I read ‘Rewild Yourself’ by Simon Barnes recently as part of an online nature bookclub. It describes itself as 23 spellbinding ways to get back to nature. I am always looking to learn something new particularly about local nature, so I was excited to get reading. As life is busy and you may not have time to read it all, here is my review and summary.
The Book in 3 Sentences
- Nature is all around and we can enjoy it with a bit of effort.
- You don’t have to travel far to see incredible things.
- We have lost many of the skills out ancestors had to survive, but we can get them back.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Simon Barnes writes in an effortless style and the book is easy to dip in and out of with no real need to read the chapters in order. I would say however that some of the tips and ‘spells’ are a little ambitious but there is a nice mix of ones that are easier to access too. For instance, I don’t think I have the time or funds currently to be going on boat trips but I can certainly be more aware when I am out walking.
Simon’s passion for local nature comes across in the book. His his love of JK Rowling and CS Lewis also comes across strongly with nearly every chapter starting with a quote. You can tell he knows his stuff about nature both in the UK and worldwide and he has filled the book with interesting stories about his encounters with nature.
Who should read the book?
The beauty of this book is that there probably is something in there for everyone. If you are already a nature lover then there are tips on how to extend your knowledge. If you are a complete beginner then there are some tips for getting started.
As I have talked about on previous blogs, there is a great deal of stress around at the moment. Getting out into nature can be a fantastic way to reduce some of that stress and this book could encourage that.
How the book changed me
I will certainly now notice things around me more and try to appreciate what the UK has to offer and have already started implementing some changes:
- I am waking up to listen to the dawn chorus
- Trying to learn more names of common UK animals and birds
- Added some things to my bucket list
- Started walking around the local park without earphones in
Summary for those who don’t want to read it
The book contains 23 “spells”. We are all wild at heart, humans have been civilised for less than 1% of our existence but this civilisation has made us blind in many ways. The book aims to get us back in tune to nature with the spells.
1. Learn the 5 butterflies that land on a buddleia
There are 59 species of UK butterfly so they are much easier to learn than all the birds. Once you start looking you see more and more detail until you are recognising them and they become much more than just a ‘cabbage white’. I actually listed all the 59 species recently on an Instagram post.
2. Wear the right clothing
As Wainwright once said, there is no such thing as bad weather, only poor clothing. The right clothing allows access to wildlife away from everyone without making the trip miserable and wet for you.
3. Go to wear the animals are. The sea.
Simon Barnes makes the claim that boat trips are accessible. I agree to some extent as we are an island and you can access them from most UK coastal towns but they are still not an everyday trip for most people. If you can get on one, you will experience things in the wild but isn’t the zoo, there are no guarantees.
We only have 6 species of reptile as it’s too cold – adder, grass snake, smooth snake, common lizard, sand lizard, slow worm
They like crawling under corrugated metal, so you can leave a huge sheet of metal out in the sun and then carefully life to see if any have used it.
5. Mammal poop
Mammals are hard to spot. All that is often a clue is their droppings. So get used to looking down and seeing what you spot.
There are 17 species of UK bat. Human eyes aren’t built for night due to a lack of tapetum, which is the reflective part on the back of some animals’ retinas. We can’t hear them as they are outside of our hearing range but there are bat detectors available. You can go on bat walks where they have detectors.
7. Sit still
Learn to enjoy the sitting still in nature, like a meditation. You might see something, you might not. One useful tip is to carry a plastic bag to sit on to stop getting wet.
8. Go underwater
Use a snorkel or bathyscope to et you see what is under there.
9. Use binoculars
Have them easily accessible. No need to carry in bag with lots of caps. Have them and use them.
10. Look for tracks and tunnels
Often hidden as we don’t look on the right level. Think like an animal and you can spot tunnels in vegetation that they use to cross paths quickly. Other predators get used to them. Kestrels even use UV to spot urine tracks.
11. Look out to sea
You don’t have to go out to sea to spot wildlife. From cliffs and shores you can see a great deal of birds and maybe even dolphins.
We have over 2500 moths in the UK. You can see them by setting up a moth trap (can be a simple white sheet in the garden) or a specialist piece of equipment. A world that only seen at night but can be even more beautiful than the day creatures.
At dawn the world comes alive. The morning chorus is one of the spectacular parts of nature in the UK so get up early and enjoy it.
A name changes everything, it is the basis of a relationship with an animal. Learn the names from a field guide and you will remember the ones you see. It can also be useful to learn some scientific names – KPCOFGS (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species) can be useful internationally e.g. the Robin is not the same Robin in US and UK
They are there if you stop to look for them and can tell you a great deal about the wildlife. Look down at soft mud, snow and see what you can see.
16. Improve your vision
Using computers and screens all day has reduced our peripheral vision capacity. We need to learn to look to what is going on in the outer parts of our vision again as this is where we often see a bird flying or sudden movement. There are online training programmes like eye lab but one of the better ways is to get back outside and get used to noticing what is going on.
It is often easier to listen to a bird and identify it by its song than it is to get a good view of it. Learn some common bird songs and listen out for them on your next walk.
Fall back in love again with nature and wildlife. Read stories and poems about them. Fiction and non-fiction. Find authors who can bring everything to life then it will make seeing them in the wild even more special than it already is.
19. Get on the river
You can hire small boats and canoes to go along rivers at a gentle pace that allows you to see things you wouldn’t from walking alongside. You get an intimate connection with the water that only being on it allows.
20. Notice and be aware
When you go for a walk, don’t put on the music or use it as an excuse to exercise, use it to get out and see nature. Listen to the birdsong and sounds rather than earphones. Enjoy nature for nature, not just as a reason to do steps or minutes outside. It is about mindset.
21. Put out water
Sun + water = life. All living things need water and so putting water out can attract wildlife into your garden. It can be a pond if you have room, or even a bird bath and drinking water for smaller animals.
The UK has some amazing wildlife, you just might have to go on an adventure to see it but it’s very accessible. Puffins, dolphins, gannet, swallowtails, eagles. Rspb reserves.
23. You’re rewilded