The Old Ways
For months, this book has been on my bedside table, and finally, last night I managed to finish it. Now, this is not the book's (or the author's fault) but mainly due to me being a slower reader than before, because of my eyesight making it difficult to read at night after a whole day spent reading and writing on a computer and on paper.
When I saw "The Old Ways" at The Little Ripon Bookshop (a "must" for my sister and I every time we are in Ripon), I remembered Yorkshire Pudding's review of it. You can find it here. In my comment to YP's review, I said that the book sounded like something I'd enjoy reading, and I did - even though it took me so long, and I did not always find it easy to "get into" each chapter. Replying to my comment, YP mentioned the book containing several words he had never encountered before. Knowing this has happened to him, who is a native speaker of English, a former English teacher and a published author, makes it less surprising for me to have also come across a number of words never read before. None of them stopped my reading flow, though, as it was always clear from the context what the author meant.
The sub-headline says "A Journey on Foot", which, strictly speaking, is not entirely true, as some of the trips described in the book are taken by boat. It all serves to show how paths exist not only in the shape of foot paths on the ground but also as invisible ones across water, or even in the air (think of the migration of birds). And of course, there are many paths across our inner landscape, so to speak.
Robert Macfarlane describes 16 different trips he made, mostly on foot, mostly in the UK, but some abroad. His trips follow some famous, ancient routes, some less well-known ones and some he read about in other walkers' descriptions. They are not set up as in a guide book, but he explains what walking (not only the particular trip described) means to him personally, what it generally means and meant throughout history, what it meant to those who walked there before him and how walking can generally affect us - actually, how walking shapes us and how we shape the places where we walk.
A lot of it I can relate to; some of what he writes is an expression of what I have been feeling/knowing in myself about walking but would not have been able to express in such clear terms. Some is rather too mystical for me. All in all, I can highly recommend "The Old Ways" to anyone who enjoys walking - no matter on what level - or did so at some stage of their lives.
If you want to know more about the author, his wikipedia entry is here.