Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Wilderness at home

A review in the Guardian today recaps a theme I've previously referred to on this blog; the adventure of travelling at home.

Robert Macfarlane's new book 'The wild places' might seem like a standard adventure book from the title. But in fact it's a tour of Britain - finding wilderness everywhere, even in the back yard.

In fact, he comes to revise his ideas of wilderness as he travels. There are no 'wild' places in Britain - they have all been changed by man. Celtic field systems, prehistoric megaliths, Roman roads, Norman hunting forests - nowhere on these islands has land been left completely to its own devices. The grouse moor and pine forest of much of the northern uplands, too, is man-made.

Yet instead of deprecating this  man-made quality of the landscape, Macfarlane comes to love it, as a texture of history woven over the land.

Nothing has been unseen. There is no virgin territory.  And again, instead of seeing this as a disappointment, Macfarlane sees how it creates a richer tapestry; how the whole landscape can be experienced through the words of earlier writers, as well as through the senses today.

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