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.
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!
“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.
Test test 3rd July 2013
Posted In: Ideas