Rob Cowen is the author of Common Ground, voted Britain’s third favourite nature book, beating classics like The Wind in the Willows. Declared ‘bold and beautiful’ by Robert Macfarlane, and ‘Touched by genius’.
No pressure then.
“Writing Common Ground was like being possessed by somebody else,” Rob laughs, “that’s what it felt like. I was a channel for lots of different stories.”
Born in Keighley, Rob grew up in Ilkley in a home filled with art and books. He worked in London for ten years as a journalist. Escaping the rat race in 2011, Rob wanted a ‘shack in the woods’ but his wife wasn’t too keen, so they chose Bilton, Harrogate to start a family.
“I grew up with the open space, and the natural environment was where I was most comfortable. I looked for it and it wasn’t the ornate gardens and finery of Harrogate, or the vast Stray, but this weird tangle of land far beyond the last housing estate down towards the countryside. That place fascinated me from the minute I got there.”
The location for Common Ground became an ‘extraordinary realm’. “The first thing I heard was a fox scream and that tore the curtain down for me, I was intrigued by it, it had an energy about it as a place, and it still does.”
Rob supports the need to rekindle intrigue and excitement around nature, in a world of ‘shallow digital air’ scrolling through phones.
“We live at a point when nature is in absolute decline in terms of landmark species. We need a mass awakening and these books are part of a wave of people who need to feel that they are reconnected with that,” he said.
“NiddFest is important because of the correlation between words and children and the outdoor world. That’s the great hope for the future, if you can rekindle and provide a space for children to engage in the outdoors, in nature, then we have got a chance.”
Rob Cowen will be in conversation with the Harrogate Advertiser’s Graham Chalmers on Sunday 17th June, 12-1, at the Playhouse, Pateley Bridge. Tickets: £8 adults, £4 children. Book online here.