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Common Ground ❰BOOKS❯ ✫ Common Ground Author Rob Cowen – 'I am dreaming of the edge land again'After moving from London to a new home in Yorkshire Rob Cowen finds himself on unfamiliar territory disoriented hemmed in by winter and yearning for the nearest o 'I am dreaming of the edge land again'After moving from London to a new home in Yorkshire Rob Cowen finds himself on unfamiliar territory disoriented hemmed in by winter and yearning for the nearest open space So one night he sets out to find it – a pylon slung edge land a tangle of wood meadow field and river on the outskirts of town Despite being in the shadow of thousands of houses it feels unclaimed forgotten caught between worlds and all the magical for itObsessively revisiting this contested ground Cowen ventures deeper into its many layers and lives documenting its changes through time and season and unearthing histories that profoundly resonate and intertwine with transformative events happening in his own lifeBlurring the boundaries of memoir natural history and novel Common Ground offers nothing less than an enthralling new way of writing about nature and our experiences within it We encounter the edge land's inhabitants in immersive kaleidoscopic detail as their voices and visions rise from the fields and woods beasts birds insects plants and people – the beggars sages and lovers across the agesStartlingly personal and poetic this is a uniue portrait of a forgotten realm and a remarkable evocation of how over the course of a year a man came to know himself once by unlocking it But above all this is a book that reasserts a vital truth nature isn’t just found in some remote mountain or protected park It is all around us It is in us It is us.

10 thoughts on “Common Ground

  1. Paul Paul says:

    Life has a habit of throwing curve balls at you Cowen has relocated to Yorkshire has just been made redundant and is confined by the weather to home Longing for fresh air sky and space but not sure of the lie of the land he ventures out to find somewhereAnd on the fringe of a housing estate he finds it It is a forgotten area freuented only by dog walkers and people who hurry through; a piece of land that isn’t wilderness but feels wild and untamed unloved and uncared for Pylons pierce the sky surrounding this edgeland reminding you that precious little of the land in the UK is untouched by human handsAnd it is in this place that he begins to feel free and to breathe again Visiting freuently almost obsessively he begins to peel back the layers that form this place With almost forensic level of detail of all he observes from tracking a fox the brevity of the mayfly life the hunt from the perspective of the uarry and the silent lethal owlIntertwined thought the books too is an honest account of his anxieties and thoughts on the modern world He learns to that he is to become a father and they process of creating a new life is deftly woven into the narrative as his partner grows with his child 'I am dreaming of the edge land again'This is nature writing of the highest uality on a par with some of the finest out there It is imaginative immersive detailed and at certain points haunting Cowen’s attention to detail is astonishing too not just seeing but making deep observations of all he sees captivating to read The inclusion of his personal life gives further depth to the book but the novel creations portraying a hare as someone in a coffee shop for example really didn’t do anything for me and jarred with the rest But other than that this was excellent

  2. Penny Penny says:

    45There seems to be a bit of a trend at the moment for books which combine some landscape and nature writing along with social history and personal memoirI'd read some good reviews of this book and knew it was an in depth study of a piece of ground on the northern edge of a townWhat I didn't realise until I opened the book and saw the map was that the town was Harrogate and the 'edge lands' described were what I opened my bedroom curtains and looked out on for many years before moving into the countryside properI have to admit that until I read Cowen's book I'd not considered it any than a pleasant area full of wildlife with an active Conservation Group which our family belonged to somewhere good for my son to kick his football or my daughter fly her kite or play 'dens' Cowen sees it all very very differently During a turbulent and unsettled time of his life he comes to rely on the 'edge lands' as somewhere that pulls him like a magnet in all weathers and at all times of day and night The place soothes him and disturbs him in eual measure It comes close to obsessing him It sparks his imagination in a way that he almost becomes some of the people and creatures he observes In less capable hands this could become pretty dire but Cowen is a marvellous writer Lying half dozing in a field he almost inhabits the body of a deer being chased or a fox prowling around the houses maybe my old house These are some of the best passages of the book with some truly inspiring writing that reminded me several times of The Once and Future KingVery good indeed and recommended

  3. Joanne Harris Joanne Harris says:

    It takes a special kind of writer to make magic from the everyday In this book Rob Cowen has done precisely that In choosing to investigate the kind of ordinary place that most people pass by without a second thought he has created something extraordinary; a sentimental journey into the Northern dreamtime in which the plants and animals of the British countryside are revealed in intimate detail and in starkly beautiful prose The cover is a nod to WATERSHIP DOWN; and although this book is very different I think it achieves the same effect; to give us a new perspective on familiar places; to make us think again about what we think we know of our world to help us understand the links that bind us to our landscape and like Blake to make us see Heaven in a wild flower

