Without rain, the English national stereotype would suggest, we’d have nothing to grumble about. It permeates our sense of identity; it is, according to the author of this wonderfully lyrical book, Melissa Harrison, ‘co-author of our living countryside; it is also part of our deep internal landscape’.
We need it to survive, she argues, and yet we spend most of our time trying to avoid it, and cursing its many names (no fewer than 100 are defined in this book). Harrison explores our relationship with wet weather, taking four walks across different English landscapes in different seasons: Wicken Fen in winter, Shropshire in a budding spring, the Darent Valley in soggy summer and Dartmoor in autumn.
Shortlisted for the 2015 Costa Novel Award for At Hawthorn Time, Harrison — who writes a monthly nature column in The Times — doesn’t offer up this book as a weighty botanical tome. It is instead a nature lover’s glimpse into hedgerow and lane, hilltop and woodland, blending meteorological-minded poetry, entomology and old folk idioms with pin-sharp observations about everything from berries to bird song. The result is as delightful and comforting as the sound of rain on a roof.
Rain: Four Walks in English Weather, by Melissa Harrison, is published by Faber & Faber in association with the National Trust. RRP: £12.99
Published in the April 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)