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The Green Road Into The Trees [Paperback]

Hugh Thomson
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

21 Mar 2013


In the past, Hugh Thomson has written acclaimed books about Peru, Mexico and the Indian Himalaya. Now he returns to the most exotic and foreign country of them all – his own.

Walking right across England, along ancient trackways and green grass roads, Hugh explores the way the country was and the way it is today: the legends, literature and natural world that define us, and the undercurrent of regret running throughout our history; what he calls ‘the unicorn disappearing into the trees’.

From coast-to-coast and through the heart of the countryside, he shows how older,forgotten cultures like the Celts, Saxons and Vikings lie much closer to the surface than we may think. It is a journey enriched and partly told by the characters he meets along the way. By taking it, Hugh casts unexpected light – and humour – on the way we live now.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (21 Mar 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099558394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099558392
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 45,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Hugh Thomson believes strongly that the world is not as explored as we like to suppose.  

He writes about the wilder corners of the planet, from the edges of Peru to the Himalayas, looking for Inca ruins and lost cultures. Geographical commented that 'He is a writer who explores and not an explorer who writes.'

In 2012 Random House published 'The Green Road into the Trees: An Exploration of England', in which Hugh for the first time wrote about his own country, an account of a journey along prehistoric trackways. 'An immensely enjoyable book: curious, articulate, intellectually playful and savagely candid', The Spectator.

His previous books include: 'The White Rock', 'Nanda Devi' and  'Cochineal Red:  Travels through Ancient Peru' (all Weidenfeld & Nicolson), and he has collected some of his favourite places in the lavishly illustrated '50 Wonders of the World'.

In 2009 he wrote 'Tequila Oil', a memoir about getting lost in Mexico when he was eighteen and, in the words of the Alice Cooper song, 'didn't know what he wanted'. It was serialised by BBC R4 as 'Book of the Week'.

"Delightful, celebratory and honest....In a way 'Tequila Oil' is the first installment of his now-complete trilogy, his 'Cochineal Red' and 'The White Rock' being two of the finest books on Latin America of recent years."  (Rory MacLean, The Guardian)

His first Kindle Single, At The Captain's Table,a life hearted account of travelling around the world by luxury liner, went to #2 in the USA non-fiction charts for Kindle Singles on release.

See for more, including his blog and events at which he is speaking.

Product Description


"He is an illuminating companion…frequently comic, his voice is original and engaging; proof that it is the walker, not the path, that counts." (Independent)

"An immensely enjoyable book: curious, articulate, intellectually playful and savagely candid." (The Spectator)

"He records more than impressions: there are fascinating excursions into neglected areas of British history, and conversations with hippies, travellers and farmers, which makes Mr Thomson’s journey a joy to follow." (Country Life)

"Often funny and always enlightening" (Candida Lycett Green Countryfile)

"I would love to walk with Thomson" (John Sutherland Financial Times)

Book Description


Award-winning British travel writer Hugh Thomson explores the most exotic and foreign country of them all - his own.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great travel companion 23 Jun 2012
This book is a joy to read, endlessly entertaining, informative, quirky, fun and funny. It describes a 400 mile walk along the prehistoric Icknield Way from Dorset to the Wash, weaving seamlessly together landscape, history, archaeology, literature, art, agriculture, and personal reminiscence. The author shows us around many prehistoric sites starting from 3700 BC, sometimes using imaginative methods to gain access denied to the general public, but he also keeps us up to date with modern England, not least through conversations with a diverse cast of characters from all types and levels of society, many of whom are personal friends of considerable interest. He is not too complimentary about aristocrats, but complains that they "can often charm" him "into submission". He says it is "emphatically not a guidebook". Think of it more as a travel companion. Hugh wears lightly a lot of learning and shares it chattily. At the Norfolk end of the walk, he introduces us to two recently uncovered Bronze Age sites: Seahenge (2049 BC) and Flag Fen (between 2000 and 1350 BC), and reveals that more land was farmed during the Bronze Age than at any other time in our history and Britain was "at the top of the European commodities market". He debunks the view that the Romans came and woke us up. "It is as if Peruvian history began only when the Spaniards arrived, for they, like the Romans, were the first to write anything down." Hugh has been described as "a writer who explores" rather than the other way round. He started life as a film maker, and has written widely on South America and other parts of the world. He sees connections that would evade most others even if they had the relevant knowledge. Who else would compare climbing (and filming) Kilimanjaro with trudging up the Wittenham Clumps? And if you doubt this unusual penchant, look up "Archaeologists" in the index. It says "see minicab drivers".
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Hugh Thomson writes with a sense of humour and a sense of perspective at the England off the beaten track, or more specifically on the Icknield Way (an ancient road from Dorset to Norfolk). This delightful book should be read by walkers everywhere however as Thomson captures the spirit of a more historic (or even pre-historic) and rural England. As well as QI like interesting facts the book is also littered with some attractive illustations. An excellent book to read on a holiday in England, or give as a gift.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful and Informative Book.. 26 Jun 2012
By Charlie
Hugh Thomson takes a trip along the Icknield Way from Dorset to Norfolk, following an ancient path which links dozens of natural and man-made points of interest. His comprehensive account of pre and post Roman sites along the way is fascinating and reveals that the past is very much still with us. Thomson's background in archaeology and English literature shines through his writing as he enhances an already beautiful landscape with expertise and elegance. Highly recommended and a great way to complement a very British summer.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick, before he sees you! 6 Nov 2013
Some people are said to wear their learning lightly. Hugh Thomson is not one of those people, and therein lies the problem with 'The Green Road Into The Trees'. In part this book succeeds as an informative and thought-provoking diary of a walk along the Icknield Way from Dorset to the East Coast. Literary and historical links to the landscape traversed are liberally and sometimes interestingly placed (rather than woven) into the narrative. It's interesting and amusing at times, but ultimately the author comes across as rather smug and self-absorbed, desperate to impress the reader with his knowledge and all round general 'hipness'. If I encountered Hugh Thomson on a walk, I'd like to think I'd buy him a pint, but on balance I think I'd hide in the ditch!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A walk I would like to do myself one day 7 Nov 2012
Thomson undertakes a walk along the route of the Ichnield Way, an ancient path probably around 3000 - 5000 years old in parts.

