The interplay of light across the rolling hills as the weather changes almost minute by minute. Being so remote, the chances of coming across other people is unlikely and as he treads softly across the landscape and his solitary presence means that he gets to see far more of the animals that inhabit here. The joy of watching otters slipping into the sea lochs, seeing stags silhouetted on the skyline and seeing golden and sea eagles soaring above is tempered by a profound change in the way that he senses the world around.
Almost deaf in one ear, he had relied for years on his other, but now that is fading from the highest frequencies down and the bird songs that once delighted him now inhabits his memories only. Ansell is widely travelled; five continents and over fifty countries is quite a record. He has lived in a forest in Scandinavia, hitchhiked across countries, seen the wild animals of the Amazon, lived in squats in London and spent five years in a cottage in Wales with no running water or electricity.
By returning to the same part of Scotland, it feels like a spiritual journey and he connects deeply to the landscape each time he visits, but it is tinged with the remorse that he has of no longer being able to hear the birdsong. It is a beautiful book to read, he has a knack of teasing out all that he sees around him into the most exquisite prose. Another excellent book from Ansell. View all 3 comments. Jan 20, Rebecca rated it really liked it Shelves: memoirs , nature , read-via-netgalley , offered-by-publisher-author , reviewed-for-blog , travel-books.
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Many travel books are about the quest for new, exotic places and the widest possible range of experiences; many nature books focus on the surprising quality and variety of life to be found by staying close to home. He mourns each sign of diminishment, such as the meadow pipits whose call he can no longer hear. Depth of experience is replacing breadth for him, though flashbacks to his intrepid world travels — an African safari, hitchhiking in Australia, time in Sweden and Costa Rica — show that he has tried both approaches.
Solitude and survival are more powerful themes there, though they echo here too. Once again, he writes of magical encounters with wildlife and gives philosophical reflections on the nature of the self. Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck. View all 7 comments. Aug 24, Natalie CuriousReader added it. Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize Feb 19, Karen Mace rated it it was amazing Shelves: the-book-vipers-magic-squarec. I found this to be a calming and enlightening read and am in total admiration of the author and wilderness walker, Neil Ansell, who sets off alone to enjoy the beauty that the world has to offer despite his own failing health.
It is set in the North West Highlands and the descriptions make it sound like heaven on earth! Would have loved to have had some photos to accompany the text, but he has a wonderful way with words that helps paint the picture of the scenes he encounters. And with his failin I found this to be a calming and enlightening read and am in total admiration of the author and wilderness walker, Neil Ansell, who sets off alone to enjoy the beauty that the world has to offer despite his own failing health.
And with his failing hearing, you do get the sense that he picks up more on the sights although he does mention the sounds he misses as his beloved songbird soundtrack is slowly disappearing to him because of his deafness. This doesn't stop him setting off alone to explore the Highlands and noticing changes in the wildlife and scenery from trips he's made years ago, and it does make you worry about the mess that humans are leaving behind, especially as he even finds rubbish dumped along one of his paths in the middle of nowhere.
It's a fascinating mix of nature writing as he encounters a variety of wildlife, alongside his own thoughts on his love of the solitude and how that hasn't always been compatible with his lifestyle, and that he doesn't feel he's missing out on things because he likes to be alone.
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It also touches on how those travelling nowadays aren't really cut off from the world with the use of GPS and the internet, as opposed to when you'd occasionally get sent a postcard from someone away and how you can never really be cut off from what's going on in the world because of technology and that saddens him. I loved how he wrote this over a period of 5 visits over a year so you get to see the changes each season bring and how his outlook differs over each time.
It was absorbing and uplifting and I will be more interested to pick up the other books from this author now to enjoy more of his adventures and views.
Oct 25, Chantal Lyons rated it it was amazing. This book won't appeal to everyone, but it has a huge amount to offer to anyone who loves nature writing.
It's much more repetitive than a lot of other recent books of nature writing, though not exactly in the format of "person going to the same place over and over" like Rob Cowen's 'Common Ground'. No - what makes this book "repetitive" is the narrative pattern that the author follows in each section: he heads out with a general route in mind, he walks, climbs and scrambles, he finds lochs or ri This book won't appeal to everyone, but it has a huge amount to offer to anyone who loves nature writing.
