SHORTLISTED for BBC Countryfile magazine’s COUNTRY BOOK OF THE YEAR
SHORTLISTED for Richard Jefferies Award
Listed on The Guardian’s “Best Nature Books of 2017”
“There is song and poetry in Oates’ sentences and an impish, fruity delight in nature’s riot.
He is a Tom Bombadil for our times.” ~ Countryfile magazine, Best Winter Books 2017 article
“One of the great pleasures of Oates’ writing is the breadth of the references he encompasses in his easy, accessible style…
and I defy you not to come away from it
determined to make the most of every single minute of next spring.” ~ Birdwatching magazine
“Brilliant and Beautiful” ~ Patrick Barkham
“A great person to go walking with…” ~ Robert Minhinnick
“You feel enhanced at the end of every page” ~ Mary Colwell
“An exuberant celebration of the British countryside at its joyous, rampant best” ~ Brett Westwood
Matthew Oates has written a unique book for the winter months – a reminder of what is awaiting us in the brighter months if we go out and meet it. Inspired by the poetic approach to nature and the long hot summer of 1976, to which the book is dedicated, he chronicles a series of adventures and musings during the months of an English spring and summer, and argues most eloquently why we need nature – to help us feel rooted, to replenish our souls, because nature is part of us, and we are part of it. The book contains some of his highest quality natural history experiences, encountered from spring’s genesis through to summer’s fulfilment in autumn, from the Scilly Isles up to the Lake District fell tops, and back by way of the Peak District, the Norfolk Broads and the White Cliffs of Dover, all in the form of short chapters designed for snatch reading.
There are some lovely quotes and poems from the greats such as Edward Thomas, and also some of the English living greats… including Alison Brackenbury, Keith Chandler, Chris Kinsey, Katherine Towers, David Morley and Katrina Porteous
Above all, this book describes the spiritual landscape in which this lifelong lover of nature exists.
More Detailed Praise for BEYOND SPRING – Wanderings through Nature:
Spirit yourself into spring with this wonderful book, bursting with the glories of the season and its half-forgotten friends – from grape hyacinths to brimstones to rooks. Matthew Oates is a witty and imaginative companion: poetic, subtly subversive and as elusive and fast-moving as spring itself. Beautiful and Brilliant. Patrick Barkham Natural history author, and writer for the Guardian.
Great to think of people like Matthew walking the world, linking poetry, natural history and crucially, his own undiminished sense of wonder… Must be a great person to go walking with… Robert Minhinnick Poet, Author, Environmentalist, Joint founder of Friends of the Earth Cymru.
This book is a delight. Like an English summer’s day there is warmth and sparkle as well as times when clouds drift across the scene, but it is always warm and full of a deep appreciation of this earth. Matthew Oates captures the joy of life in his own, unique way and you feel enhanced at the end of every page. Mary Colwell Producer and writer specialising in Nature.
Matthew Oates is an equally enthusiastic naturalist, poet and writer of prose, with an abounding affection for his subject which shines out in every sentence of this book. It’s an exuberant celebration of the British countryside at its joyous, rampant best, interweaving natural and literary landscapes as it explores spring in some of the finest spots for wildlife… A book to savour on winter evenings when the anticipation of spring tempts us all: whether he’s describing the song of a blackbird or the scent of a garlic snail, you know you’re in safe hands. Brett Westwood Author, presenter, naturalist and consultant for Springwatch and Autumnwatch
“There’s something very pleasingly old-fashioned about this book, a chronicle of Matthew Oates’ wanderings through England and its nature. It’s a fact he acknowledges by regular reference to his predecessors, great Victorian nature writers, such as Richard Jefferies, the Romantic poets, and in particular the Edwardian poet Edward Thomas, whose own books, especially In Pursuit Of Spring, are a constant touchstone, here. One of the great pleasures of Oates’ writing is the breadth of the references he encompasses in his easy, accessible style – you come away from reading a chapter determined to follow up one lead or another, whether it’s a poet you hadn’t heard of previously (I’m delighted to see names such as David Morley, Jo Bell and Angela France crop up here), or a particular species and its behaviour that has sparked your imagination. For all that, its style sometimes evokes a bygone era, Oates manages to address plenty of contemporary conservation and ecological issues in his prose, as well as highlighting some habitats that Thomas would probably have passed by – city centre parks, motorway service stations, and the like. That all makes it a great book for dipping into, especially in the dead of winter, and I defy you not to come away from it determined to make the most of every single minute of next spring.” Birdwatching Magazine Dec 2017
“Despite all the bad news about our natural world, naturalist Matthew Oates writes with welcome optimism, recalling a number of wildlife adventures and perfect days in the British countryside. Each one is revealing, uplifting and wise – “such days,” he says “do not merely linger on in our minds: they live on and actually develop within our souls, reaching a depth of meaning almost beyond comprehension”. Each story is accompanied by a stanza or two of verse from Edward Thomas and other fellow lovers of the wild. He particularly delights in Edward Thomas’s ‘South Country’ – the great sweep of chalklands from Dover to Dorset – and is distracted by both the grand wild spectacles and the mundane melodramas of deer flies. “There’s no excuse for being bitten by a …stupid, large and obvious… deer fly, other than outdoor fornication and the ensuing slumber”.
