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Andrew Howell "andyhowell3" (Birmingham, UK)
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The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War
The War that Ended Peace: How Europe abandoned peace for the First World War
Price: £5.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Thoughtful., 15 July 2014
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A marvellous book. At the end of the 19th century there was a very common view that we would never see a major war again. MacMillan asks not why war broke out but why peace failed and this approach, I think, is a nice way of looking at the events that shaped the war. The book is constructed around a series of in-depth essays that look at events in each of the nations who played a role in the war.

This is not a book that deals with the conflict itself. But it is one that strikes me as being very important when considering contemporary issues, such as the Ukraine/Russia disputes and tensions.


City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City (Reflect Book 10)
City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City (Reflect Book 10)
Price: £12.30

4.0 out of 5 stars The Dilemmas surrounding virtual places and virtual spaces are not that new or not that different ..., 15 July 2014
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This is a very thoughtful book. What de Waal has done is put the 'digital' spaces of cities into a proper context and considers the development of digital and new media identities alongside much conventional thinking about planning and city development.

I'd certainly not thought of this before but space is space and de Waal shows that many of the issues faced by us ion considering digital space are simply not new. The dilemmas of public space and the values that shape it remain in the digital sphere.

Recommended reading for anyone who thinks about space and place.


No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the Surveillance State
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars ... is no way that I would call this a perfect book but it is very enlightening, 15 July 2014
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There is no way that I would call this a perfect book but it is very enlightening. Even if you have followed the Snowden case closely it is very useful to have the account laid out like this. Sometimes the author's style can grate a little — he refers to a past book on the subject not just as as book but as a "bestseller" — he is not a man to undersell!

It does sometimes feel like a screenplay waiting to be produced but aside from the style (possibly the ego) of the writer this is well worth reading.

The implications of such mass surveillance are worth thinking about properly and this book lays bare the scope of US ambition. It also is quite frightening in the way it documents how the US administration has lied about surveillance when specifically asked by those authorities to whom it is supposed to be accountable!


Filter Removal Wrench - Remover For 67mm - 77mm Filters
Filter Removal Wrench - Remover For 67mm - 77mm Filters
Offered by A-21 World
Price: £4.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars, 15 July 2014
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It just didn't work for me. Filter still stubbornly attached!


Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood
Price: £9.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful Context, 15 July 2014
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This is a very interesting and useful book to read not least because it shows how ancient patterns of conflict have survived to this day. Peace, for Baghdad, seems to be still a long way off!


The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos
The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Worry — It is Just as Good!, 15 July 2014
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I have to confess to the same worry as many of the other reviewers.

This is just as enjoyable — and in many ways as accomplished — as the first two parts of the trilogy. I'm speaking here from an enjoyment rather than an academic point of view!

If you have read Time of Gifts and Between the Woods, don't hesitate. It is simply wonderful to be in PLF's company again as he walks towards the end of the journey.


Scotland End to End: Walking the Gore-tex[registered] Scottish National Trail
Scotland End to End: Walking the Gore-tex[registered] Scottish National Trail
by Cameron McNeish
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.00

46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Book Introducing a Great New National Trail, 13 Oct 2012
Since retiring from the Editorship on TGO Magazine Cameron McNeish has embarked on a new series of media projects through his Mountain Media company developed with his co-author Richard Else. Central to this line is a series of guides on Scottish Trails including the new Sutherland Trail which I've set as a priority to walk one of these days.

Scotland End to End is the latest of Cameron's new ventures and sets out a national trail for Scotland, a 470 mile walk from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders to Cape Wrath in the far North West. This is an imaginative route that I'm sure is going to become very popular and this book is Cameron's best yet.

OK, let's get the awkward bit out of the way first. This venture has been sponsored by the fabric company Gore-Tex and so throughout the trail is referred to as the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail! Talking to Cameron about this prior to publication I could sense a little sensitivity about this and I seen found out why. When mentioning the book and the trail to a couple of friends they exploded; they simply didn't like the concept of a new trail being so closely identified with a company like Gore-Tex. Cameron is clear that without the financial support of Gore Tex the venture would not get off the ground. As Cameron has said to me himself:

"The company has helped us considerably and from my time as chair of the Nevis Partnership I'm only too well aware that the usual public streams of funding for footpath work, path creation and long distance trails have dried up due to the recession, cuts , etc. I've always felt that it would be good if the private sector put a bit of money into our trails etc and I'm delighted Gore has agreed".

I can understand the reservations that people have but Cameron is right. The age of austerity we are in at the moment is likely to last the best part of a decade and we are going to have to look to new solutions like this to support development that would traditionally have come from the public sector. Anyhow, back to the book!