He starts in Abbotsbury in Dorset, at the far end of the Fleet, and crosses Dorset and Wiltshire continually passing hill forts, barrows, mound, stone circles and other glimpses of prehistoric and bronze age life in this country. The journey takes him across the country to Norfolk where he end his walk at the place where Seahenge was excavated from.

I quite enjoyed it, as it combined some of my favourite subjects, history and travel, and the writing is effortless to read. He also looks back at his life, following a painful divorce, and of friends past, and journeys traveled. I think that took a little away from the essence of the book, but still glad I have read it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars England, Our England. 25 Jun 2012
By Natalie
The Green Road Into The Trees is a refreshing book which rejoices in the spirit of the English countryside. Thomson refers to various other writers' work on the natural history of the Icknield Way as he appreciates the wildlife and scenery along his journey. More impressive though is his knowledge of historic sites - Stonehenge, the horse at Uffington, Avebury and Seahenge and dozens more - as well as the way they have shaped their surroundings. An excellent read for those interested in the increasingly popular 'staycation' and a fabulous way to celebrate the natural beauty and history of England, right on our doorstep. What with the likes of London and other cities becoming global and fragmented, Thomson directly and indirectly argues that there is still an England - of traditions, poetry, eccentricity - in the countryside.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read
A really wonderful read from start to finish. A straight path travelled with many diversions into English history, culture and the author's own insights. Read more
Published 19 hours ago by velouria
5.0 out of 5 stars Turning to England
Landscape as life: the Icknield Way as a procession of seasons in Man’s existence: historical and modern aspirations, the mundane and the magnificent, stratified within a layer... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Hereward the Wakeful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent read. Really enjoyed it. It arrived quickly, well packaged.
Published 3 months ago by Gill J
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting the right balance
Outwardly the book is an archaeological, historical, geographical and social guide to one long-distance footpath ( or two for one of the previous reviewers). Read more
Published 8 months ago by AGC - Salop
4.0 out of 5 stars The Strangeness of the Familiar
The Green Road Into The Trees: An Exploration of England, is a fascinating exploration of the wellworn truism that coming home is harder than leaving. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Amy James
5.0 out of 5 stars thank you
Thank you for quick delivery, I had bought it for my partner for christmas but it got destroyed in a flood in the home, thankyou again
Published 10 months ago by sue glason
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and highly engaging
A very well written book, highly engaging and full of unexpected historical insights as well as personal anecdotes. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Lieve Reckers
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging and informative read
If you enjoy walking, are interested in people, and appreciate connecting with the history of the landscape which surrounds you then I highly recommend you read this engaging book. Read more
Published 14 months ago by J. Morley
4.0 out of 5 stars Quirky and thoughtful
This book is as much about the writer as about the landscape he travels through, but is an interesting read without being too taxing. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Lucy Thomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Absorbing
Loved it. Could have easily devoured it in one sitting, but managed to savour it over a week...strongly recommended! First class
Published 15 months ago by Gilly B
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