Books  Regional Natural History  Natural History of Europe 

52 Wildlife Weekends: A Year of British Wildlife-Watching Breaks

Wildlife GuideWalking / Outdoor Guide

By: James Lowen(Author)

234 pages, colour photos, 1 map

Bradt Travel Guides

Paperback | Aug 2013 | #205064 | ISBN-13: 9781841624648
Availability: In stock
NHBS Price: £14.99 $19/€16 approx

About this book

This first guide to British wildlife experiences packaged into 52 weekend-sized breaks highlights the best of British wildlife – from tiny silver-spotted skippers to gargantuan basking sharks, from seabird skyscrapers to autumn fungi. For both the experienced wildlife tourist and the novice, the suggestions criss-cross England, Scotland and Wales. With stunning colour photos the author shows when, where and how to see Britain's most exciting wildlife – complete with inspiring itineraries, engaging descriptions, detailed directions and tips on how to find, identify and enjoy British animals and plants. Each entry gives details on species of interest, the landscapes they inhabit and on how to plan the weekend. A 'at a glance' box summarizes details with a thumbnail map. Each entry suggests accommodation.

""Enthused by bringing nature to life for the non-specialist" reads the biopic of author James Lowen on the opening page of 52 Wildlife Weekends. This sentence really encapsulates the spirit of this 230-page Bradt Travel Guide. A diarised walkthrough of 52 wildlife-filled weekend destinations to explore and experience in every corner of the British countryside, this is a guide that will find a home in the caravans, tent pockets and backpacks of nature-lovers just about everywhere.

The guide is laid out following the pattern of a year, with 52 mini-chapters each extolling the virtues and highlighting the wealth of wildlife that can be found at a particular destination in Britain at that time of year. Each month of the year has four or five suggested weekend destinations, carefully timed for optimal outcomes within that particular season.

Lowen's eager, superlative-laden descriptions create compelling adverts for each destination, providing not just a taste but some real flavour and colour to each weekend. A look at the map of the 52 destinations reveals that the chosen locations are well spread geographically. If I were to pick nits over the location choices, it would be the sparsity of destinations across inland southern Scotland, the Borders and inland Northumberland, and a big empty space across the Midlands, though this may be understandably attributable to the species on offer and the time at which they are available.

As a general guide, Lowen has managed seamlessly to blend botany, birds, mammals and fungi while not losing the sense of place and landscape in his descriptions. In fact there are few, if any, groups that don't get at least a mention; a handy grid allows you quickly to find weekend options that combine different groups. The guide benefits from Lowen's not being afraid to throw in some of his own quirky descriptions and opinion and his general laid-back, unstuffy approach to complex subjects such as orchid taxonomy. His all-round enthusiasm, whether describing an 'electric blue-eyed' Southern Migrant Hawker or Norfolk's 'wailing heath chicken' (Stone Curlew), is infectious and inspiring, and keeps the guide upbeat and punchy.

Each weekend action ends with a useful 'Practicalities' page with directions for each of the key locations, including grid references, contact telephone numbers where appropriate, and suggestions for places to stay. A lot of thought has been put into this and it'll no doubt prove of great help to anyone following any of the weekend plans.

52 Wildlife Weekends will provide many with the inspiration to get close to nature somewhere across our islands, and might add a few destinations to the bucket lists of those already enthused. This is a guide well worth buying — regardless of your location, interest or expertise on anything wildlife-related. Let yourself be inspired!"

- Alan Tilmouth, Thursday 19th September 2013,


"This book provides a guide to where to on every weekend through the year to see the best of British wildlife. lt's a good idea and a useful guide. If you had the time and money to follow the suggestions in here you would travel from Chanonry Point (on the Black Isle, north of lnverness) to the lsles of Scilly, and from Minsmere to lslay. What a year you would have, if you were lucky enough to see every target species on your travels!

Each weekend contains a list of places to go within a fairly restricted area and the species to see. There are tips on where to stay and where to eat, as well as what time of day to look for particular species. I was pleased to see links to the Country Code and other advice on being a responsible wildlife-watcher.

This is a small, pocket-fitting, book and it is packed with information. The accounts of where to go and what to see are well-written, with only occasional lapses (e.g. are Goshawks really swarthy?). Everyone compiling a list like this would do it differently. l would have liked to see a lot more plants in the list – and fewer birds – but that is perhaps because l know more about birds. l need the type of help provided by this guide to get to the right place at the right time to see some exciting plants. At least plants don't rush around the place, but there were a few target birds in this book where my thought was ‘You'll be lucky!’ One reason that there are too many birds, of course, is that the winter is a time of few insects and plants.

The '52 weekends’ format is a bit of a constraint, with which the author copes pretty well. Personally, I'd like more of my weekends in the spring and summer and fewer in autumn and winter, please. Why can't we have three-day (and sunny) weekends from May-August and a few one-day weekends in autumn and winter to balance things up? If you want, like l do, to see Southern Damselfly, Basking Shark, Duke of Burgundy, and Breckland Speedwell, then this book will remind you when to start looking and where to try.

This is a good reminder that Britain has plenty of wildlife if you go to the right places, at the right times. If it encourages a few more 'staycations’ then the air miles saved might offset the extra miles driven by naturalists clutching this book and turning up at the same places at the same times."

- Dr Mark Avery, British Wildlife 25(2), pp. 150, December 2013

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James Lowen has contributed to several books, is author or co-author of 25 scientific papers and author of 14 popular science articles, and has edited a birding magazine.

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