The Prologue of the book lays out a lot of the thinking behind the trail which I reckon will strike a chord with many walkers. The idea of the trail has partially come out of the renewed confidence of Scotland following the setting up of the Scottish parliament and, perhaps, the move towards independence. However, the trail also has been devised following some thinking about the existing long distance trails in the UK. Most of our most popular trails are pretty short (around two weeks long) with the exception of the Lands End to John O'Groats walk which as Cameron says is just too long for many of us. In Scotland there are a number of trails -- official or otherwise -- which last for between two or three weeks. There seemed to be a gap for a longer distance trail that was more approachable than Lands End John O'Groats and yet was more of an undertaking than, say, the Southern Upland Way or the Great Glen Way.

The route as created falls naturally into four sections, the Borders to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Milnagavie (north of Glasgow), Milnagavie to Kingussie in the Cairngorms and, finally Kingussie to Cape Wrath in the far north. Some will find the route something of a challenge to walk in one go but many others will, I think, walk this in sections perhaps splitting the last section into two or three stretches.

Scotland End to End is not a guidebook as such but rather follow the formula of Cameron's other recent books. This is the account of a walk. There are route details here though you will need to resort to your maps for proper planning. But the real aim of this book is to give you a feel of the land you are walking through. Here you will find: details of the topography and geology of the area you are walking through; descriptions of the flora, fauna and wildlife; and lots of insight into the history and traditions of the lands you will be moving through. Towns and villages that are key stopping points or resupply points are described well and local hotels, B&Bs and campsites of note are highlighted.

I found the book to be a good and absorbing read; I learnt a lot. Like many hillwalkers -- and indeed Cameron himself -- I don't know much about Scotland south of the Highlands. The first sections through the borders and on to Glasgow are particularly rich. We grow to love this land through the eye of a sceptic -- a man who used to proudly say that there are no real hills south of Glasgow! I now want to walk the first section from the borders and also fancy lopping along the canal section that runs west from Edinburgh.

At Milngavie you might think that the End to End route sets off to take in the West Highland Way but Cameron has other ideas. For many years he has felt that the West Highland Way was at capacity or even over-used. After a short walk along the WHW Cameron's route moves North East through Aberfoyle to Pitlochry and on to Kingussie. I know a little of this country and reckon this is probably a lovely route, quieter and wilder than the WHW.

From Kingussie the trail begins to make its way west (TGO Challengers would be well advised to check out Cameron's route which avoids much of the tarmac that seems to be unavoidable in this part of the world). This stretch of the walk is a wonderful walk -- I've walked most of it. From Kingussie the route weaves its way through Fort Augustus, Tomdoun, Cluanie, Glen Elchaig to Achnashellach. Here the route joins Cameron's version of the Cape Wrath Trail. From the Torridon Hills to Cape Wrath is a tough and wild walk and a fitting climax to what would be a wonderful walking experience.

Throughout the book Cameron talks a lot about his approach to backpacking. There are small dialogues on gear, wild camping and the selecting of wild camp sites. He outlines well his strategy of wild camping for three or four days and then walking into a town for a good shower, a decent meal and a few beers: a classic formula. It is clear from the text that Cameron is in pat writing for those who may not be dedicated and experienced backpackers. As he says long distance walking often becomes a real option when children have left home or after retirement. This route would make a good project for those who have not independently backpacked before. Walk this in sections and by the time your reach the wild country you should be quite experienced and have a much better idea of what you are doing! Cameron is clearly trying to make the more remote trails of Scotland accessible to a wider range of people and in that I think he has succeeded.

There is a lot more to like here as well. I particularly like this as a meditation on the joy of travelling west. I agree with Cameron, walking towards the best is always the best walking; the light is better and the land ahead more mysterious. The big problem with the TGO Challenge is that is walks in the wrong direction. Sadly, the west coast can't really deal with the riotous impact that 300 backpackers can make on a town. But walk this trail independently and you won't have such considerations or face such limitations. West is always best.

The prose here is very informative but remains very readable throughout. Look at the small print carefully and you will see that the book has been proofread by Roger Smith, the first editor of TGO and long time organiser of the TGO Challenge until 2012. Roger is a great stylist and you can certainly see his influence here.

It would be remiss not to linger a little on Richard Else's contribution -- a series of stunning, colour photographs of the route. Else captures the spirit and mood o the place whether it be a lowland village churchyard or a wild and windy glen.

This is a book that I heartily recommend. I suspect that the End-to-End trail will become popular quite quickly not least because it can form the basis for a flexible walking project. Like Cameron himself I was surprised by the Border sections and fancy walking these sometime soon and I wouldn't have expected that when I first sat down with the book.

