live here. (Full text can be found here, or after the fold.)

Eradication and ‘population management’ of wildlife prompts important ethical questions in environmental circles – ones I have touched on in more length in the context of red deer culls (for Granta and The Guardian’s long-read section) and in a discussion of our instinctive dislike of ‘invasive’ non-native species (for the New Humanist). So, why not read more?

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