No - what makes this book "repetitive" is the narrative pattern that the author follows in each section: he heads out with a general route in mind, he walks, climbs and scrambles, he finds lochs or rivers or beaches, he admires the trees and the wildlife.
But it never gets boring. It's a wonderfully calming, entrancing, and at times delightful read. You can feel the lushness and the ancientness of oak and pine woods, the ruggedness of the landscape, the shape of the coastline. There is plenty of wildlife, though the author doesn't set out to find anything in particular except, perhaps, wildcat - songbirds, eagles, waterfowl, deer, otters. The very last wildlife encounter was a particular joy to read. I am more desperate than ever to return to Scotland. I love the prose itself too. It's never overblown, it never tries too hard to describe familiar things in new, quirky ways.
Images are still vivid; they're just subtly drawn. Many passages compel you to re-read them. A book to treasure. Nov 20, Peter Martin rated it really liked it. A great book to chill out with especially for nature lovers and ramblers! Mar 06, Zarina rated it it was amazing. I've been meaning to pick up more nature writing and this has been the perfect introduction.
Neil Ansell's astute observations and eloquent descriptions of his solitary journey through the remote Scottish highlands was a sheer delight to experience — bringing a sense of calm to my hectic days with the sheer power of his words. Even to someone like me who cannot possible imagine leaving modern amenities behind for the wild, his writings about the tranquil landscape and animal life he came across I've been meaning to pick up more nature writing and this has been the perfect introduction.
Even to someone like me who cannot possible imagine leaving modern amenities behind for the wild, his writings about the tranquil landscape and animal life he came across on his path sounded like a very tempting alternative to having my weeks and months fly by in a busy city where the bird sounds are drowned out by human noise.
What I particularly enjoyed within this memoir was Ansell recounting travel stories from throughout his life, linking, for example, an animal encounter in the present to one from years before on a different continent. Having spend some time in similar places to Ansell I recognised certain locations, but his perceptive observations far exceeded my own, creating a far richer experience; even second-hand through his wonderful words.
A truly beautiful and serene read, providing a point of calm in our fast-paced and ever-connected lives and a renewed appreciation of the natural world surrounding us. Jan 15, Juliet Wilson rated it really liked it Shelves: nature. Subtitled A Journey into Silence , this is a beautifully written account of one man's explorations of the Highlands of Scotland as he meditates on his increasing deafness which he measures by the birds he can no longer hear sing and the loss of species from our countryside.
He writes about his preference for being in nature by himself and I can totally understand that love of solitude, however as it becomes clear that failing hearing is not his only health concern it starts to seem foolhardy of Subtitled A Journey into Silence , this is a beautifully written account of one man's explorations of the Highlands of Scotland as he meditates on his increasing deafness which he measures by the birds he can no longer hear sing and the loss of species from our countryside.
He writes about his preference for being in nature by himself and I can totally understand that love of solitude, however as it becomes clear that failing hearing is not his only health concern it starts to seem foolhardy of him to be out there by himself, not for him alone that is after all his decision to make but because he is single parent to two children. Setting that concern aside I did really enjoy this book. Ansell's writing is beautiful without falling into the self conscious overly poetic style beloved of many of the more literary nature writers of the day.
Here is his description of the call of the curlew: 'Once of twice, a curlew called its plangent, rising trill. For me, this is the most evocative of all bird calls.
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It has a visceral effect on me, like a punch to the solar plexus. Whenever I hear it I am immediately transported back to my childhood self, wandering the marshes alone. This book was a surprise gift to me from a good friend. He thought I would like it.
Why is it so special and fascinating?
He was wrong. I loved it.
In a nutshell, the book is about the author visiting on his own a remote part of Scotland five times over the course of a year. He writes about where he walked, what he saw and the memories these visits evoked from a lifetime of travelling. I can see why my friend thought I would like the book as I too like to walk and explore wild remote places on my own. The other shared experience is th This book was a surprise gift to me from a good friend.
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The other shared experience is that Neil Ansell is losing his hearing, as I already have.