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Favourite Walking Books – an Occasional Series!

Favourite Walking Books – an Occasional Series! On this week’s blog, we review “The Old Ways” by Robert Macfarlane, subtitled “A Journey on Foot”.  In June it was Waterstone’s book of month and their marketing blurb stated the book is “The perfect summer read and a passionate endorsement to get out of the house, embrace the great outdoors and to walk, explore and enjoy our surroundings.”

I am not sure that the book would inspire you to get out of the house, but if you enjoy walking, exploring and reading about it, then this is a book for you. It is part travel, with a sprinkling of geography, some snippets of history and references to some of the greats in our literary past.  For a non-fiction book it is highly readable and glorious in its descriptions and imagery.

Favourite Walking Books – an Occasional Series! - Robert Macfarlane
Robert Macfarlane

Macfarlane uses a lot of lists in his writing and I can imagine him out of the road making mental or even physical lists of what he experiences. For example in his initial preamble he states

“And everywhere I met people – usual and unusual, quiet and voluble, everyday and eccentric …….//…. I met dawdlers, dreamers, striders, guides, pilgrims, wanderers, stravaigers, trespassers, cartographers – and a man who believed he was a tree and that trees were people.”

In case like me you didn’t know – stravaigers is from the Scottish meaning to roam or wander!

I like his wit and occasionally I have been moved to laugh out loud as I read and mark a passage to return to later.

“Two days before I set off, my Alaskan friend James helpfully recommended that I take a small sharp hatchet with me: ‘That way, if you get stuck in the mud with the tide coming in, you can cut your legs off at the ankles and escape.’”

I mentioned his imagery earlier and a fantastic example of his ability to show us what he sees is when he was in Stornoway harbour with a fabulous description that I know I will remember when I next see seals in the water! Favourite Walking Books – an Occasional Series!

“Big seals floating here and there, their nostrils and eyes just above the water, their blubbery backs looking like the puffed-up anoraks of murder victims……”

The only negative about the book is the photography which is grainy and difficult to appreciate. There may be practical reasons why the photographs aren’t better, but in my view they add nothing to it.

The Old Ways is one of those books that you don’t want to finish because once you get to the end it feels as though a brilliant journey is over and you can’t repeat straight away and so feel lost without with its companionship along the way!

Have you read it? What did you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

What are your favourite walking books?  Tell us on facebook or twitter and if you can link the book to one of our Treasure Trails towns, we’ll send you a free Trail of your choice!  We need to hear from you by the end of July.

3rd July 2013

Posted In: Ideas

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Six Great British Explorers

With the current vogue for things Great British, we thought it would be fun to write about six Great British Explorers from the last six centuries!  We are not saying these are the greatest explorers ever, but each of them was or is great in their own way!

So, starting with the 16th century we have Sir Francis Drake – he was born in Tavistock in Devon and with the sea in his blood he is probably best known for his piracy and illicit slave trading.

Six Great British Explorers - Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake

The Spanish thought of him as a pirate but we Brits hailed him as a hero, particularly as he was knighted by Elizabeth 1st after his exploration of the coast of South America. He was involved in the Spanish Armada, but died from dysentery and fever. He was apparently buried in a lead coffin at sea near Portobello, Panama and even today divers continue to search for his coffin.

Moving to the 17th century our hero is William Dampier who was born in East Coker, Somerset. Like Drake, Dampier was a sailor but his real claim to fame was as an author.  It would appear that he wasn’t the best leader as he had little ability in managing the crews placed under him, and in 1702 a court martial declared him unfit to command any of His Majesty’s ships!  He was however a very popular writer and his works set an entire fashion in travel literature and influenced men like Swift and Defoe. His account of the winds and currents of the Pacific in a 1699 volume has earned the respect of navigators and meteorologists to the present day.

Six Great British Explorers - Cook
Captain Cook

Everyone will have heard of our 18th century explorer – Captain James Cook.  Cook was born in Middlesborough in Yorkshire on the banks of the river Tees. When he was 17 he joined the navy. In 1769, the planet Venus was due to pass in front of the Sun, a rare event visible only in the southern hemisphere. The British government decided to send an expedition to observe it with the secret motive to search for the fabled southern continent. Cook was chosen as commander of HMS Endeavour. His achievements in mapping the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia radically changed western perceptions of world geography.

Six Great British Explorers - Livingstone
Stanley Livingstone

Famous for being found by Stanley, Dr David Livingstone is the entry for the 19th century.  Born in Blantyre, just south of Glasgow. Livingstone studied medicine and theology and became a missionary. He was posted to the Kalahari and became convinced his mission was to bring Christianity to the people in the interior of Africa. He discovered the Victoria Falls and was the first European to cross the width of Southern Africa.  He spent years trying to find the source of the Nile despite very poor health and after nothing was heard of him for many months Henry Stanley, an explorer and journalist (born in Denbigh) set out to find him. After meeting him at Lake Tanganyika he uttered his immortal line “Dr Livingstone I presume”.

Most of the world had been discovered and explored by the 20th century but the Antarctica and Arctic were still largely unexplored and Robert Falcon Scott, born in Plymouth became known as Scott of the Antarctic. He was a naval officer and explorer, who sadly died attempting to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Described by The Guinness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer” Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE was born in Windsor.  His other claim to fame is as the UK’s top celebrity fund raiser who has raised over £14m for UK charities.

Who do you think is a Great British Explorer? Best idea (as chosen by Aaron, our General Manager) will receive a free Trail. Submit your ideas on our facebook page or through twitter – we need to hear from you by 30th June to be in with a chance.

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19th June 2013

Posted In: Did You Know

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