Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin was published in 2008. It’s a selection of his diary entries/research notes and thoughts which had been written over several years, compiled into one year. This book is a sort of homage to Deakin I suppose, he died quite suddenly and his friends were obviously bereft, this was a way of hearing more from him.

You get a real flavour of what Deakin was like and the way he lived his life, which seems to have been idyllic. He had lived in an ancient Suffolk farm for the last 30 years of his life, wild swimming in the moat, in fact he apparently popularised the modern interest in wild swimming. I got the impression though that the moat was more of a ditch, a common feature of East Anglian fields.

As you would expect, some entries are more interesting than others. Some are strange such as his observation that mallard ducks ‘seem incapable of ordinary fonder bird-love. With them it has to be a violent chase, wild pursuit, followed by an unceremonius ducking of the object of desire and a gang-bang.’

Well there’s a very simple reason for that as for some reason there are always far more male mallards than females, which he doesn’t seem to have noticed. In fact things are often made even worse as female mallards are sometimes drowned in the melee.

Unusually for an environmentalist Deakin was a big fan of cats, I suppose they were good company for him but they must have devastated the local bird population. He was quite againts dogs, reasoning that anyone taking a dog for a walk in the country was unlikely to see much in the way of wildlife, as dogs scared everything away,  they certainly scare rabbits away.

The blurb on the front says: ‘Marvellous, wonderful, lovely, remarkable ….. to be read and reread and treasured.’ Elizabeth Jane Howard

I borrowed this one from my local library.

October, October by Katya Balen – 20 Books of Summer 2023

October, October by Katya Balen was published in 2020 and it won the Carnegie Medal  in 2022.

October is 11 years old and she’s named after the month she was born in as after trying out many names October was the only one which didn’t bounce off the walls and hit the floor with a thud – according to her father.  October and her father live in a wood, it’s an alternative way of life with no frills, but as October has only known that life she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on anything. They do a big shop in a nearby town once a year for the things that they aren’t able to grow themselves. The woman who is my mother, as October refers to her mother decided that she couldn’t live that sort of life any more and went to live a ‘normal’ life in London, leaving October with her father.  October refuses to have anything to do with her.

Although October doesn’t go to school and has no friends except her father she is being educated by her dad, she even helps him with the solar panels that provide their electricity and of course she knows a lot about the wildlife in the woodand, they’re living a wild life themselves. After a storm October finds a dead owl and when they find a tiny baby owl alive on the ground her father tells her to leave it alone to let its mother pick it up, but the next day it’s still there and October decides to rescue it, her dad isn’t happy about it but sets about getting food for the baby owl.

When October’s father has an accident it leads to October having to communicate with her despised mother and what seemed like a disaster eventually has a silver lining.

This is a lovely read which is illustrated by the artist Angela Harding, the illustrations are all small and they’re all of Stig the owl, but she also designed the book cover, I really like her style.