Wonderland by Brett Westwood & Stephen Moss – Review
By Joe Forshaw
Brett Westwood is an award winning radio producer presenter and naturalist and consultant for BBC’s Springwatch and Autumnwatch. Stephen Moss is a TV producer and bestselling author whose books include Wild Hares and Hummingbirds and Wild Kingdom. He is also Presidents of Somerset Wildlife Trust.
This book is aptly entitled Wonderland, for indeed it is a truly honest and accurate description of what lies between the covers.
The wonderland of British wildlife, both flora and fauna, is presented in such an imaginative and informative manner that one wishes all similar time-based and periodic missives could be presented in such a reader-friendly way.
The contents describe the seasonal transitions of British flora and fauna recorded month to month from January to December with a comprehensive, easy to read first person approach that draws the reader into the magical world of nature.
As a precursor to my attempt to do this book justice I turn to a line from Byron’s poem, ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’ which ends the 12 page introduction; an introduction which in itself is a beautifully scripted sincere exposé of the authors’ love and feeling for the subject. The line reads: ‘I love not man the less but nature more’.
As I look out on to my garden in the already dark early evening and turn to the chapter titled November, I am advised that the hedgehogs will be going into hibernation and invading blackbirds from the northern continent are arriving to take advantage of the UK’s milder winter. Similarly, skeins of barnacled geese with chicks that have survived the dangers of the Arctic archipelago, polar birds and arctic foxes, will inhabit our nature reserves.
Also, there may be a lucky sighting of a firecrest, which is at nine centimetres is our smallest bird. This chapter also contains information on everlasting trees, logpile hornets, oak galls, Exmoor ponies, lemon slugs, grey seal pups and more.
March outlines the sad tale of the decline of Britain’s last snake, the adder, which is down to one surviving female, and the untruth behind Lewis Carol’s representation of the Mad March Hare.
June is a most interesting time of the year; we learn that people often mistake the call of the collard dove with the call of the cuckoo, that March is the time for dragonflies and for weasels and stoats that continually move their pups around to find the safest nursery. There is a beguiling description of a weasel trying to rescue her two pups stranded in the middle of a busy road.
The book has 550 pages, which equates to around 44 pages per month. It will be, for me, a wonderful journey through the coming year, reading, looking, exploring and being made aware of what’s going on around me month by month. Truly the natural world is a wonderland and this book is simply magical.
Wonderland within and wonderland without.
‘Wonderland: A Year of Britain’s Wildlife, Day by Day’ by Brett Westwood & Stephen Moss is published by