But nothing can compare to his rhapsodic pages devoted to the purple emperor butterfly. He recalls numerous encounters with these large, handsome but mercurial insects, giving them a power, character and curmudgeonliness that I never thought possible in such an ephemeral creature. Flimsy they are not. There is song and poetry in Oates’ sentences and an impish, fruity delight in nature’s riot. He is a Tom Bombadil for our times with this most valuable of advice: “Always keep a nature diary: it will be a comfort to you in time to come.” Fergus Collins, Countryfile Magazine -The best nature books to read this winter, December 2017
ABOUT MATTHEW OATES
If you don’t already know of Matthew Oates, let me fill you in a bit:
Matthew is a well-known broadcaster and ecologist.
Graduating in English, Matthew then moved into the world of nature conservation and has been at the National Trust since 1990. He is the National Trust’s National Specialist on Nature. He is particularly drawn to people’s relationships with nature, places and seasons, and increasingly the impact of weather on wildlife. The National Trust’s current Spirit of Place programme is particularly dear to his heart. The programme will collect the views of people who love a place the National Trust cares for, whether that’s a stretch of coastline, an ancient woodland or a country house. Future conservation work will be guided by understanding what these places mean to people.
He’s made a number of appearances on BBC Radio 4 – from the Today programme and Shared Earth, to presenting two short series: In Pursuit of the Ridiculous and In Pursuit of Spring. His TV credits include The One Show, Springwatch, Great British Summer, and Butterflies – A Very British Obsession. As he says: ‘It’s impossible to visit one of our places without discovering something new, often about oneself. My job is a voyage of discovery.’
He is one of The Times’ nature columnists.
He knows an awful lot about Britain’s butterflies and is the world expert on the Purple Emperor butterfly.
Reviews of his last book – In Pursuit of Butterflies:-
Oates … writes entrancingly, with the sunniest good humour. His book, with its old-school, loving erudition, is nature-writing of the sort that never goes out of fashion. The Sunday Times
This book is an infectious, instantly joyful love song to butterflies … Written in prose as delicate and enticing as the creatures themselves, this read will release your inner flutter — Miriam Darlington BBC Wildlife
A joy to read, bubbling with knowledge, enthusiasm and insight. Robert Macfarlane
… a memoir which is knowledgeable, cultured and a welcome throwback to a gently comic kind of English nature writing. The Independent
Oates is unquestionably authentic and his voice is vivid, witty and unapologetic … his writing is suffused with a love for the spirit of the English countryside. The Guardian
Lyrical, eccentric, charming and historical, In Pursuit of Butterflies is altogether unique. Butterfly magazine
One of the best summaries of why nature matters and how we should all care. Spectator
The writing is perfectly judged, combining a gift for story-telling and for conveying fact with an ever-present sensitivity and self-awareness. There is the author’s own poetry too, deeply felt and beautifully crafted. Rare Bird Alert
It reminded me of my childhood delight in butterflies – and indeed rekindled it. — Helen Hewett Cotswolds Life
When the weather turns stormy and the butterfly year is over I can turn to this book and be enchanted once again and dream of days to come next year. Pembrokeshire Life
He [Oates] writes with lyrical affection about the wonderful variety of British butterflies and moths… His enthusiasm is never less than inspiring. Daily Mail
It is his infectious enthusiasm as much as his deep knowledge that makes the book so worthwhile … He writes entrancingly, with the sunniest good humour. His book, with its old-school, almost loving erudition, is nature-writing of the sort that never goes out of fashion. The Sunday Times