Sunday book review – Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss


Britain’s wildlife is going down the pan, isn’t it? Yes, it is! But it isn’t all bad.

In this personal account of the fate of our wildlife Stephen Moss visits a wide variety of places and habitats – and sees species on the up as well as on the down track.

It’s an entertaining journey through the hills, coasts, woods, fields and wetlands of the country and the wildlife they hold – and should hold but don’t.  There are plenty of personal observations and memories of how things used to be different.

The book is particularly strong on the ‘what’ but perhaps, for me at least, weaker on the ‘why’ and the big question, ‘how do we make things better’.  I guess it’s because I’ve lived these issues for quite a long time that I found myself thinking ‘that’s not what I think’ now and again. No matter – this is a good introduction to an important subject and is so engagingly written that it should hook quite a few new recruits to the cause of fighting for nature.

The book is dedicated to the late Derek Moore – an inspiration to so many of us.

Isn’t the cover beautiful? By Carry Akroyd, of course.

Wild Kingdom – bringing back Britain’s wildlife by Stephen Moss is published by Square Peg.


Inglorious: conflict in the uplands by Mark Avery is also published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.

Behind the Binoculars: interviews with acclaimed birdwatchers by Mark Avery and Keith Betton is published by Pelagic – here’s a review.

A Message from Martha by Mark Avery is published by Bloomsbury – for reviews see here.


4 Replies to “Sunday book review – Wild Kingdom by Stephen Moss”

  1. Stephen is one of my tutors on the Bath Spa MA in Nature and Travel Writing, so I’m lucky enough to have read several extracts of this book… I enjoyed his Wild Hares and Hummingbirds book, but I think this is a much better book, and as Mark says, will help to engage others… it is essentially very readable, and covers important issues without either banging on, or being too downhearted.

    I’m still working out whether it’s best, overall, to be downhearted or wild and angry about what’s happening, or to just keep on keeping on, raising awareness. My sensible head knows it’s the latter, and probably all we’ve got, but sometimes I just want to rage and rage again against the dying of the land (apologies to Dylan Thomas). I suspect he would have raged.

  2. May be one thing the book does not say is that killing is getting worse. When you have seen a period of birds of prey increasing like I have with Peregrine Falcons even nesting below my house for one year and then shot the next you will understand that someone, again, in a minority has taken the law into their own hands and totally wiped out this species from most of the Pennines.

    Why is nothing said about all the missing Peregrines from Bowland?
    Or Durham or Yorkshire. Sure you don’t want to get depressed but Stephen is now on the council for the RSPB and should he not be asking questions about what is being done for these birds not always harriers.

    Has he taken this roll to sell more books or will he try to make a difference?

  3. Having read this review, it was fascinating to also see Matt Ridley’s review of this book published in The Times on 2 April. He is afforded a whole page, which he uses to defend managed grouse moors as being good for bird diversity, claim that hen harrier breeding success rates at sites monitored by the RSPB represent a “shocking statistic that reflects badly on the RSPB”, trumpets the benefits to wildlife of intensive farming, suggests that badger numbers are the main cause for the decline in hedgehogs, and then concludes by saying that “there is a disappointing naiveity about ecology in this book.” YFTB anyone?

    What I would now love to read is Mark’s response to this so called book review.

  4. Given the current EU referendum and debates on immigration, I think it is apt timing to open the discussion on UK population growth and its impact on UK biodiversity. This seems to be a taboo subject, I don’t recall any NGO raising the subject yet, IMO, most positive conservation efforts will be swamped by the devastating effect of projected UK population growth over the next few decades, reaching 74 million by 2039 – the largest population and by far the densest in Europe, isn’t that shocking? This is why near me an ancient woodland (Smithy Wood) is threatened by a motorway service station, why the Gwent levels are threatened etc etc etc.

    We can carry on in denial – maybe its root cause is the fear of society’s reaction to NGO’s opening up a sensible debate on population growth – and campaign against 100s of proposed developments each year but the successes will be outweighed by the defeats in the face of the population juggernaut. Its time to be bold and tackle the root cause of our biodiversity loss.

    I would be interested in your thoughts Mark ….

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