Common Ground

Author(s): Rob Cowen

Natural History | Biography / Memoir | Travel - Narratives

Immersive, evocative and powerful, Common Ground is a unique evocation of how, over the course of one year, Rob Cowen discovered a common -- though extraordinary -- square mile of wood, meadow, hedge and river on the edge of his northern town. 
     'I am dreaming of the edge-land again.'

     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.


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Immersive, evocative and powerful, Common Ground is a unique evocation of how, over the course of one year, Rob Cowen discovered a common - though extraordinary - square mile of wood, meadow, hedge and river on the edge of his northern town.

"It takes a special kind of writer to make magic from the everyday. Rob Cowen has created something extraordinary; a journey into the Northern dreamtime in starkly beautiful prose. Common Ground gives us a new perspective on familiar places; makes us think again about what we think we know of our world; helps us understand the links that bind us to our landscape, and, like Blake, makes us see Heaven in a wild flower." -- Joanne Harris "Sensitive, thoughtful and poetic. Rob Cowen rakes over a scrap of land with forensic care, leading us into a whole new way of looking at the world." -- Michael Palin "Marvellously moving, this thrilling book is as big as any I know. A deep-mined and lovingly made account of survival, endurance and natural resilience in our old and broken world ... Heart-stoppingly beautiful." -- Tim Dee author of The Running Sky and Four Fields "Heartfelt, deep, beautiful and moving." -- Tristan Gooley, The Natural Navigator "Formally brave, beautifully written; an intimate account of one of life's great turning points, and a luminous, painstaking exploration of place." -- Melissa Harrison author of At Hawthorn Time and Clay

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). He lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

General Fields

  • : 9780099592037
  • : Random House
  • : Windmill Books
  • : February 2016
  • : 198mm X 129mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : 336
  • : Rob Cowen
  • : Paperback
  • : en