News Winging it: The shrill carder bee is thriving in Kent

Conservationists stunned by the insects’ rapid recovery

Nature Club: Calling amateur naturalists

Britain has an extraordinary tradition of wildlife-watching – and our new Nature Club is a chance for readers to get up close with flora and fauna

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: The rosy charms of the red helleborine

Excitement is an emotion supremely prized by our society, a sensation infinitely in demand, certainly if we judge by the unending stream of blow-'em-up action movies pouring out of Hollywood, or moving closer to home, by the recent jamborees that were the Glastonbury festival and the World Cup. War films, rock music, sport: these seem to be legitimate exciters of our age. Any of them can leave you with an elevated heart rate and no one will think you peculiar for mentioning it. But what about being excited – being very excited – by a flower? Does that mean you're as normal as a Glastonburygoer or a football fan? Or are you just a teeny bit on the idiosyncratic side?

The Word On: Mojo, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

"'Mojo' is the strongest set of songs from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in over a decade and a half." esdmusic.com

Book Of A Lifetime: Ulysses, By James Joyce

He is always there, the genius who spun the meanderings of a handful of fictitious nobodies into the greatest novel in the history of the form. The city of James Joyce's 'Ulysses' is long dead now – it was already disappearing when the book was published in 1922 - but somehow the ghost of Joyce still haunts the margins of world literature like a wanderer yearning to come home.

The Song House, By Trezza Azzopardi

The great challenge when writing a memory novel – in which a narrative of now frames or entwines with a narrative of then – is that both the present and historic storylines need to be equally compelling. Each must have its internal logic, its believable characters and a denouement that is emotionally satisfying. All too often in such novels the account of the past carries a greater charge than that of the present; inevitably, perhaps, since there is usually some horror festering in the past narrative's most shadowy corners. As in many biographies, accounts of childhood have an awkward way of making adult material seem bland or predictable by comparison.

Nature Studies by Michael McCarthy: Chalk – the great giver of wildlife richness

I have a great fondness for maps. I buy a map whenever I travel anywhere and I keep it, and I can browse through maps like you can browse through magazines, letting the imagination wander over this river and that wood, or this village and that lane; but my favourite map doesn't have rivers or woods marked on it, or villages or lanes, although, very faintly, it does have major towns.

Album: Jakob Dylan, Women and Country (Columbia)

Bob's boy heads out into the American wilderness with a posse of notorious henchmen – Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz among them.

Leading article: Hide and seek

Has ever a flower been so aptly named? The ghost orchid was presumed to have disappeared from these islands some 20 years ago. But now it has reappeared almost like, well, a ghost.

'So there you are!' Britain's rarest wildflower the ghost orchid returns from the dead after 23 years

It is the most mysterious wildflower in Britain, the strangest, the rarest, the hardest to see, and it was given up for lost. But like a wandering phantom, the ghost orchid has reappeared.

Rains bring life to Australia's burning heart

Water cascades down Uluru and desert turns green after rare summer downpours

Best poetry books for Christmas

The renaissance in British poetry is surely one of the best-kept cultural secrets of the Noughties. Unafraid to deal with the big topics – war, mortality, the search for meaning in the everyday – contemporary writing is accessible, memorable and often strikingly beautiful. John Burnside's The Hunt in the Forest (Cape, £10) exemplifies this new generosity. Meditations on the numinous and transitory segue into dreams of escape, a cloud-landscape where "the dog shape that worried the fence line / flickers away through the grass / to the last grey of dawn." In mid-life reality, love is "The one thing that no one would choose / and it's back, like a knife at a wedding". Burnside is renowned for haunting imagery, but it's impeccable musical judgement that binds his lyrics together.

The Harwood Arms, Walham Grove, London SW6

I think gastropubs tend to be best when they remember to be pubs as well as gastro, and don't forget they're also supposed to be down-to-earth boozers as well as purveyors of chorizo and purple sprouting broccoli. But really, there are limits. Standing outside the Harwood Arms, you feel your heart sink. The pub is situated at the end of a dispiritingly bricky suburban street. As pubs go, you're surprised this one hasn't gone long ago: it's so tired-looking, so bored, so uninterested in having anyone come through its doors. There's nothing about it that shouts, or even murmurs, "Trendy eating-house!" The colour scheme is mostly a flat matt magenta, over which the dust of years seems to have settled. Can this be the joint recently voted London's best gastropub? Have we come to the wrong address? As for that awful colour ... "If I remember the Farrow & Ball paint swatch," said my date, Madeleine, "this is a darker version of their Dead Salmon ..."

A short-break safari in Sussex

I recently turned 30, and in a bid to escape the inevitable party, my husband decided to whisk me away on a safari. For the night.

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