By Roy Dennis

Saraband, 2020

Pbk, 165pp

ISBN 978-1912235-88-9; £9.99 

Most readers will know Roy Dennis from his work on raptor reintroductions. They get a few mentions here but he has written a separate book (coming soon) about that subject. Cottongrass Summer deals with a broader range of issues, presenting Roy’s views on species conservation and sustainable land management. Decades of experience are distilled into 52 bite-sized essays, grouped into four seasonal sections. 

The book is wide ranging but ‘rewilding’ is at its core, provided you allow a broad definition of the concept. Sometimes the focus is on how best to protect and restore individual species, including some high-profile candidates for reintroduction. But looking after landscapes and the habitats within them is at the heart of the book. Northern Scotland, where he has spent the majority of his life, gets the bulk of the attention, though there is much of relevance to the rest of the UK.

You can tell by the tone of the book that the author is a positive individual. He points out problems, of course, but quickly moves on to explaining how they could be tackled. Sometimes though, frustration creeps to the fore. Deer- or sheep-ravaged uplands and intensively managed grouse moors are hardly compatible with effective conservation, yet dominate vast areas. Action on the ground so often falls short of aspiration and what we know is achievable, stymied by entrenched vested interests, limited resources and apathy. 

Yet, ultimately, it is warmth, positivity and hope for the future that wins out. The book ends with a heartfelt plea for others to join the cause. Roy was influenced by important mentors early in his career and recognises that the next generation will be needed to help fight the battles ahead. Cottongrass Summer is about passing on a baton that has been carried resolutely and enthusiastically over many decades. For anyone interested in picking it up, this book is essential reading. 

Ian Carter

Issue 9
Start Page: 
Ian Carter
Display Image: 

Stay at the forefront of British birding by taking out a subscription to British Birds.

Subscribe Now