Books and me: Carly Harrod

Carly Harrod from Hampshire Countryside Service tells us about the books that inspired a career with nature and why adults should read more children’s books.

Where’s your favourite place to read?

I like to find a nice sunny spot in the garden to sit and read my book, so I tend to read more in the summertime. Usually as soon as I finish work, I like to get out in the garden to read something. I have a wood fire in my living room so it can be nice to curl up in the evening and read a bit of a book there too.

How do you read?

I went through a stage of reading on my kindle until I filled my kindle up, but I actually really like the feel and smell of a real book, so I tend to read more physically.  If I’m really into a book I can’t stop reading it. I need to read it until it’s finished. So that might mean I read constantly for two days if I have time, but that can be hard when you have a seven-year-old running around. I find if I leave a book for too long, I get a bit lost and I might move onto something else and forget about it, so I like to read in one hit.

I like an easy read that I can just get completely lost in. There are some books that I just cannot get into though, and I’ll just stop and move onto another book if I’m not enjoying it. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien is one that I keep trying but I just can’t get through. I love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit,but I get about 5 pages into The Silmarillion and just can’t go further. But I will never get rid of a book, I will always keep it in case I want to come back to it another time because it might not be that I will never like that book, it might just be the way I’m feeling on that day or that I’m just not into that genre at the moment.

Books are quite precious to me, I would never fold a page over or leave a book open and face down to save a page either. I have a few books that are really special and they sit in their dust jackets on my shelf to keep them safe.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’ve just finished Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series which I re-read all the time, especially in the summer. They’re just nice books to return to because I can get through one of them in a couple of days and I love to just get lost in that magical world.

Reading patterns

Fantasy is a big love of mine and I really enjoy authors like Tolkien and Pratchett, but I also love a bit of Scandi-noir. They’re crime novels that tend to follow the police trying to solve a puzzling case and I love the twists and turns, but they can be a bit darker. I think because they’re set in cities covered with snow, the crimes feel so far removed from here and I find them easier to read about. Samuel Bjork’s novels are some of my favourites but those are as dark as I can go with reading now. I used to be really into horror writing, I loved Stephen King and James Herbert, but I can’t read them at all these days. I used to love the Point Horror book series when I was growing up and R.L. Stine was my absolute favourite Point Horror writer but I think as I get older I prefer reading books that leave me with a nice feeling at the end.

First love, best loves

I have older siblings and a lot of what I read came from them. They had this lovely bookcase filled with some really old-fashioned books, like Swallows and Amazons and Enid Blyton and other books that can be quite outdated now. But I loved these stories about children going out into the countryside and having adventures. I think that’s probably why I do what I do now. As I got older, I began getting into the Point Horror books, I did enjoy them them but it was what everyone was reading at the time. What really stands out in my memory is when my sister bought me The Hobbit. I absolutely loved it. It’s still one of my favourite books and I go back and re-read it constantly. It was one of the first more adult books that I had ever been given. The writing was so immersive, I really felt like I was going to Middle Earth.

A series of books that I really love is by Monica Dickens, the series starts with The House at World’s End. It’s about this group of siblings who get sent away to live on a farm on their own and end up looking after all the stray animals in the area. They’re just such nice books, there’s nothing horrible in them, just very sweet escapism.

I also spend a lot of time looking through ID guides as part of my job and they can be really interesting. One that I absolutely love is called The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, the pictures in it are all hand drawn. It shows plants and animals all throughout the seasons and it’s just beautiful. Another brilliant one is Janet Marsh’s Nature Diary which is all about the Itchen Valley and the nature you can find throughout it. They’re both brilliant because even though they’re really old, it’s still plants and animals that we recognise. For anyone who wants to get out and become more involved with nature I would really recommend Francis Rose’s book on wildflowers, it’s a brilliant book to get started identifying flowers and I would really recommend Joseph Cornell’s book of activities for something to do as a family too.

But my all-time favourite book is A Fly Went By from Dr Suess. It’s just a long poem. I still have the copy that was read to me as a child and I still read it to my kids. Our oldest kids have children of their own now and we bought the book for them to read to their children as well.

Overlooked delights

I think adults should read more children’s books. They’re just simple pleasures with nothing bad happening. I like the positivity in life, and I think children’s books show us that. One I really enjoyed recently was Oi Frog! There are some fantastic kids’ books out there that can teach you stuff as well as teaching your kids stuff and I think we forget that. It reminds us of when things were easier, and I think we all need that sometimes.

Carly Harrod is a Project Manager for the Countryside Service, as part of her role she looks after the Countryside Service social media account and supports the volunteers who work throughout Hampshire. She regularly speaks on the Looking After Nature podcast. Carly was speaking with Isaac Fravashi.

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