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on 6 December 2017
Lovely book ,beautifully written
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on 7 January 2018
excellent item and service from KATE H -Order no 204-296013-8353124 C Stolton
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 26 August 2016
I have been gradually working my way through Robert Macfarlane’s books, Mountains Of The Mind, Wild Places and now The Old Ways and Macfarlane’s blend of poetic prose, researched historical fact and personal anecdote has become more and more impressive with each read and defines a writing style and approach that sets Macfarlane apart from virtually any other modern author that I can recall. The focus in The Old Ways is on the ancient 'pathways’ (whether on land or sea(bed)) used by nature (humans and other living things) for navigation purposes and Macfarlane’s mine of truly remarkable historical information and folklore never ceases to amaze, alongside the author’s uncanny ability to relate the physical to the philosophical and spiritual. Particular highlights for me are the anecdotes covering Macfarlane’s experiences on the Outer Hebrides (specifically those relating to local 'celebrity’ Finlay MacLeod) and those with his Palestinian friend in Ramallah. Macfarlane also demonstrates his ability to dramatise (‘fiction-like’) in a moving way the last days of poet Edward Thomas (who is otherwise referenced throughout The Old Ways). Macfarlane’s focus on 'getting back to nature’ in these days of technological trivia cluttering up, well, seemingly everything, is to be celebrated wholeheartedly.
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on 16 September 2017
The particular journeys described are interesting in their own right but the reason I rated this book so highly is the quality of the writing: the vocabulary and the turns of phrase. The overall message that places both shape and are shaped by the people who pass across them is persuasive. Reading The Old Ways is educative as well as enjoyable.
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on 26 December 2016
In The Old Ways, Dr Macfarlane praises the tracks, sea-roads and forgotten paths which traverse collective memory. Infused with literary allusions, humour and a gentle sense of melancholy, this admirable work disregards romantic nations and clichés about the countryside, and sets out, with stout stick in hand, to tell the stories of the past that linger on in the lives and lines of memory which still score our landscape.

You might consider buying a pair of walking boots, too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 13 September 2013
... as with campsites, there are so many roads still left to be taken, and so little time. Richard Macfarland has written a rich, evocative paean to the pleasures of travel at the optimum speed for savoring the world around us; the sub-title proclaims the method - on foot (though a slow boat does also make its appearances). For me, the book "worked" on many different levels. There is the plain "goad" to get out on the trail, and there are so many that he describes. There was the sheer enjoyment of experiencing Macfarland's remarkable erudition. To read can be to learn, and in this book there was so much that is new, exciting and unknown to me... another "goad," an intellectual one. And even for a native English speaker... or more properly, as my British "cousins" would remind me, American speaker, an Oxford Dictionary is an appropriate accompaniment so that the reader can look up the meaning of so many of the technical terms of geology, botany, nautical, et al., that Macfarland uses with confidence. History, literature and philosophy are also woven into the author's musing while walking. He quotes from Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions (Oxford World's Classics): "I can only meditate when I am walking, when I stop I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs." And then there are those essential but unlikely connections humans make among themselves, and are the wiser for it.

Macfarland groups his walks into four major sections, located in England, Scotland, "Abroad" and finishing with England again. He commences with a walk in the snow, near the time of the winter solstice, from his home in Cambridge. The reader is soon introduced to Edward Thomas, who wrote The Icknield Way in 1913. Macfarland takes part of the Icknield, which extends from Norfolk to Wiltshire, on the south coast. It is an area of chalk, and the path is one of England's oldest roads. He then takes what is billed as "deadliest" path in Britain: the Broomway, which crosses a tidal estuary in East Anglia. The author says that the trail is a "halfway house" between the land and the sea, a fitting introduction to his boat trips in Scotland, mainly near the Outer Hebrides. There are "paths" in the ocean that have been used for millennium, and he encourages the reader to conceptualize looking at a "negative" of the normal map of Europe; it is the edge(s) from northern Scotland all the way to Spain that had more in common with each other than they did with the inhabitants only 30 km inland. The Atlantic "country." He "illuminated" for me the rituals and traditions involved with the hunting of gannets on a "speck" of an island to the north of the Hebrides, Sula Sgeir.

Macfarland's three "abroad" trips are varied, and impressive. Concerning the unlikely connections in life, he knows Raja Shehadeh, author of Palestinian Walks: Forays Into a Vanishing Landscape, a book I read (and reviewed) four years ago. Macfarland visits Shehadeh, who is an excellent guide to walking those ancient hills, and the trials and tribulations that hikers in many countries do not experience. The second hike is in Spain, a portion of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, coming from Madrid over the Guadarrama mountains into Segovia. And the third hike is in Western Tibet, near the mountain sacred to the Buddhists, the triangular Minya Konka.

Back in England, Macfarland discusses the life of the painter Ravilious, as well as his walking habits. Then he returns for a deeper look at Edward Thomas: "Thomas sensed early that one of modernity's most distinctive tensions would be between mobility and displacement on the one hand, and dwelling and belonging on the other- with the former becoming ubiquitous and the latter becoming lost (if ever it had been possible) and reconfigured as nostalgia... It is hard to make anything like a truce between these two incompatible desires." I was fascinated by the author's descriptions of a friendship between Thomas and Robert Frost, with the latter visiting him on occasions. Frost sent him a draft of "The Road Not Taken" which may have been inspired by Thomas' actions. At the age of 36, with a family, Thomas enlisted, and was killed in the Battle of Arras in the spring of 1917. I couldn't help think of the line from the movie Doctor Zhivago [1965] [DVD], uttered at the commencement of World War I, by his half-brother, Yevgraf: "Happy men don't enlist."

Macfarlane peppers his work with numerous bon-mots. Consider, as a symbol of hospitality and friendship: "A self-replenishing tumbler of gin." There is also a wonderful bibliography worth exploring. Neither Frost nor Macfarland raised the issue that, if the mortar round doesn't get you, you might live long enough to double back, and take the road that you missed the first time around. For Macfarlane's wonderful account and inspiration, 6-stars.
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on 1 November 2016
A beautifully written book in which the author describes following the ancient tracks, roads and pathways of land and sea. He makes full use of all his senses as he paints a picture that depicts the richness and strangeness of these places. This is truly a wonderful book - the best book I have read in many years.
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on 30 November 2016
This book held my attention all the way through & I was impressed with the author's use & obvious love for language. This is the first of Robert McFarlane's books that I've read. It it won't be the last -he is a 'word smith'!
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on 25 June 2017
Enthralling. It made me want to put on my boots and pick up my rucksack Immediately
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on 12 May 2017
A book that was full of detail and thought provoking themes thank you.
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