Oundle author's book Call of the Kingfisher a 'love letter' to county's River Nene
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A new year encounter with a kingfisher has led a county musician to write a book he describes as a ‘love letter’ to the River Nene.
Oundle resident Nick Penny was inspired on January 1 to write a blog chronicling the year of one short stretch of riverbank.
Observing and listening to the birds on his daily rambles, he wrote down his musings that developed into a book – Call of the Kingfisher.
Not only does the book tell the story of the changing seasons but readers can hear the birdsong thanks to a QR code and Nick’s recordings.
He said: “It’s a love letter to a short stretch of the River Nene from Oundle to Cotterstock. At the beginning of each year I am conscious of the year to come. I went for a walk on New Year’s Day and saw a kingfisher. I’m a very curious person and wanted to research the kingfisher."
Nick started a blog to share his walks with family and friends. About half way through the year he realised he had written more than 25,000 words and thought it could be made into a book.
Intending on self-publishing the journal, it was another chance encounter with a hiker that led him to a book editor and eventually a publishing deal.
He said: “I was surprised how many new things I saw – and heard – when I tuned into the landscape.
"I developed a sense of belonging even spiritually with the river. I came to realise how many conservationists had lived here.”
The book references other naturalists who have been inspired by the Nene Valley landscape. Sudborough author Denys ‘BB’ Watkins-Pitchford, poet John Clare, bird expert Charles Rothschild and conservationist Sir Peter Scott all developed a love for Northamptonshire’s main river.
Within the text of the book are pauses to allow readers to access the recordings of birdsong via a website with audio soundbites from kingfishers and nightingales to owls and cuckoos.
Nick said: “The first thing I hope is that it’s an enjoyable read. I also thought it would be for people who can’t get out and go for a walk themselves but I also think it would be nice for people to notice their own surroundings. Some people have never seen a kingfisher.”
As well as the Oundle area, Nick travelled the whole length of the river from Badby to the mouth of The Wash, interweaving the history of the area from Roman and Bronze Age sites, watermills, towns and churches.
Nick is now preparing for appearances at the Nene Valley Festival at Lamport Hall on Wednesday, September 13, and Oundle Festival of Literature on Friday, September 15.
He now has his sights – and ears – on writing a book about noise pollution after finding it tricky to block out the sound of traffic from his recordings.
He added: “I spent hours trying to get recordings without motorbikes or other traffic. They aren’t natural sounds and I would like to explore that idea.”
Until then he will continue his daily walks and recording the sights and sounds of the River Nene.
Call of the Kingfisher, published by Bradt Guides retails at £9.99.