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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 May 2015
Not a travel guide, but rather more along the lines of "thoughts on the road" as the author treks from Dorset to the the Wash. It's a real page turner, though of course no-one's going to agree with everything; we get some rather snobbish remarks on the "tawdriness" of Dorchester and it's "ugly fascias" on South Street (Hugh, they're called shops, people buy things from them; not everyone makes their living from the media!) and apropos of not very much we get ten pages or so of his undergraduate days at Cambridge, where he comments that he was the Theatre Critic of a student magazine... but it was the UNOFFICIAL student magazine, which must be the lamest attempt at "street cred" imaginable!

But the saving grace is that throughout all of this he cares - this isn't some dry academic treatise, and, best of all, neither is it pretentious; at bottom, you feel he ENJOYED doing this.

Especially the pies.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 20 August 2012
Walking is (or at least was) a bit of national obsession in England - the after dinner walk, the Sunday walk in the sea air, the brisker pleasures of the Lakes, or moors and Downs. The last two books I have read reflect this passion.

The first - The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot - is a mediation on walking itself, while this book is a more conventional journey on foot along the Ikcnield Way. But the similarities do not end there: both books walk some of the same physical ground, both books refer to the poet Edward Thomas frequently and both are keenly interested in the way we (or our long gone ancestors) place ourselves in a landscape, and both are clearly written from a position of considerable knowledge and understanding.
But both books as also very different.

This book follows a slow and meandering journey along the whole length of the Ikcnield way from the Dorset coast to the edge of East Anglia - a walk through an English summer, spent under clear skies and dotted with Iron and Bronze age sites. The authors depth of knowledge of the archaeology of the Way shines through on almost every page - and the book is at its best when he is conjuring images from past. This is not to say that his observations of on the current state of England are poor. It's just that just that the modern sections tend towards accounts of people wearing funny hats and saying strange things.

These sections are well written and often funny, but they do feel conventional. This compares to the sections that are rooted in the past, where the author manages to summon a sense of place that locates the landscape both in the present and the past. The descriptions of the "tactical" location of hill forts is a great example of showing how people from long gone civilisations were capable planning in great sophistication - their technology may have been simple compared to ours, but their thinking was not.

In the end its the sophistication of old civilisations that populated the route of the Icknield Way that shines through this book.
While the book is basically a conventional account of journey many have taken before, it manages to be both informative, novel and entertaining.

Highly recommended.
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on 6 March 2017
Book arrived quickly. The seller described it as 'very good' condition - and it is! Too often I have received battered paperbacks from other sellers, but this really is almost perfect. I have not yet finished the book, however it is (thus far) well written and interesting. If you like Robert MacFarlane, try this...
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on 6 May 2017
Speedy delivery and top quality product. What more can I say. Would definitely use again. Packaging was very good indeed.
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on 26 June 2012
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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on 16 May 2017
Do like the genre!
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on 20 June 2017
Perfect
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on 25 November 2013
A very well written book, highly engaging and full of unexpected historical insights as well as personal anecdotes. It makes you realise that some familiar landscapes can have a history as colourful and fascinating as more exotic, far flung locations. What's more, many of the evidence is still there to see and experience.
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on 26 June 2012
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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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".
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