“I could not say when I first grew to love the wild, only that I did, and that a need for it will always remain strong in me… It conjured images of wide spaces, remote and figure less. Isolated islands off Atlantic coats. Unbounded forests, and blue snow-light falling on to drifts marked with the paw-prints of wolves.”
Genre: Non-Fiction/British Travel Writing
Are there any genuinely wild places left in Britain and Ireland? That is the question that Robert Macfarlane poses to himself as he embarks on a series of breathtaking journeys through some of the archipelago’s most remarkable landscapes. He climbs, walks, and swims by day and spends his nights sleeping on cliff-tops, in ancient meadows and wild woods.
The “book is a map” as MacFarlane writes, tracing journeys from Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales, across valleys, through forests, along ridges and down into holloways. Beginning and ending in Beechwood, it marks a journey of thought also. At the start, MacFarlane writes that to “reach a wild place was” for him, “to step outside of human history” but by the time he returns, he has had a change if heart. Standing on the summit of Ben Hope, shivering, he realises that this version of ‘wilderness’ is bleak, meaningless and comfortless. He feels the “blazing perception of the world’s disinterest” in humanity- a thought so simple and yet so frightening.
MacFarlane frequently mentions those whose lives and works have influenced his own. He talks of monks, poets, writers, philosophers and seafarers; many living and many dead. One of these people was his dear friend Roger Deakin who wrote books such as Wildwood and Waterlog (amongst others.) He writes fondly of Deakin- of his cottage called Walnut Tree Farm with it’s creaking timbers and windows thrown open regardless of season.
5/5 stars. I adore everything MacFarlane writes, and The Wild Places was no exception to this. Beautiful and lyrical, filled with bright and rich evocations of the natural world and our place within it.