Most helpful positive review
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
A great travel companion
on 23 June 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".