Life in a Vanishing Landscape
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Nature writing & gardening
For as long as anyone can remember there have been Lauries farming in Galloway. Native is Patrick Laurie's account of returning home and trying to establish a farm on a 30 acre plot. This is a memoir born out of moments of wonder and pain ... It is not so much a lament for a lost way of being, but the loving story of trying to find it again
The Times, Nature Books of the Year
He’s a keen observer, of nature and of the general ebb and flow of the world, and he writes with a seemingly effortless lyricism about what he sees… A charming evocation of the harsh realities of farming in the modern world, and the difficulties of marrying food production and conservation
Laurie has an authentic ability to balance the pains and joys of small farming. … [Native] works a remarkable balancing act/ the blackened fingernail, bruised by bustling cattle, presses down on a key as richly ambiguous as the curlew’s cry
Times Literary Supplement
[Laurie's] chapters apply a delightful honesty to the poignant struggle of everyday agriculture, but then occasionally take my breath with a lyrical passage... rapturous writing
Usually only the Highlands gets a look-in so the relative obscurity of the country that Laurie farms makes the book special... It is a painful book about presence and absence, and it’s worth reading for the quality of prose alone
Laurie writes in beautiful detail about the landscape and animals surrounding him. The book represents an ongoing battle between progress and conservation in which the farming industry is integral. A thoughtful read about a man’s love of his homeland
Remarkable, and so profoundly enjoyable to read ... Its importance is huge, setting down a vital marker in the 21st century debate about how we use and abuse the land
Brilliant and Beautiful... This is a book about a place you will probably have never visited: but you should read it nonetheless because what it says has a wider importance, about some of what we have got wrong in the way we respect nature and farming and what we might get right if we change our ways. it is also that most valuable of things, an escape to an open land where curlew still cry and the wind and rain cut in from the sea and city life feels a million miles away
London Evening Standard
‘[A] beautifully written memoir, a mesmerising account of a year of back-breaking labour, personal despair and piercing moments of joy… unforced and utterly authentic.’ FIVE STAR REVIEW
Mail on Sunday
A farmer with a poet’s eye is a rare thing indeed, and this is a rare breed of a book: an elegy to a vanishing landscape but one not without hope, and to be greatly treasured
Galloway, past and present, is the bedrock of this book, a granite foundation on which Laurie is to build his future… an unflinching account of what it takes to turn into a farmer, bearing callouses, bruises and scars…. moving as well as inspirational. This Galloway farm might be just one stamp in an album, but if a butterfly wing can cause a hurricane, what about a rampaging bull?
Native is described as ‘a hymn of love to his native land’. It’s an apt description for a wonderful book... a poignant and thought-provoking read, I loved it
I work at Forum Books in Corbridge and got a proof of this - it's the most incredible book I can recall reading - prose to compare with Macfarlane. Staggering, should win prizes
I simply adore this book!
Patrick Laurie's neighbours looked on in amusement when he turned the clock back to follow his grandfather’s way of rearing cattle. But the old ways are paying off and he is now the proud owner of a thriving rare breed herd – and seen the return of threatened wildlife to his land
Patrick Laurie is a wonderful writer. He has written a hymn of love to his native land
In this tender, lyrical book, Patrick Laurie considers what it means to really belong to a place. Throughout, the mud, blood and sweat of the farm are brought vividly to life, and each sentence is charged with passion for its subject
A young man sets out to work the land like his forefathers and brings Riggit Galloway cattle in to help him. Nature flourishes ... A good read, although Patrick Laurie may also be the type of farmer on the verge of extinction, along with the curlew
Patrick Laurie returns to his native Galloway in southwest Scotland, with the sole ambition of farming and raising livestock like his family had before him. Haunted by nature’s declining fortunes, he hopes that by bringing back ‘the old ways’ – mixed farming instead of monocultures, slow-growing rare-breed cattle instead of modern European beef breeds, a sickle and a scythe instead of a combine harvester – he can also bring back the wildlife that once thrived on Galloway’s farmland
Geographical magazine, Best Books of 2020 Nature, Climate and Environment
A love song to a way of life, the animals, the birds (particularly the birds) and the landscape
With enchanting lyricism throughout, this book will hook you like the long beaks of the little waders themselves as they snaffle up their worms
Dundee Courier, Scottish Book of the Week
A bittersweet portrait of a difficult and disappearing way of life…Rich with the sense of place and balanced between solastalgia and practicality
About the Book
A Times Bestseller
Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize for UK Nature Writing 2020
'Remarkable, and so profoundly enjoyable to read ... Its importance is huge, setting down a vital marker in the 21st century debate about how we use and abuse the land' - Joyce McMillan, Scotsman
Desperate to connect with his native Galloway, Patrick Laurie plunges into work on his family farm in the hills of southwest Scotland. Investing in the oldest and most traditional breeds of Galloway cattle, the Riggit Galloway, he begins to discover how cows once shaped people, places and nature in this remote and half-hidden place. This traditional breed requires different methods of care from modern farming on an industrial, totally unnatural scale.
As the cattle begin to dictate the pattern of his life, Patrick stumbles upon the passing of an ancient rural heritage. Always one of the most isolated and insular parts of the country, as the twentieth century progressed, the people of Galloway deserted the land and the moors have been transformed into commercial forest in the last thirty years. The people and the cattle have gone, and this withdrawal has shattered many centuries of tradition and custom. Much has been lost, and the new forests have driven the catastrophic decline of the much-loved curlew, a bird which features strongly in Galloway's consciousness. The links between people, cattle and wild birds become a central theme as Patrick begins to face the reality of life in a vanishing landscape.
Patrick Laurie is a freelance journalist. His blog Working for Grouse is visited by over 30,000 visitors each year. As well as writing and farming, he works for Soil Association Scotland on a program which supports conservation projects on farmland. His first book, The Black Grouse (Merlin Unwin, 2012), was the first natural history book on this rare and declining species.
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