Thursday 29 July 2021

πŸ“– Book Review ~ Goshawk Summer by James Aldred


Happy Publication Day

Elliot and Thompson
29 July 2021

My thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book

In early 2020, wildlife cameraman James Aldred was commissioned to film the lives of a family of Goshawks in the New Forest, his childhood home. He began to plan a treetop hide in a remote site that would allow him to film the Gos nest, the newly hatched chicks and the lives of these elusive and enchanting birds.

Then lockdown. And as the world retreated, something remarkable happened. The noise of our everyday stilled. No more cars, no more off-roaders, no more airplanes roaring in the skies, no one in the Goshawk woods – except James.

At this unique moment, James was granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to keep filming. And so, over Spring and into Summer, he began to record his experiences in a place empty of people but filled with birdsong and new life.

Amidst the fragility and the fear, there was silver moonlight, tumbling fox cubs, calling curlew and, of course, the soaring Goshawks – shining like fire through one of our darkest times.

A Goshawk summer unlike any other.

My Thoughts..

Over the past months of the pandemic I think some of us have been privileged to discover something of the beauty of the natural world and the calm mindfulness of walking in woodland, admiring the sounds of birds and the soft whisper of the wind in the trees. Whilst I didn't discover a Goshawk nest I did marvel at seeing things in nature I hadn't seen before, like watching a huge murmuration of starlings in the early dusk of a winter afternoon, and being in awe of the magnitude and magic of a natural spectacle of nature.

In Goshawk Summer, Emmy Award winning filmmaker, James Aldred writes very eloquently about his once in a lifetime privilege of observing, at close quarters, a female goshawk, and her mate, as they attempt to rear their offspring, in a place where even the hunters face their own immediate danger.

The country has been in lockdown for just two weeks in April 2020 when the author is given the unique opportunity to film a pair of mated goshawks in the New Forest. Magnificent hunting birds, who value their privacy so much that tracking their chosen nesting area makes for fascinating reading. However, it is in the description of these ancient hunters which brings the story to life with a lyricism which caught my attention from the very first page...

"The goshawk. Steel grey, the colour of chainmail. Sharp as a sword. A medieval bird for a medieval forest. A timeless scene..."

The book moves softly, and silently, through the months of summer from April, until the end of June 2020, and does so in diary entries which record just what James observed in the woods, his relationship with nature, and more importantly what he learned about, and from the goshawks, as they live out their challenging, but majestic lives. Sharply observed, every nuance of the woodland area is investigated and brought to life, and the narrative is so finely placed it feels cinematic in quality just as though you are cocooned high above the canopy of the New Forest watching as the ancient woodland unfolds deep below you to share its innermost secrets.

I found the whole of Goshawk Summer quite magical and if you enjoy the natural world, then I am sure you will too. A portion of royalties from Goshawk Summer are being donated to the Marie Curie charity.

James Aldred is an EMMY award-winning cameraman, adventurer and professional tree climber who has made a career out of travelling the world, filming wildlife for the BBC and climbing trees.

Twitter @jraldred #GoshawkSummer


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