A reminder that this weekend the Team Middlemarch brougham will be screeching to a halt for discussions about Book Three Waiting for Death, but in the meantime another team has also been very busy...
My thanks to Team Old Ways who have been busy behind the scenes, reading and thinking about Robert Macfarlane's book The Old Ways, A Journey on Foot and planning their walking and chatting with each other online. How well it all seems to link into Tristan Gooley's book The Natural Navigator too for making us all so hyper-observant to the landscape around us.
The consensus is that The Old Ways, coming to a bookshop near you from June 7th, is proving to be a very special book indeed in many different ways for each of us, and one that we are all enjoying reading immensely.
Here are a few first impressions from some of them...
Bet ... In The Old Ways, Robert MacFarlane writes of how the landscapes we move through affect us physically, cognitively, and emotionally. Soon after my family moved to upstate NY in 1993, we were taken to Lake George, “The Queen of American Lakes.” We all instantly fell in love with this place as we have with no other. Since then we have hiked the mountains surrounding her, camped on her islands, and power-boated, and kayaked on her. I know that I feel and think differently there than I do anywhere else. I plan to share with you some of the history of the lake, some of my experiences on it, and some of its majestic and peaceful views.
Pat ...I think I can say that 'The Old Ways' has been life-changing for me. For most of my adult life I have been the 'indoors type', admiring nature through windows or reading about it in books. But Robert Macfarlane's writing about landscapes is so skilful that I am being lured outside. Reading the book I feel as if I am there with him on his walks with all five of my senses a-tingling and alive to the outside world and my imagination firing on all cylinders. Time to put the walking boots on and explore this wonderful planet.
My first walk could be to revisit a place that enchanted me when I moved down to Somerset from Manchester with my family 25 years ago - it is called 'Poet's Walk' and has associations with Coleridge and Tennyson as well as a fantastic view over the Severn Sea.
Sabina ... Like Macfarlane I have associated Ravilious’ painting* with Thomas’ poetry &, like them, I love the downland. Reading The Old Ways has made me realise that much of my life has been spent near the downs: as a child on the Hampshire downs, then the Berkshire Downs & more recently beside the Hampshire downs. Now we live beside the Dorset downs so my walk will focus on the surrounding downland & woodland with the link to Hardy’s Woodlanders. Nearly all Hardy’s books begin with someone walking & we are surrounded by footpaths & holloways.
Reading The Old Ways has taken me back to Hudson, Cobbett & Holmes & a wonderful book written in 1914 called The Green Roads of England which is mostly about the old ways across the southern downs....
*Ravilious painted the Cerne Giant, round the corner from here, so Fran & I are hoping to compare our giants!
Carol... I'm about a quarter of the way through so far, as I really wanted to devote serious reading time to this book. I took it to Cornwall with me last weekend and read a long chunk on a bench at Helford Point surrounded by the river, boats, birdsong and Spring flowers. What I've been most struck by so far is Robert Macfarlane's use of language. In particular, he frequently conveys more than one physical sense in a deft metaphor, which enriches the description so much. This has also slowed me right down - usually such a fast reader that I miss nuances, this writing makes me slow down and savour it. It's rich without ever seeming dense. I've noted down many examples from these first chapters, but wanted to share a very simple one. He writes of 'buttery sunshine' - not sunshine the colour of butter (visual) but buttery, evoking the texture, softness and, somehow, the comfort of butter. Perhaps my favourite sentence so far is also about sunshine
'The sun loosed its summer light.... a liquid so rich I wanted to eat it, store it, make honey of it for when winter came'.
He could equally have been describing the experience of reading his book.