THE LONG SPRING
Tracking the Arrival of Spring Through Europe
Bloomsbury Natural History
Review by Andrew Irving
A European pilgrimage reflecting on nature’s past present and future
The Long Spring is a foray into wanderlust. As the book opens we find Rose in the far south of Spain musing over the lands of Africa that sit across the fetch of the Mediterranean. He is ready to about turn as Spring advances northwards and match its pace through Europe. We journey with him through Spain, France, the United Kingdom and Scandinavia enjoying each of his observations and contemplations of the changing season alongside the communities he passes.
This book has its primary focus on birdlife, which is no great shock considering Rose’s long career in the RSPB. The book describes all aspects of the species seen from appearance and habitat to song and ecology. For a keen birder, the level of detail provides enough insight to conjure feelings of warm familiarity of being stood with binoculars to the sky marveling at cranes, osprey and swallows alike. However, the book also caters for wildlife enthusiasts in general, as it placates every naturalist’s persistent curiosity to know just a little bit more. Rose achieves this by not only providing an intricate description of the species he has seen but by including information on migratory patterns, taxonomy, the threats to a species and its cultural values. Snippets of information are provided on a range of other wildlife, interspersed amongst the Aves, to give the writing a holistic feeling.
The process of Rose’s journey is portrayed in almost as much detail as his wildlife observations. Each town, track, mode of transport and inconvenient storm is described vividly. As is the feel of the places he passes through, and the people he meets along the way. This inclusion adds a level of personal depth to the diary of his journey, providing an immersive feeling for the reader that might spark plans of their own adventures.
The book closes on a chapter that makes the purpose of Rose’s journey clear. Rather than recording one man’s connection with nature, it is a message of unity, solidarity among the conservationists of Europe. Rose casts his mind forward to the possibilities of what is to come following the UK’s exit from the European Union. The loss of EU directives is pondered both as an impending downfall and as an opportunity. He introduces the perspective that our current state of nature is poor, that our society is disconnected from the Earth. Nature has been compartmentalised and made to fit in isolated pockets that do not interfere with a “productive” or “fit for purpose” landscape. Rose suggests that this is an opportunity for the UK to seize the moment and embed the natural world at the core of our society once more.
Rose reminisces over the successes of conservation projects, broods over threats to the natural world and traces the steps of authors, artists and conservationists that walked the lands of his pilgrimage before him. Read through every step, train ride and voyage of this adventure and you’ll find there is something for everyone within The Long Spring. This is an excellent read for those who have an equal love of wildlife and travel. For those of us who lean more toward one than the other, it is still certainly worth picking up.