Finally, I have to say that if Gore-Tex's financial support has made this possible then I am quite content with that. Maybe it does get a bit annoying seeing every reference of the trail being to the Gore-Tex Scottish National Trail but I can live with this if has made both the book and the trail possible.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 4, 2013 4:58 PM GMT


Turboflame Ranger Turbo 2 Twin Flame Lighter
Turboflame Ranger Turbo 2 Twin Flame Lighter
Offered by Kitwizard
Price: £9.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Works Very well, 9 July 2012
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I wonder if there was a oroblem batch for a while?

Mine works perfectly. A great and strong flame which easily lights firelighters, barbeque lighters and esbit tablets when camping.


Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams
Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams
by Chris Townsend
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.81

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Jounal of a Stunning Trek, 9 July 2012
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This fine -- and accessible -- book charts Chris Townsend's walk along the Pacific NorthWest Trail (PNT)l which runs for over 1,800 kilometres west from the North American watershed of the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean.

Many of us know Chris Townsend as the dedicated gear expert of TGO Magazine, a man who can often be seen climbing hills in odd shoes and odd socks in order to properly review and compare gear. But Chris is also one of the UK's foremost long distant hikers. He likes nothing better than to take up his walking poles and walk through wilderness for several months on end. Chris' favoured tramping ground seems to be North America and previous hikes here have seen him walk new or often uncompleted trails. With each trail comes a new book each of them better than the last. When Chris completed the PNT a couple of years ago I aced when the book would be publicised. I am writing it at the moment he replied; he just had to find a publisher. Well, luckily for the rest of us the publisher was found -- Highlands publisher Sandstone Press -- and now the rest of us can just sit back and enjoy the ride!

For me, one of the great things about Chris' books is that they are incredibly accessible for anyone who has backpacked, trekked or wild camped. I've read a lot of high drama outdoor books , you know the kind, where parties die on Himalayan slopes, climbers hack of limbs in order to free themselves from being trapped or groups resort to cannibalism and such things. While many of these books are superb they are describing something that is very much out of my own experience. Not so this book.

Chris' walks involve all of the things that exercise the rest of us when backpacking. There's the worry about finding water in dry and hot climates, camping grounds -- good and bad, making do with a barely adequate pitch in dense undergrowth, rest days and trail towns, trail food (both good and bad) and getting lost in forests. Yes, it is good to now that someone as experienced as Chris gets lost along the way as well. He reminds us that all of these are more or less everyday experiences on a long walk.

Of course, there is more to the book than this!

Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams follows a reasonably straightforward structure and we follow Chris as his walk unfolds day-by-day. We share with him the highs of the dramatic back country and the necessary lows of connecting parts of the walk which follow non scenic routes and highways. As every long distance walker knows these connection stretches are part of the price to be paid for linking together wonderful areas of wild country.

It would be wrong to see the book as a simple journal. As Chis walks he talks us through the history of each other and describes the groggy and the topography. We meet the communities of the tiny trail towns that work as rest stops and re-supply points. But, most of all Chris captures beautifully the relationship that a walker develops that the land that he or she is hiking through.

I'm also fascinated by the relationship of the walker to the land. It seems to me whenever you walk across wild land for more than just a couple of days you experience it in a different way that is more intense, more intimate and more wondrous. There is the wildlife of course and here you'll find a lot of it including encounters with both black and grizzly bears (and razor clams). You also go with Chris as he seeks to make sense of the land he walks through. Not all of it is stunning wild country. For example, the walk took Chris through miles and miles of forest plantations, some dense and barrier-like and others raised to the ground or destroyed in fire. Chris' insights in the plight of the natural environment can be quite profound but never are they preaching. They seem to come a log at the right pace, which seems to match they would occur to you when you are out on the trail.

Grizzly Bears works on a number of different levels. Firstly, it is an easy and entertaining read about a wonderful trip --the kind that many of us will just get round to. Secondly, it is a work of inspiration for anyone planning their first long backpacking trip, whether in the wilderness or in somewhere more accessible. Read this book and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect!

Finally, Grizzly Bears will work well as a guide for anyone contemplating walking this trail in the near future. Although the PNT only gained national trail status a few years ago the trail has existed for quite a while and the only guide book to the trail -- by Ron Strickland the trail's originator -- was published back in 2001 and is a little out of date. A new and revised guide is currently in preparation but in the meantime Grizzlys will provide a lot of practical assistance for anyone planning their walk. Trail towns are described in full and, importantly, temporary accommodation, food and re-supply points are spotlighted -- comments such as supplies just adequate for backpackers is often all you need when planning your route!

