Walking through Spring: An English Journey by Graham Hoyland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Partly inspired by a memory of his father saying that spring moved at walking pace across the country and that he had missed a number of English springs whilst being stuck up some of the highest mountains in the world, Hoyland had the idea of following it as it moves up and across the country from the first day of spring on the south coast to the Scottish border a few weeks later. The warmth that the season brings turns a monotone landscape into one that is fresh, green and bursting with life.
Starting on the beautiful Dorset coast at Christchurch, Hoyland and his wife planned their route following where possible the ancient footpaths that criss-cross the countryside. He marked each mile along the paths and hawthorn hedgerows with the planting of an acorn, noting the GPS position so they could return one day to check progress. Each day that they walked brought the delights of spring to them; bluebells, animals emerging from hibernation, the arrival of the swifts and cuckoos and the way that all life blooms.
There are some amusing parts in the book, he has a knack of getting a little bit lost on a regular basis and he is not afraid to speak his mind either with forceful opinions an subjects as diverse as HS2, the perils of industrial farming and the loss of so many of the birds and animals over the years. It is packed full of interesting facts and details as he draws from nature writers, poets and artists as well as architects and engineers that have been inspired, changed and made their living from the countryside. It has a great bibliography too with lots of relevant quotes and recommendations on other books to read. Not only is this a most enjoyable stroll through the English countryside at the walking speed, I really liked that he made an effort to give something back too by planting the acorns along his route. Even though it is not as lyrical as Macfarlane and Deakin it is still well worth reading.
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