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3.1 out of 5 stars
7
3.1 out of 5 stars
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on 21 October 2012
As someone who is just an occasional walker (I'm more of a cyclist ) I wasn't sure if this book was for me, but it won me over with an easy charm and the depth of research. It is part historical analysis of the early battles of ramblers and evolution of a huge social movement, and part personal experience of the author's numerous walks - I have to admire the effort Mr McKay has put into this, he has clearly walked the country up and down and side to side. When on those paths I know well, such as the South Downs, his experiences chime with my own, and he's inspired me to walk further afield, possibly starting with Offa's Dyke. Some of Ramble On struck me as highly imaginative and the chapter on urban walking was a particular revelation. I think mainly I like the fact that McKay is no zealot, honestly pointing out that one person's lyrical landscape is "another family's rain-trudging boredom" and I love his refusal to wear trendy garish specialist walking kit, preferring to hike in an old supermarket raincoat ("like playing golf in tasteful clothes"). McKay makes for an amiable and chatty guide and he's obviously also something of a romantic, hence his expedition on a dismal day to the Thames estuary where he finds pleasure in "the poetry of bleakness". If I have any reservation it is that his numerous literary references made my own reading feel hopelessly inadequate. Lovely stuff.
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on 19 October 2014
Published in 2012, ‘Ramble On’ is an interesting book which charts the development of the popularity of walking for pleasure, from its working-class origins where cheap train travel offered escape and fresh air to the workers of the northern industrial cities during the weekend, through to the conflicts of private land owners to today’s financially rewarding ‘tourist’ and ‘day-tripper’ walks where just about anyone can soak up British heritage in exchange for ‘small payments and donations’. Walks influenced by literature and TV programmes: think of the Bronte’s and we have the delightful ‘theme park’ of Howarth to explore. McKay delves into the Kinder Scout trespass and the beginnings of organised rambling through the establishing of walking clubs. We also read of the development of the National Parks and the Long Distance Walks such as the South Downs Way and the Pennine Way etc; night walking, woodland legends, Youth Hostelling, ley lines and stone circles, the Grey Man of Ben Macdhui...
MacKay mixes a good measure of anger with his passion as all true walkers do (counting myself amongst the strange collection of oddities that enjoy the beauty of Britain by foot in all weather), for although a friendly and hardy bunch, sometimes drawn to the solitude and spiritual essence of the land, there is always a seething rage for any evidence of nature being mistreated and spoilt; for access denied to paths etc. In fact, it is people like MacKay and the adventurous ramblers who keep the arteries and byways of our land open for all to enjoy! Worth reading!
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on 12 December 2012
I think this is a fun book to read about rambling. With more of us walking for pleasure these days, it is good to stop and think about how others have given us opportunities to walk where we couldn't have done before.
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on 28 March 2014
The act of taking a stroll in the countryside is now a right that we take for granted, and this right has been fought for on the land and in the political arena for decades.

McKay takes us on a series of short walks, and whilst doing so he considers the political, social, and historical aspects of walking in the UK. We go from the Kinder Scout mass trespass, to urban walks in London, skirting the edge of Salisbury Plain and up to Rannoch Moor, one of the few wild places left in these isles. Some of the book is purely dedicated to the political struggle, and there are chapters on the clothing that walkers use, ley lines and night walking.

Over all it was a reasonable read. He has researched the book well, and there are plenty of facts and anecdotes and he seems to have covered most things that are walking and rambling related. What he does seem to be missing though is a chapter on maps. I know that there are lots of other books on maps out there, mostly because I have read a lot of them, but it would have made this more complete. Really a 3.5 star book, but I am feeling generous.
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on 20 April 2016
An interesting account of the history of walking as a leisure activity in Britain. It does get a little repetitive at times and could do with some sort of structure or narrative to hang things on but a very engaging read none the less.
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on 18 July 2013
It rambles on and on and on. I have been a rambler all my live thought I would enjoy this book but no,not for me.It just rambles
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on 7 October 2012
Sinclair McKay strikes such a non committed tone and provides, at times, such a random selection of barely relevant information and references, that despite the walks referred to in the book I get the feeling it was created off the top of his head while sat in a London wine bar for a few weeks.

Thank goodness I didn't buy it.
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