  4. Rebecca Rebecca says:

    An unassuming patch of edge land outside Harrogate is Cowen’s nature paradise providing him with wildlife encounters and imaginative scenarios Structured as it is around months in which he found out he was going to be a father and welcomed his son the book has a very personal bent Essentially what Cowen does is give profiles of the edge land’s inhabitants animal and human himself included For instance he creates an account of the life and death of a fox; elsewhere he crafts a first person narrative by a deer being hunted in medieval times These fictions emulating Watership Down or Tarka the Otter though well written are out of place When the book avoids melodramatic anthropomorphizing it is very beautiful indeed The chapters have strong thematic links and draw on legends as well as scientific facts to reveal how remarkable common species truly areSee my full review at Nudge

  5. Penelope Penelope says:

    A powerful and moving piece of writing which is both a minutely detailed observation of the natural world and our relationship in it and also a wondrous and ecstatic flight of imagination Beautiful lyrical rapturous and enchanting are some of the words I would use to describe this book which had the effect of making me hold my breath for fear of disturbing the wonders on the page But it is also haunting somber mournful and heart breaking and will leave you looking at the world in a whole new way and considering our at times uite frankly appalling actions in the wider world I have loved every single page of this book and I whole heartedly recommend it without reservation

  6. Tuck Tuck says:

    a natural history of a small bit of edge land bordering bilton uk lyrical full of history of area and its development lots about the few animals there a little about the few plants there and incorporates he and his wife having a baby and how that relates to humans and the natural and how it doesnt alsoa great example of creative natural history writing

  7. Elsbeth Kwant Elsbeth Kwant says:

    This is an astounding book 'In an era where there seems seem to be a deficit of wonder' this book makes up for much In loving the unlovable an edge land accidentally missing development into city the first time round Cowen turns the book into a human nature interface It is remarkable in its marrying of fiction nature history autobiography but is mostly memorable for the sheer exhilaration it offers He actually finds words for that moment of discovery experience And added bonus he writes about my favorite animals hares roe deer swift and badgers It is a beautifully crafted book combining theme like stories about people and animals with a chronological story about his own life And in the end in a way I will not share for fear of spoling Cowen finds the ultimate common ground between man and animal Truly a remarkable book highly recommended

  8. Snoakes Snoakes says:

    This is a gorgeous book and I'm not just talking about the cover Rob Cowen takes a small patch of land on the edge of town and visits it repeatedly over the course of the year until he knows it intimatelyHe describes it through the seasons not just from his perspective but also from that of its inhabitants past and present human and creature Alongside these imaginings are details from his own life at a time of huge transition a move to a new town and impending fatherhoodSo all at once it is natural history memoir and fictitious flights of fancy all combining to make a gem of a book amongst the slew of fantastic nature writing we've been spoilt with recently

  9. Margaret Margaret says:

    I share Common Ground with Rob Cowen I lived as he does now in Bilton Harrogate for getting on for 10 years The edge lands of the Bilton Triangle were my back yard as they are his And so this is why I read his book At first I found it a tricky read a little overwritten I thought Gradually however this book of nature writing of memoir of local history won me over I loved how he brought themes together under separate chapters which were each primarily about some different inhabitant of the edge land a fox a badger a mayfly and so on Where he became anthropomorphic as in his description of a mediaeval stag hunt I lost some patience finding such passages simply self indulgent I was uncomfortable with his attributing feelings mannerisms to people not long dead such as Bilton Conservation Group member Bill Varley and not that it perhaps mattered I wasn't always sure which of his tales were fact which fiction The Bilton Triangle is in the news again as once politicians try to make the case for running a major a ringroad through this precious wild are so near to Harrogate They should read this book

  10. Brigid Brigid says:

    I sit up too fast my head explodes into every pile of dogshit anyone has ever trod on this path Italics FOX That musty piss musk Emily's bored but im really in tune with nature so i just go with it and keep talking Have i mentioned how 'wow' it is out here? other people are sitting inside placated in front of their tvs their boring little lives i'm not like them i notice things and then describe them calling hawthorn flowers 'dolloped cream' although that speaks nothing of the ualities of blossom Also this fucking awful man's depiction of two women's friendship in the mayfly chapter? ''laURa's FiT buT heR frieNd is isNT i KnowLAuRa doesnt Care coS she's Fit and Is All I n tune With Nature WoohHo She keeps saying 'dad said you only live once' or something to spell out the strained connection to the mayfly and its lifespanmating habits as obvious and as patronising as possible Also the first accountattempt at a vignette of a working class characters and it's as insects? The descriptions of Laura and her friends dialogue couldn't of been unconvincing to the point of insult really and it made it really hard to ignore where the writer was writing from or how his view of what Laura's life might be like was so poorly drawn and pitying It was so bad i put the book down and took some deep breaths The vignettes were already bad like really so bad but this one killed it for me Really wanted to like the book and started off v invested in it but couldn't get past all this ugh

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