I must admit I never thought I would write one book let alone two so it is wonderful to see The Ottersí Tale following on from Life of a Chalkstream. Life takes some odd twists and turns. Twenty five years ago with a passion for fly fishing and a yearning to return to the river valleys of my Hampshire upbringing I packed in a perfectly respectable career.
Now, making a living out of fishing is no easy thing, but by dint of hard work and some spectacular strokes of luck Iíve manged to do it with many miles of the most wonderful chalkstreams now under my care.
These are home to an astonishing collection of wildlife that is as precious and unique as any Amazonian rainforest. The creatures that inhabit this wonderful tract of the English countryside have inspired the words you will find between the covers of the books.
Otters hold an almost unique place in the animal kingdom of the British Isles, being one of the very few creatures that give birth once every two years. They are the most secretive yet also the most popular mammals – they are found in every county but are so rarely seen that they have been raised to mythical status.
When I bought an abandoned water mill that straddles a small chalkstream in southern England, little did I know that I would come to share the mill with a family of wild otters. Yet move in they did, allowing me to begin to observe them, soon immersing myself in their daily routines and movements. I developed an extraordinary close relationship with the family, which in turn gave me a unique insight into the life of these fascinating creatures.
I interweave the personal story of the female otter, Kuschta, with the natural history of the otter in the British Isles, only recently brought back from the brink of extinction through tireless conservation efforts. Following in the footsteps of Henry Williamson’s classic 1920s tale Tarka the Otter, you are taken on a journey through the calendar year, learning the most intimate detail of this most beautiful of British mammals.
Life of a Chalkstreamis the story of a river that I discovered and brought back to life. A beautiful English chalkstream neglected for a generation or more. But perfection comes at a price, and the book charts the highs and lows of the year I took to bring it back from the brink. This is not so much a tale about people (they are mostly bit players as the events unfold) but rather the creatures that make their lives in and around the river and how the changes affected them for better or worse.
Come with me as we see the river fill with salmon and eels, returning from years at sea and a journey of thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Watch as those efficient predators the otters, pike and herons show themselves to deadly effect. Follow the adventures and travails of the fly fishers who take their turn on the river. In the air the swallows mark the changing of the seasons. By night the owls hover over the water meadows, a hunting ground that rarely fails to give up a victim. By day the water voles and tiny mammals scurry in the dry grasses and tall banks, making families that live life on the edge.
This is not just the tale of a river but the community that lives by it. How every creature, however big, small, fast or apparently unimportant has a niche and a role in the life of a chalkstream. But all is not as it should be. After decades of neglect much must be done to prevent the river spiralling towards oblivion. Saving it will be no easy task.
These are just a few of the great reviews:
“Beautifully written and steeped in a true
understanding of its subject.”
Wednesday May 17th 2017 2-3pm WIMBORNE LITERARY FESTIVAL
Saturday June 3rd 2017 MARLBOROUGH LITFEST
Thursday September 28th 2017 7.30pm
Thursday October 5th 2017 7.30pm
Saturday February 10th 2018 7pm
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To buy signed copies of The Otters’ Tale in hardcover £16.99 or Life of a Chalkstream in paperback £9.99 (or call Diane on 01264 781988, email firstname.lastname@example.org ). P&P is £2.95. Call or email for overseas shipping.
The book is published by William Collins. You may buy your copy in hardcover and paperback through all good bookshops or on-line at:
Helen Ellis | PR Director | William Collins
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