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The Meaning of Geese: A Thousand Miles in Search of Home

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Nick is proud to be an ambassador for Norfolk Wildlife Trust and Pensthorpe, a trustee of Pensthorpe Conservation Trust, a member of the steering group of New Networks for Nature, a patron of Felbeck Trust, and a recent president of Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society. Sebastián Martínez Daniell’s Two Sherpas ‘becomes a viewpoint from which we can see the whole world’.

Passionately committed to wildlife since childhood, Nick has worked his entire life in biodiversity and landscape conservation. As two Sherpas ponder what to do next, their predicament triggers Daniell’s brilliantly tangential excursions into their state of mind, personal histories and aspirations. He is a committed campaigner on the environment, living as sustainably as is possible and contributing to a number of environmental initiatives, including Low Carbon Birding. You sense that going back to the murky Glasgow of Louise Welsh’s debut novel, The Cutting Room, was as much fun for the author as her increasingly broad church of readers. Many of us took up hobbies during the lockdowns - reading, gardening, DIY, baking sourdough and banana bread - but for Naturalist Nick Acheson, the pandemic inspired an epic adventure.Nick Acheson is one such individual, and the significance of the pinks, brents and white-fronts that winter in his north Norfolk landscape is evident from his engaging and beautifully delivered text. As an adult he migrated away to Bolivia to work in conservation for a decade until on a trip back he saw a brent and took it as a sign to continue the good work at home.

Stuck at home with no work and no people, I got on my mother's 40-year-old bicycle and followed Norfolk's thrilling flocks of pink-footed and brent geese. The pandemic gave Acheson fallow time to mount his rickety bike and scope Norfolk for the “thousands of lives brought here by wind, genes, instinct and the planet’s axial tilt”. For several years he has hosted events discussing conservation, nature writing and the environment at Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserves. Over seven months Nick cycles over 1,200 miles – the exact length of the pinkfeet’s migration to Iceland. For WWF and other conservation NGOs, he worked with indigenous communities and national parks to develop ecotourism and sustainability projects.He meticulously details the geese’s arrival, observing what they mean to his beloved Norfolk and the role they play in local people’s lives – and what role the birds could play in our changing world. There are several interesting themes running through the book - the impact of climate change, hunting, geese in the creative imagination, conservation - but the diary format prevents these from being developed. None outstays its welcome – most of the 100 chapters are two pages or less – allowing the Argentinian novelist to interrogate colonialism, exploitation, even Shakespeare. He helped coordinate Wetlands International's twice-yearly Latin American wetland bird census, ringed thousands of birds on their migration through Bolivia, and was part of a pioneering project to ring James's flamingos at their breeding site in the High Andes. His passion for the wild geese of Norfolk and the people that share their spaces shines through each page.

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