On this day hunting foxes is banned in Britain, and the wildest places in this beautiful land are more available than ever to the hiker and explorer. No longer will ramblers be startled by a phalanx of hunters on horseback as they enjoy the secrets revealed in “Wild Britain”. And maybe the hunters themselves will now have the time to appreciate the landscape rather than careering after small animals.
Paradoxically, many of Britain’s wildest and most beautiful places remain unspoilt because they have been “hunting grounds, royal chase, grouse moor and deer forest of the landed aristocracy,” says author Douglas Botting. The book is both a personal travelogue and guide to wilderness through the country – from tiny places such as the bird rock of Handa – one mile long by half a mile wide — to the Cairngorms, which cover 160 square miles of Scottish wilderness.
Each chapter is divided into exploration zones, introduced by the author’s own experiences, and followed by a fact pack which gives practical information on how to get there and what to do once you are there. These sections include maps, web sites, e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Areas are rated according to how wild they are. The book, part of a series on the wild places of Europe, is very strong on safety tips and detailed local information. The Lake District, for example, apears safe, but in fact has the most fatalities in the UK because of varable weather.
The book opens in the bottom left hand corner of the UK – where the Irish writer Brendan Lehane spent a summer living completely off-grid in a remote wooded valley with nothing but “a goat, a few hens, a sack of oats, a hammer, an axe, a bucket, and two mugs……….” It is the combination of personal experience plus a commitment to good writing that make these guides unique and valuable.
Lowland England has taken the worst bashing from developers. The Peak District marks the beginning of upland Britain, which remains the stronghold of the British wilds, leading up through the lake District to enchanted places like the Solway Coast. But the wildest places in the UK are furthest north – the Scottish highlands and islands . And this book is an essential companion to these regions which are under-served by other guidebooks – and just as well or they would have been tamed years ago.
Escape to Wild Britain by Douglas Botting – Sheldrake Press£12.50 .