338 pages, b/w illustrations
"One of the UK's most exciting nature writers." (Guardian). 'Once upon a time the edges were the places we knew best. They were our common ground.' After moving from London to a new home in Yorkshire, Rob Cowen finds himself on unfamiliar territory, disoriented, hemmed in by winter and yearning for the nearest open space. So one night, he sets out to find it – a pylon-slung edge-land, a tangle of wood, meadow, field and river on the outskirts of town. Despite being in the shadow of thousands of houses, it feels unclaimed, forgotten, caught between worlds, and all the more magical for it. Obsessively revisiting this contested ground, Cowen ventures deeper into its many layers and lives, documenting its changes through time and season and unearthing histories that profoundly resonate and intertwine with transformative events happening in his own life.
Blurring the boundaries of memoir, natural history and novel, Common Ground offers nothing less than an enthralling new way of writing about nature and our experiences within it. We encounter the edge-land's inhabitants in immersive, kaleidoscopic detail as their voices and visions rise from the fields and woods: beasts, birds, insects, plants and people – the beggars, sages and lovers across the ages. Startlingly personal and poetic, this is a unique portrait of a forgotten realm and a remarkable evocation of how, over the course of a year, a man came to know himself once more by unlocking it. But, above all, this is a book that reasserts a vital truth: nature isn't just found in some remote mountain or protected park. It is all around us. It is in us. It is us.
"Delighting in discovery, celebrating the miraculous in the mundane, Rob Cowen rakes over a scrap of land with forensic care, until the ordinary becomes extraordinary. A sensitive, thoughtful and poetic book, leading us into a whole new way of looking at the world."
– Michael Palin
"Marvellously moving, Rob Cowen's thrilling book has gone as local as it might be possible to go and, through paying close attention to unloved and overlooked places, has found a true and sustaining common ground with what remains. This is a deep-mined, lovingly made account and as big a book as any I know, lit up with a heart-stoppingly beautiful arrival of new life in our old and broken world"
– Tim Dee author of The Running Sky and Four Fields
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Rob Cowen is an award-winning journalist and writer who has authored regular columns on nature and travel for the Independent, Independent on Sunday and the Telegraph. Described by the Guardian as 'one of the UK's most exciting nature writers' he previously received the Roger Deakin Award from the Society of Authors for his first book Skimming Stones and Other Ways of Being in the Wild (2012). In 2013 he wrote and presented a BBC documentary The Ospreys of Loch Garten. He lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.