The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane

There are special places all over the world that exude a sense of wildness and a lack of interference from human doings.  These places can occur on any terrain, and do.  Where there have been human interactions, these have happened either from long-ago times or by fortune have been confined to people who have understood the fine limitations between a landscape and themselves.  This book explores several of these places in the British Isles.

The Wild Places starts with a tree climb in Cambridge, and then goes far beyond the manicured plannedness of the city and town to the brazenly wild, a landscape the author much prefers to the symmetry of cityscape.  His love of exploration knows no bounds, whether he is trekking moorland or mountain.  As mentioned, some of these locales have seen human habitation at times, but these habitations have made more of a contribution than a detriment to these microcosms (read the chapter “Grave” about the Burren in western Ireland to read what I mean – its dolmens and ring forts seem to enhance the landscape rather than detract from it.)

Macfarlane writes very beautifully, with a style that needs a careful reading at times to really digest.  In other words, this book is not one to devour in one sitting, although if the setting you are in is quiet enough, and you have the time, who knows?  Also, his focus is the British Isles, and it helps if the reader is a lover of those islands.  If you are, then open the book at any point and inhale Macfarlane’s prose – and follow the call of the wild.

(William Hicks, Information Services)


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