Sunday book review – Wetland Diaries by Ajay Tegala – Mark Avery

I’m not a massive supporter of the cult of youth as I feel it’s a stage of life that is best grown out of. But this book, from this young (early 30s) man, is a joy. Really!

The author is enthusiastic about his job as a ranger at the National Trust’s site of Wicken Fen and his enthusiasm encompasses his work, his colleagues and the wildlife he is there to nurture.  But this is a tale of what he actually does, day to day, working at the sharp end some might say (though there are sharp ends everywhere) of nature conservation.  He is managing wildlife, looking at poo, castrating calves, fitting eartags and other tasks involving managing domestic stock which are an integral part of the management of the National Trust’s first (and best?) nature reserve which is 125 years old.

It’s not exactly the Camargue, but Wicken Fen has its own cattle and horses who are integral to the management of the site and with whom Ajay spends much of his time. The details of every day stock management are interesting and will be eye-openers to some.

Wicken Fen is a wonderful site and I have visited frequently over the years, as a teenager, an undergraduate and more recently to watch roosting Hen Harriers in winter or to meet colleagues in the cafe for a chat in pleasant surroundings. It is a window onto what some of this vast fenland landscape would once have been like, and is in such great contrast to the arable fields that dominate my drive to this oasis. The National Trust has big plans to expand the wildlife-friendly management further and I wish them well with it. The reader learns much about the site, its history and the plans for its future in these pages and it stands as a very good example of how good the National Trust can be when it puts its mind to it.

People are interesting because when they tell us what they do we put ourselves in their shoes, or wellies, and wonder what it felt like to do that, and whether we would be any good at it, and how we would feel at the end of the working day or week. This account allows us all to imagine what it is like to be a ranger at this rather wonderful site. Any human life is interesting to the mind of one who is prepared to be interested and, and this is important, if the author tells the tale well. This book and this author tell the tale very well.  I warmed to the author and came away from his book wanting him to have a good life, to remain positive and to keep that enthusiasm. I wonder what he will be doing a decade from now.

The cover? It’s good because it shows us the author and his labrador in the place where the action takes place. I’d give it 9/10 for being appropriate, truthful and useful even if not stunningly arresting.

Wetland Diaries: ranger life and rewilding on Wicken Fen by Ajay Tegala is published by The History Press in May





Signed copies of my most recent book book, Reflections, are available from me.




Contact me at [email protected]

Softback – £20 (incl UK P&P)

Hardback £26 (incl UK P&P)


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