Orchard, a year in England’s Eden was one of the most capturing books to be published in 2020.

A collaboration between two authors: Benedict Macdonald and Nicholas Gates. Both are naturalists, both have penned articles for top rate environmental publications including National Geographic and both have created content for BBC and ITV including David Attenborough’s  Our Planet.

In parallel this book is also a collaboration of literary styles. Where fiction meets factual content. The pleasure, passionate language and winding narrative of literary fiction used to articulate the evolution of nature through the Orchard. Where to place it on the book shelf? Unsure, so were all the major booksellers. Anywhere from science and technology to gardening, wildlife to birdwatching. 

A third collaboration is present, the partnership between man and nature. The Orchard is unravelled through the course of a year. We have home building and nesting through the plethora of life during the summer months. Penultimately, the endeavours of harvest, concluding with hibernation and return of the harshest of climates.

Some Quotes

It projects with its boughs, an ark of animals now almost impossible to find living side by side elsewhere in our dying countryside.
(Also refers to religion and environment)

A disused farm gate, bound by twine and locked by ivy.

Beast from the East
(Reference to UK storm of 2018)

Molehill: the newly erected earthen pyramid.

Blackbird gangs

The orchards’ fungal and beetle armies have already colonised this new barracks.

(Previously animated for the classic Bedknobs and broomsticks)

Ancestral hedge-lines

Goats willow

Oaks bubble with resurgent leaves. Their crushed, dead skeletons transform into chlorophyll cathedrals.

Spotted flycatcher (Bird)

Hover flies

Rhinoceros beetles are unmistakable. With a single horn this metallic black beetle looks like a tiny triceration dinosaur. As they bulldoze their way into pea sized breeding tunnels to lay their own eggs.


Male stag beetle, size of a matchbox

Black veined whites (Butterflies)

Horse shoe bats

Elephant hawk moths

The damage of the snail army is hard to detect. Here in the orcharch, snails are slow moving refugees.

Sawflies- Saw like genitalia are used to cut through leaves.

Chiffchaff next

Sex-crazed wood pigeons

When spider webs unite, they can tie down a lion. (African Proverb)

Crane fly

Leather jackets (crane fly larvae)

I follow the fresh crane flies as they clumsily bounce off anything and everything, accompanied by the sound of autumnal apple leaves decaying, grass seed stalks whispering in the light night breeze.

But now, the walnut orb spider brazenly waits out in the open poised at the centre of her silken telephone; eight legs listening alert. Her abdomen is stencilled with ribbed pattern of a perfectly symmetrical.

To attract a lady, male walnut orb weavers strut their stuff with some impressive dance moves. His routine starts with percussion: raising both her front legs in the air and frequently drumming her web to signal his arrival.

Green fanged tube web spider

The cider house donkey of Yore

Leave them to sweat (Apples)

Cuckoo haunted willow.

The bees argue in their black ball. A flying hedgehog, all prickles. (Quoted from Sylvia Plath)

Nest raiding jays

In a salmon coloured flash it (Jay) bounds across the golden apple carpet.

It has been found that ivy creates a thermal blanket, its shiny leaves insulating its internal reaches against the cold.

Ivy bees

If one plant wired into the orchards fungal broadband, the others, will immediatly begin their chemical release.

Fungal morse code system of enormous complexity.

Glouster Old Spot- the orchards pig.

Published in August 2020 during the first summer of the pandemic. A period when many had begun to rediscover nature during our governed one hour of exercise. Staycations were the norm while much of international travel was put on hold. 

A worthy winner of the Jefferies Society and White Horse’ book prize for nature writing. A book which does not simply enable engagement with nature: it emerces you deeply into the natural undergrowth of Herefords finest ancient Orchard.

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