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 more magical for it.
Obsessively 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 life.
Blurring 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 ages.
Startlingly personal and poetic, this is a unique portrait of a forgotten realm and a remarkable evocation of how, over the course of a year, a man came to know himself once more 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.
Rob Cowen is an award-winning journalist and writer and an author of regular columns on nature and travel for the Independent, Independent on Sunday and the Telegraph. Described by the Guardian as ‘one of the UK’s most exciting nature writers’ he previously received the Roger Deakin Award from the Society of Authors for his first book Skimming Stones and Other Ways of Being in the Wild (2012). He lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. http://robandleo.com/ @robbiecowen
Come and meet Rob and listen to him talk about his work in the heart of the North York Moors.