In a single twelve-month cycle of daily writings Mark Cocker explores his relationship to the East Anglian landscape, to nature and to all the living things around him. The separate entries are characterised by close observation, depth of experience, and a profound awareness of seasonal change, both within in each distinct year and, more alarmingly, over the longer period, as a result of the changing climate. The writing is concise, magical, inspiring. Cocker describes all the wildlife in the village – not just birds, but plants, trees, mammals, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, bush crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bumblebees.
Claxton: Field Notes from a Small Planet explores how these other species are as essential to our sense of genuine well-being and to our feelings of rootedness as any other kind of fellowship. A celebration of the wonder that lies in our everyday experience, Cocker's book emphasises how Claxton is as much a state of mind as it is a place. Above all else, it is a manifesto for the central importance of the local in all human activity.
Mark Cocker is an author, naturalist and environmental activist whose ten books include works of biography, history, literary criticism and memoir. His book Crow Country was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2008 and won the New Angle Prize for Literature in 2009. With the photographer David Tipling he published Birds and People in 2013, a massive survey described by the Times Literary Supplement as 'a major literary event as well as an ornithological one'.
"After Mark Cocker's glorious book, you will never look at a blackberry bush the same way again."
– Philip Hoare, New Statesman
"If your eye has ever been caught by a moth, owl, jay or ash tree, Claxton has something new to tell about it, about Britain, and about life – which is an infinite compilation of exquisite detail."
– Horatio Clare, 5 stars, Daily Telegraph
"The book is spectacular [...] Brilliant natural-history writing."
– Jonathan Wright, Herald
"At once charming and unsentimental, these short pieces educate and delight."
– Stephanie Cross, 5 stars, Lady
"[Cocker] is enraptured, passionate and down-to-earth, and never stops wanting to learn and delve deeper into his ordinary, extraordinary English countryside."
– Patrick Barkham, BBC Wildlife
"Cocker is a sharp-eyed, knowledgeable and accessible writer. The way in which he celebrates the rhythms of a year makes one look again at the world outdoors with renewed awe and wonder."
– Ben East, Metro
"To be astonished by nature, look no further than Claxton."
"[Cocker] observes with patience, acuity and in prose so exquisite it borders on poetry [...] You feel as though you're by the side of the most expert guide you could hope for, being taught to marvel at wonders of nature."
– James Delingpole, 5 stars, Mail on Sunday
"Claxton is a beautifully-written account of one man's passion for the natural world, a collection of precise, monthly observations, but also subtle warnings that unless we treat nature with respect, we will pay the price."
– Bel Mooney, Daily Mail
"Cocker is a quietly eloquent guide."
"He writes both robustly and exquisitely, seeing into things through the prism of language with great craft and a sense of seamless ease."
– Country Life
"A heartfelt plea to treasure and protect the diversity and richness of our indigenous wildlife."
– David Vass, Diss Express
"It's a celebration of wonder that lies in our everyday experiences, with magical and concise, but inspiring writing!"
– UK Press Syndication
"[Cocker's] writing is characterised by close observation and a tangible sense of the progression through the seasons."
– Mark Whitley, Countryman
"His year-long cycle of daily writings from a single valley in Norfolk proves the infinite variety to be found in a confined space."
– Iona McLaren, Telegraph
"Cocker has produced a nature journal full of beautiful, delicate observation, intense drama and new understanding [...] Claxton is a book full of tastes, sounds and smells as well as sights."
– Richard Kerridge, Guardian
"Cocker's profound knowledge, uncanny ability to observe and heartliftingly exact prose make Claxton one of those books that transforms the way you see your own home parish."
– Melissa Harrison, The Times
"An immensely satisfying and calming read, this can be savoured and enjoyed."
– Good Book Guide
"A cycle of jewelled, profoundly knowledgeable essays by one of our three finest contemporary nature writers."
– Jim Perrin, Great Outdoors
"Cocker poses straight questions about our relationship with the natural world and whose job it is to protect is. This skilfully written, lyrically observer book will make you feel it's a worthwhile job."
– Jennifer Cox, Compass Magazine
"If you want an antidote to the season, as one year turns coldly into the next, this book is perfect."
– James McConnachie, Sunday Times
"I defy anyone not to be moved by some of his more remarkable encounters with an amazing cast of creatures and his profound love for his landscape."
– John Owen, Country and Townhouse
"It's as satisfyingly poetic as it is poetically satisfying."
"[...] Mark Cocker has the rare gift of being a superb – and increasingly all-round – naturalist with a great talent for language, and that rests in turn on enhanced (but controlled) feeling and perfectly functioning senses. I think that Claxton is a great book. It would be a shame to try to read it too quickly. It is a book to sample at moments, to dip into at random, to deepen one's sense of wild nature. I think that the village and its environs may well join Selborne and Walden as seemingly ordinary places forever exalted through the eyes of a naturalist and the power of words."
– Peter Marren, British Wildlife 26(4), April 2015