Best Books of 2020

This year there has been plenty of time for reading some books and I’ve loved making some down time to switch off and relax without technology.

I’ve really enjoyed these 9 books ranging from nature exploration to inspiration for walks as well as some emotional rollercoasters.

This book was one of my childhood favourites, I hadn’t read it for years so when the first lockdown hit I got stuck back in. This book tells of the adventures of Robert Orrell as he, his two children, a pony, and a Border collie set off on a walking tour following the pack horse routes and smuggler’s trails in England’s Lake District. Having grown up in the Lake District myself and being a horsey lover I adored this book as a child inspiring adventures on foot and on horse back all through my teenage years.

“The best maps are not published, are not accurate or even sensible, but are the maps we make ourselves, about our cities, towns, villages and landscapes, our kith and kin.”

I bought a paddle board earlier this year so reading this has inspired me to get out on the water all year round! This book is not only about physically paddling but looking beneath the surface of nature and yourself to find inner happiness. Leaving her garden to go wild with nature the author set out on a venture to paddle the canals of Birmingham and finds some gems in nature amongst the industrial heart of the city as well as clarity in her own personal feelings.

“A meadow is not a natural habitat; it is a relationship between nature, man and beast. At its best, it is also equilibrium, artistry.”

Meadowland gives an unique and intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December, together with its biography. In exquisite prose, John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn, and includes the biographies of the animals that inhabit the grass and the soil beneath: the badger clan, the fox family, the rabbit warren,the skylark brood and the curlew pair, among others. Their births, lives, and deaths are stories that thread through the book from first page to last. Not being able to be out experiencing the changes of seasons like normal due to lockdown this book truly gave me a world of my own to escape into each evening.

“Gates are great for dogs, even if, like this one, it’s a kissing gate. These are ingenious constructions: a C shape of fence has a gate inserted into it that’s hinged on the opposite side, allowing the walker to enter the C from one side, then open the gate and pass out the other side. Great for everyone: walkers and dogs can get through easily; great for farmers, unless they have really intelligent sheep. But not great for backpackers, or fat people. I’m convinced that the that the usability of the kissing gate depends on the size of the person constructing it. If they’re large they leave plenty of space between the edge of the gate and the back of the C, enough room to pass behind the gate and out the other side. If they’re small their concept of space is completely different.”

Following the South West Coast Path this book is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways. Have the tissues at the ready for a true story of loosing everything and rediscovering nature via a wild camping adventure of a truly special couple.

“Maps transform us. They make birds of us all. They reveal the patterns of our existence and unlock our cages.”

Immersive, evocative and powerful, Common Ground is a unique evocation of how, over the course of one year, Rob Cowen discovered a common – though extraordinary – square mile of wood, meadow, hedge and river on the edge of his northern town.

Otters are by far my favourite animals, I’ve spent many hours of my life sat in the wet and cold hoping to catch sight of an otter. In Scotland and on my home stomping ground in the Lake District I’ve been very lucky to watch families of otters eating and playing in their wild homes. I have since moved to Suffolk so have loved reading about Miriam’s experiences otter spotting.

Over the course of a year, Miriam Darlington travelled around Britain in search of wild otters; from her home in Devon to the wilds of Scotland; to Cumbria, Wales, Northumberland, Cornwall, Somerset and the River Lea; to her childhood home near the Ouse, the source of her watery obsession. Otter Country follows Darlington’s search through different landscapes, seasons, weather and light, as she tracks one of Britain’s most elusive animals. During her journey, she meets otter experts, representatives of the Environment Agency, conservationists, ecologists, walkers, Henry Williamson’s family, Gavin Maxwell’s heir; zoo keepers, fishermen, scientists, hunters and poets. Above all she learns how to track and be around otters, and that the stillness required to actually see this shy animal can bring many unasked-for wonders. Written in mesmerising prose, Otter Country establishes Darlington as a prominent voice in the new generation of British nature writers.

In 1997, at the age of 24, Sarah lost her mother to breast cancer. Alone and adrift in the world, she very nearly gave up hope, but she’d made a promise to her mother that she would keep going no matter what. So she turned to the beautiful, dangerous, forbidding mountains of her native Scotland. As well as travelling far and wide to conquer challenges abroad this book really resonates with me as my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 (thankfully in remission and living life to the full now) a journey to process grief is something that many of us can relate to even if we aren’t climbing to the tops of mountains.

This is a fabulous book if you’re looking for some inspiration close to home with: 300 Wild swimming places, canoeing rivers and hidden beaches, 100 Ancient woodlands, summer meadows and wildlife wonders, 100 Lost ruins, hidden castles and sacred stones, 50 Caves and crypts, grottoes and follies, 50 Sunset hillforts, night walks and spots for wild camping, 250 Micro-breweries, artisan food, cosy pubs and foraging, 250 Campfire campsites, treehouses and remote hideaways. There is something for everyone in this book, as well as a whole series covering the UK, time to plan some micro adventures and stay cations!

This magnificent compendium of outstanding British walks brings together the finest selection of Pathfinder Walks in Britain’s officially designated places of scenic beauty and historic interest: National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Scenic Areas, Heritage Coast, National Trails and UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are 100 walking gems in this collection, recommended by a group of experienced authors and guides. The walks span a range of distances and degrees of challenge and are organised by region with coverage across England, Wales and Scotland.


2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve already read a few of these, but a couple of these I’ve never heard of and are definitely my kind of thing. They have been added to the list of ‘must-reads’ for 2021. Thanks for the recommendations


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