Welcome to the website, and thanks very much for taking the trouble to visit it.
I am a Scottish nature writer, living and working in my own country where it gets harder and harder to win a hearing for nature or for the rights of the land itself. A vigorous body of nature writing should be a sanctuary and a mouthpiece for nature’s voice. It is my aim to be a part of that endeavour.
New for late summer:
The Nature of Winter
The Nature of Winter, the second volume in Jim Crumley’s tetralogy of the seasons, will be published by Saraband in late summer, and launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Wednesday, August 16th. It follows The Nature of Autumn (Saraband, 2016) which was listed for two of Britain’s nature writing book awards (see below).
The Nature of Winter is centred on the author’s “working territory” among the mountains of the eastern part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and the nearby Lowland plain and foothills of the Upper Forth, the Carse of Stirling. But it also alights on a far-flung array of Scottish landscapes including the high Cairngorms and the Insh Marshes of Speyside, the Pentland Hills, Loch Leven, Glencoe and Rannoch, and an Atlantic hazel wood on the west coast of Mull.
Jim Crumley brings the fruits of thousands of hours of fieldwork to bear on unforgettable encounters with whales, golden eagles, red deer, swans, ravens, foxes, a spectacular gathering of ten buzzards, and snow buntings preying on red spiders in a mountain blizzard. And all of them are rendered with the brushstrokes of a writer whose prose is often three-quarters of the way to poetry, all of them will make you consider winter in a new light.
The Contents page will raise a few eyebrows. What are we to make of chapter titles such as “The White Bird Passes Through”, “White Walls Weeping”, “Jay is for Crow”, and “The Narwhal in the Sky”? And a chapter entitled “Whatever Happened to Bleak Midwinter?” is the first clue to a strong undercurrent about climate change and our relationship with nature that courses through the book, and calls into question the very future of winter itself.
Meanwhile, here is a brief extract by way of a sneak preview.
WINTER IS THE ANVIL on which nature hammers out next spring. Its furnace is cold fire. It fashions motes of life. These endure. Even in the utmost extremes of landscape and weather, they endure.
Three thousand feet up in the Cairngorms, and deep in the nadir of the wild year, there is danger of a kind in simply being so exposed to the adrenalin of solitude and silence and the primitiveness of midwinter at its zenith. Strange how the season’s zenith and nadir can co-exist in the same place at the same moment.
There is a brink somewhere just ahead. It is not a thing of the landscape, not a cliff edge or a bergschrund. It is a thing of the mind. Can you stretch the day’s boundaries just a little more? And how much is a little more? How much of this rarefied distillation of solitude can you handle? What do you stand to gain? What do you stand to lose? Look around at the nothing that surrounds you, a nothing saturated in Arctic quantities of snow; surely such nothing-ness is inimical to life?
But a moment ago, a tiny scatter of movement caught my eye and vanished. I stopped in my tracks, literally in my tracks. There were no other tracks. All I could see was white walls weeping, the white walls of an amphitheatre of snow. Snow in billowing downdraughts, snow so solid you could build it into buttresses, snow so fozy and gauzy it hung on the air like curtains of iced steam. I remember thinking perhaps it should be colder at the winter solstice this high on loveable old Braigh Riabhach. This is my sacred ground. Here in all the tormented, tumultuous geology of the mountain massif we call the Cairngorms is a piece of such singularly dishevelled ground that some unknown someone some unknown sometime ago christened it (with surely malicious understatement) “rough”.
An Garbh Choire, the Rough Corrie.
The Nature of Autumn listed for two prizes
The Nature of Autumn has been listed for two Britain-wide prizes for nature writing. It was longlisted for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize and shortlisted for the Richard Jefferies Society and the White Horse Bookshop Writers Prize. Reviewers wrote:
‘A delightful meditation” – The Guardian
‘Breathtaking…with characteristic moments of close observation, immersion in poetry…a delight’ – Miriam Darlington, BBC Wildlife
‘A book that quietly celebrates life, at the very moment life is most quietly celebrating itself’ – Brian Morton, The Herald
‘Powerful descriptions…deeply moving moments…a cornucopia of autumnal delight’ – Polly Pullar, The Scots Magazine
Beavers, Eagles and Wolves
Nature’s Architect (once again published by Saraband) welcomes the return of beavers to our wild landscapes after an absence perhaps as long as 400 years. It is not possible to overstate the benevolent impact of beavers on biodiversity. Their capacity for creating, regenerating and expanding wetland is limitless, with the more or less immediate consequence of creating innumerable opportunities for many other wildlife species large and small.
The beaver is a master-manipulator of northern hemisphere landscapes like ours. Its reintroduction is a watershed for Scottish nature conservation – an extinct mammal is back in our midst. Ahead of us then lie the most exciting possibilities imaginable, all the way up to – and including – the wolf! Like its predecessor, The Eagle’s Way, Nature’s Architect is enhanced by the striking cover artwork of Joanna Lisowiec and the superlative photography of Laurie Campbell.
Nature’s Architect is my third variation on the theme of wildlife reintroduction, following my first Saraband title in 2014, The Eagle’s Way (which explores the changing nature of the relationship between golden eagles and the reintroduced sea eagles) and The Last Wolf (Birlinn, 2010). If these three species can thrive again in Scotland, and if we can restore our perilously poised native wildcat, the face of wild Scotland will transform, and we will begin to win a new and more considered relationship with nature and with the land itself.