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30 Days Wild: A wild reading list

Posted: Monday 6th June 2016 by DevonWildlifeTrust

Reading a book outside for 30 Days Wild

The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild challenge is well under way. We’ve loved seeing your photos of bug hunting, beachcombing, tree climbing and wild days out.

If you’re looking for a relaxed way to take part in 30 Days Wild we’ve got just the solution. We’ve pulled together a list of our favourite nature reads here at Devon Wildlife Trust HQ. So grab a book, take it outside and enjoy a natural sound track to your reading. 


Alison Uttley’s Sam Pig series

The Sam Pig Storybook front coverMy favourite nature books are Alison Uttley’s Sam Pig series. They were written in the 1930s.

My dad read me them as a child and their depiction of the countryside has stayed with me ever since. True, it’s a romanticised, pre-agribusiness vision of rural low England that probably never really existed, but the beauty of these books stems from Utley providing the reader with a child’s view of the landscape, albeit one through the eyes of a young pig named Sam.

Sam explores the countryside around him, he tastes its hedgerows, sleeps in the sweet-smelling open air, meets curious people and animals (some real, other mythical) and goes on adventures with his brothers and sister, along with their kind-old patriarch Brock the Badger.

The books remind me of my childhood, or perhaps the childhood that I like to think I had.

Stephen Hussey, Communications Team Leader


The Guide to Wild Habitats by Chris Packham

The Guide to wild habitats: heathlands front coverI found these books on a foray into the depths of Amazon's used books site - they're currently selling for £0.01p! As a young writer, Chris' intense descriptive style was absolutely inspiring, plunging me straight into heathlands, grasslands and woodlands.

Nature's Calendar: A month-by-month guide to the best wildlife locations in the British Isles by various

Nature's calendar front cover Some of your favourite wildlife presenters and photographers come together in this book presenting where in Britain you'll find the highlights of each month. Find our very own Wembury in Devon on pages 46 and 47 for tips on rockpooling and the creatures to find there. Perfect for families, and one to keep on the coffee table!

Rebecca Broad, digital media volunteer

Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature by Nick Davies

Cuckoo: cheating by nature front coverMy favourite nature book of recent years. It’s a fascinating and very entertaining insight into how cuckoos fool their hosts, how their victims fight back, and how obsessive naturalists have been uncovering this amazing behaviour over the last century. It includes a chapter about the first ever natural history film, made in the early 1920s. Ornithologist Edgar Chance got inside the mind of a female cuckoo so successfully that he made her lay an egg right in front of his movie camera – the first time this had ever been witnessed. A riveting read, and also available as an audiobook

Andrew Taylor, Grants Fundraiser 

Gods of the Morning: A Bird's Eye View of a Highland Year by John Lister-Kaye

Gods of the morning front cover Wonderful observational descriptions of wildlife in the Scottish Highlands through the seasons. Makes me want to go back again, and again!

Martin Crothall, website volunteer


Sharing a Shell by Julia Donaldson 

Sharing a shell front cover My kids love this and it's factually correct so I love it too - Crab (hermit crab), Blob (sea anemone) and Brush (bristleworm) do really live together in real life and all help each other out. Plus it has a thought provoking message about them going to live in litter on the beach when they need to find a new home which helps children realise beach litter is not a good thing. Plus in our copy at home there's glitter on every page...what's not to love!! We have a copy of this book in Wembury Marine Centre too for visitors to read : )

Cat Andrews, Marine Awareness Officer 

What Nature Does for Britain by Tony Juniper

What Nature Does for Britain front coverI love this book as it gives a unique guide to all the essential services that we often take for granted, such as pollination, clean drinking water and flood prevention and highlights what conservation organisations are doing to help these processes such as restoring wetlands and re-wetting peatbogs.



The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum M. Roberts

The Unnatural History of the Sea front cover

This seminal book is essential reading for anyone interested in the history of fishing and sealife and what needs to be done to reverse the dramatic decline in fish stocks and marine wildlife. Professor Roberts argues that the majority of our oceans should be set up as Marine Protected Areas and it is hard not to agree!

David Ireland, volunteer

Dart by Alice Oswald

Dart front coverIn this 50-page poem following Devon’s grandest river from moor to sea Alice Oswald mixes long flowing lines on the river’s movement through the landscape, sharp observations of animals and conversations with the river’s users, from kayakers to crabbers. From the frogs, skylarks and hikers of the ‘huge, rain-coloured wilderness’ of the high moor, to the retired pilots, shags and seals of the estuary, where the Dart’s name ‘disappears, and the sea slides in to replace it’ the poem is a journey both haunting and lively.

Crow Country by Mark Cocker

Crow countryOverlooked, often unloved, corvids are brought vividly centre stage in Cocker’s book, which is rooted in the flat arable land of Norfolk’s Yare valley but ranges in geography from Scotland to Tunisia and in imagination from the cultural connotations of crow calls in radio dramas to the rooks studied by British prisoners in wartime Germany. Crow Country reminds us that the most familiar wild animals still harbour mysteries worth exploring and that one of British nature’s most thrilling spectacles is the ‘blooming black flower’ of 40,000 rooks and jackdaws flying to their night-time roost.

Findings by Kathleen Jamie

FindingsThis book of essays on the interconnected worlds of people and wildlife could just as well be called ‘noticings’ or ‘wonderings’. Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie magically evokes the unique sights and sounds of memorable wildlife encounters: a corncrake calls ‘like someone grating a nutmeg’, the movement of a minke whale is ‘a heave of blackness’ on a glittering sea; a common crane directly overhead, an ‘uncanny cross in the sky’.

Though it begins in the darkness of an Orkney mid-winter, and takes in serious illness in close family, few books have so many moments of illumination. 

The Unofficial Countryside by Richard Mabey

The unofficial countryside front cover Canals, rubbish tips, ‘waste’ ground behind industrial or housing estates. Decades before it was fashionable to look for inspiration in these marginal spaces, Mabey’s 1973 book explored the urban and suburban spaces where wildlife can survive and even thrive in landscapes of human disturbance or neglect. The little ringed plover nesting in a gravel pit and the frog orchids growing in the ‘rough‘ of a golf course are celebrations of nature’s tenacity – and of wild beauty where it is least expected.

Dan, Communications Officer 

Weeds: the story of outlaw plants by Richard Mabey

Weeds front coverMy love of weeds has continued to grow since reading this wonderful book about flowers in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lovely mix of natural and cultural history, each weed has a story more complex and fascinating than the last. I can’t walk past a crumbling wall or abandoned car park now without inspecting the cracks for pioneer plants.

Jasmine Atkinson, Communications Assistant 

Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dan

Animals of farthing woodThis book, more than any other, had an influence over my perspective on the natural world. It was one of the sparks that ignited a deep seated feeling that I had to do something to make a difference and help rebalance our environment in favour of wildlife. It is a story about how wildlife whose home, Farthing Wood, is under threat of development band together to leave their ancestral home and set off to move to a far-away nature reserve. Heart-warming and heart-wrenching in equal measure – this is a must read for any future environmentalist.

Pete Burgess, Director of Conservation 

Let us know about your favourite nature book, or stories you enjoy reading outside in the comments below. Tweet us your 30 Days Wild photos using the hashtag #30DaysWild and include our handle @DevonWildlife.

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