ABOUT THIS BOOK
All too often, we think of nature as something distinct from ourselves, something to go and see, a place that’s separate from the ordinary modern world in which we live and work. But if we take the time to look, we soon find that’s not how nature works. Even in our parceled-out, paved-over urban environs, nature is all around us; it is in us. It is us.
That’s what Rob Cowen discovered after moving to a new home in northern England. After ten years in London he was suddenly adrift, searching for a sense of connection. He found himself drawn to a square-mile patch of waste ground at the edge of town. Scrappy, weed-filled, this heart-shaped tangle of land was the very definition of overlooked—a thoroughly in-between place that capitalism no longer had any use for, leaving nature to take its course. Wandering its meadows, woods, hedges, and fields, Cowen found it was also a magical, mysterious place, haunted and haunting, abandoned but wildly alive—and he fell in fascinated love.
Common Ground is a true account of that place and Cowen’s transformative journey through its layers and lives, but it’s much more too. As the land’s stories intertwine with events in his own life—and he learns he is to become a father for the first time—the divisions between human and nature begin to blur and shift. The place turns out to be a mirror, revealing what we are, what we’re not and how those two things are ultimately inseparable.
This is a book about discovering a new world, a forgotten world on the fringes of our daily lives, and the richness that comes from uncovering the stories and lives—animal and human—contained within. It is an unforgettable piece of nature writing, part of a brilliant tradition that stretches from Gilbert White to Robert Macfarlane and Helen Macdonald.
“I am dreaming of the edge-land again,” Cowen writes. Read Common Ground, and you, too, will be dreaming of the spaces in between, and what—including us—thrives there.