Two years ago at the Garden Museum's Literary Festival one of the sessions I attended was Alys Fowler talking about her recent journies around the canals of Birmingham. I cannot remember if she said at the time that this would one day be a book, but I remember it as an interesting talk and the pictures and anecdotes on the waterways were fascinating. I note that at the time I wrote I thought it was a very personal journey, it was indeed so. Fast forward two years and it is indeed a book but so much more than just a piece of nature writing about West Midlands canals.
The book focuses on the natural and industrial landscapes, the plants and history of the canals that are explored. I have come to think of Birmingham as my second home and I loved the description of the area around where I work and of Spaghetti Junction, the gateway to Birmingham for me and many others. The book is beautifully written, one passage that particularly sang to me:
"I garden because I am. I belong to the garden rather than the other way round. I pour myself, sometimes quite physically, into nature because it is how I make sense of myself and my place in the world." I can identify strongly with these words.
The book is deeply moving and it was I am pleased that Alys has allowed us to read the journey that she purposely embarked upon and more importantly the journey she then found herself on. It is a book I am certain I will read again.
Hidden Nature is published by Hodder and Stoughton
For the purposes of transparency I need to say I was a sent a review copy of this book. For the purposes of further transparency, if I had not been I would have bought it anyway.