Book Review: The Way Back Almanac 2023 by Melinda Salisbury

“We’re going to have a great year, and by the end of it we’re going to have a stronger relationship with the outdoors. Are you ready?”

If you’ve visited my little blog before, you may have seen my series of posts titled “The Way Back”, where I share the things I have done whilst following Melinda Salisbury’s 2022 The Way Back Almanac. Like many of the people featured in the Voices section, I was always outside as a kid making potions and perfumes, and little tiny fairy outfits with my great Nana’s flowers, and “helping” in the garden by very carefully tending to the weeds. I have strong memories of being in the garden with my grandad and the taste of raspberries straight off the canes and radishes from the veg patch. I grew out of the outdoor life as a teen / young adult, and it’s only now I am much older, with a space of my own and stunning places to explore on my doorstep, that I have come back to enjoying the outdoors.

This year Mel and her brilliant almanac have given me the nudge to explore closer to home, and to find my way back to nature. I’ve learned to appreciate the natural spots right on my doorstep; I’ve packed my phone with apps which have helped me to learn the trees, plants and birds in my nearby dene and wooded area – I’ve discovered we had woodpeckers nesting close by, which I would never have expected. I’ve seen how the area changes subtly each month instead of just the big, obvious seasonal changes. I’ve grown vegetables in my own garden with varying degrees of success, but I’ve enjoyed tending and eating them! I’ve tried new recipes, new books, and making things like moisturiser and a flower crown. I’ve learned so much from this journey and enjoyed everything I’ve tried. It’s been a great year so far.

I like to enjoy each month’s section with a warm drink and my journal in hand to make notes about what to look for and what I will try that month. I particularly love the overview at the start of each new month which gives me an idea of what the month will hold and the things that I can see, as well as the Voices section where I have learned so many new folklore tales and superstitions as well as getting to read about other people’s journeys with nature. It’s a routine I’ve come to love and I was hoping for a 2023 version to carry on this little monthly tradition of mine, so when I had the opportunity to read an early copy, I snapped it up.

I am excited for the adventure next year’s almanac will bring, and I would be lying if I said I hadn’t already started thinking about what I want to try. I’m looking forward particularly to honing my gardening skills and hopefully using the things I grow to try new seasonal recipes – I think I stand a fair chance of growing some spring onions and tomatoes to contribute to the sweetcorn fitter and salsa recipe I particularly like the sound of. I’m very keen to try my hand at new crafts, especially making my own St Brigid’s cross – I’ve always thought these looked so cool but too complicated for me to try.

I love the way the 2023 almanac builds on 2022 without excluding anyone new to The Way Back – Mel gives us enough information to introduce new folk to the journey in a way that existing Way Backers will still enjoy. I enjoyed finding that the format is the same; there’s something incredibly fitting and comforting about following the repeating routines of nature, but with new things to look for and try along the way. Once again, this almanac is accessible and easily adaptable to your personal circumstances; I am fortunate to have a garden and the space to grow but this book is designed so it can be followed if you have nothing more than a windowsill to grow on. Mel encourages the use of technology in a way that it enhances the journey, rather than insisting you do without it. Her recipes are seasonal and vegan; the activities don’t require long lists of equipment or ingredients you will never use again (and often, the ingredients are used in multiple recipes) and everything is environmentally friendly and designed with nature in mind.

It is a beautifully thought out guide to gently coax the reader back to understanding, appreciating and working with nature, whilst still living in the modern world. If you haven’t already picked up a copy then I strongly urge you to do so. It’s been the best thing I invested my time and energy into in 2022, and I have no doubt it will be the same in 2023.


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