As you can see I really enjoyed this route and I read it through in one setting. Not only is the text fine and gentle on the eye and the mind but the photographs here are stunning and give you a real feel for what you are missing out on! And, as gear fanatic, Chris also understands the importance of including a fair number of photos with tents and packs in the foreground!

This book will appeal to any long distant hiker or anyone who has ever walked even the most modest of long distance footpaths. I defy you not to find this a thoroughly fulfilling read. If for some reason it doesn't grab you I can only say one thing -- think hard about going and getting a life!


The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot
by Robert Macfarlane
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another MacFarlane Triumph!, 28 Jun 2012
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Over the last few years Robert MacFarlane has established himself as one of the great contemporary writers on our natural environment and our species relationship to it. Mountains of the Mind gave us a stunning and scholarly account of the relationship between mountains and mountaineers. The Wild Places was a fascinating take on wild land in the UK; MacFarlane finds wild land not just in, say, the Highlands of Scotland, but in the quiet corners of developed England as well. The Wild Places was a lovely, lovely book.

In his latest book -- The Old Ways --MacFarlane has come up trumps again as he turns his attention to the paths and routes that have been used by humans for hundreds, thousands and even millions of years.

Like many walkers I have a fascination with the old pathways and I can't help thinking about those who went this way hundreds, thousands or even millions of years before me. MacFarlane clearly has the same fascination for these same routes and this fascinating book not only entertains but teaches quite a lot as well!

For MacFarlane the old ways are at the heart of human civilisation provided the channels for trade not only in goods but in terms of art culture, education and learning. But don't worry about all of this, stripped back this is a very good -- and easy -- read.

The book starts with a trip along the ancient Icknield Way in footsteps of his hero the writer and poet Edward Thomas. There are then walks across the estuaries of Essex which appear on OS maps to walk into the sea but in reality cross the only productive land of Doggerland before the grew flood that cut England off from the continent. There's a walk from South to North through the Cairngorms and other British Walks.

My favourite Section part II which covers Scotland and mostly the Outer Hebrides. Here MacFarlane not only follows ancient paths on land but also some of the critical Old Sea Ways, sailing to St Kilda and taking something go the old Norse route that connected the West with Scandanavia. As with most of the other walks MacFarlane has tracked down fascinating walking companions who have spent their lives not only oiling from this land and sea but immersing themselves in history and culture.

Part III is entitled Roaming (abroad) and here MacFarlane looks at some international experiences before the comes back home again for the final section. There's a stroll along some of the pilgrim route to Compestella, a trip amongst the foothills of the Himalaya and more besides The focus here is not on a simple travelogue but on an extended riff on what he sees and feels, so the sub headings for Abroad are Limestone. Roots and Ice. There's also a very moving walk in Palastine with Raja Shehadeh whose own Palastinian Walks is one of the sadest and most angry making books I have read on the outdoors.

Throughout his travels MacFarlane is never far from his literary heroes. There's more than a whiff of Bruce Chatwin about the Old Ways and the final section in which macFarlance contemplates the connections of the old ways running all over the globe is very similar to one of the final essays that Chatwin wrote, but I get the impression that it's not always that academically OK to pay tribute to Chatwin these days! The great writer on the Cairngorms Nan Shepherd is here too as a sometime companion of the mind. As you might expect the Wordsworths are here as are Walt Whitman, Goethe, John Berger and Hillaire Belloc to name but a few.

The great influence and sprit that moves through the book though is that of Edward Thomas a difficult man by all accounts but a man who had the outdoors and walking at the heart of his psyche. Towards the end of the book we get a potted biography of Thomas which is both fascinating and moving.

It's not all perfect. Some of the stores of the more mundane trips are quite fantastic as, to be fair, our ordinary trips often can be. But you can't help wondering whether -- as Bruce Chatwin used to say about his own work -- the fictional process has been at play from time to time. The language is sometimes a bit too flowery or gushy for me but at its best it reminds me of Patrick Leigh Fermor who was not only, perhaps, the greatest Engliosh travel writer of his generation but one of the greatest English stylists of the twentieth century. So, at its best this is wonderful writing.

I have to remind myself that this is only the third in this series of books and MacFarlance as distinguished as he is is still developing his own style. What I really admire is his is not the travel of the extreme adventurer or lunatic but the travels of mere mortals like you or me. His writing though will make our mundane explorations. His writing will enrich our own modest achievements and adventures.

If you read a better book on the outdoors this year or next I would be stunned. A great read.


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