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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert…
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot

by Robert Macfarlane

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9813713,915 (3.97)112
"In this exquisitely written book, Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge, England, home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove roads, and sea paths that crisscross both the British landscape and its waters and territories beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, and of pilgrimage and ritual. Told in Macfarlane's distinctive voice, 'The Old Ways' folds together natural history, cartography, geology, archaeology and literature. His walks take him from the chalk downs of England to the bird islands of the Scottish northwest, from Palestine to the sacred landscapes of Spain and the Himalayas. Along the way he crosses paths with walkers of many kinds--wanderers, pilgrims, guides, and artists. Above all this is a book about walking as a journey inward and the subtle ways we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move. Macfarlane discovers that paths offer not just a means of traversing space, but of feeling, knowing, and thinking."--Publisher description.… (more)
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English (34)  Dutch (2)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
A worthless book. I should have known when I read on the back that it was recommended by Philip Pullman. The author strains to be thought a scholar, a philosopher and a master of prose style, but seems to be only a dilletante, a fashionable pessimist and a writer of portentous but vacuous obscurities. I doubt I will keep the book, but I may leave it here for the sake of my opinion.
  cstebbins | Jan 26, 2020 |
I had to use some self discipline to slow myself down enough to really take in this lovely book but the payoff for the effort was high. The essays are beautiful and evocative. ( )
  Iudita | Dec 28, 2019 |
This will be re-read and become one of my favorite books. I have no doubt. ( )
  laerm | Aug 8, 2019 |
This is a book about walking and thinking on very old man- and animal- made paths. Although there is a glossary at the end of the book, I recommend reading it with a connection to google maps and images close by. Looking up the paintings and sculptures of artists mentioned in the book enhanced the reading experience as did looking up places I was not familiar with. This was a 5 star book for me up until the middle. I began to feel that his descriptions and thoughts on the walks in the third quarter of the book became a little repetitive. It became more interesting to me in the last sections where he goes deeper into the life of the British poet and walker Edward Thomas who is the inspiration for many of the "old ways" MacFarland has taken in the book. ( )
  KarenJH | Feb 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
This book is as perfect as his now classic Wild Places. Maybe it is even better than that. Either way, in Macfarlane, British travel writing has a formidable new champion.
 
Macfarlane writes superbly. He sustains admiration from first to last, in spite of doubts about the book's structure and overall purpose.
 
The core of the work consists of half-a-dozen specific walks in different parts of the world, often physically very demanding, remembered in intense detail and often exquisitely described. It is overhung, though, by the intermittent presence of a spectral walker from the past – the poet Edward Thomas, who was killed in the First World War and who was perhaps the inspiration of the most famous of all walk-poems, Robert Frost’s The Road not Taken.
added by geocroc | editThe Telegraph, Jan Morris (Jun 6, 2012)
 
One senses Macfarlane trying to keep all his subjects in balance: he is writing about Thomas, about himself, about himself tracking Thomas, about paths in general and in particular. At times there are too many points of focus. But this is a spacious and inclusive book, which allows for many shifts in emphasis, and which, like the best paths, is always different when you go back to look at it again.
 

Was inspired by

The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin

Metaphors We Live By by George Lakoff

A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Wanderlust; a History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

Sea Room: An Island Life in the Hebrides by Adam Nicolson

Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache by Keith H. Basso

Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape by Barry Lopez

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage by Tim Robinson

Palestinian Walks: Forays into a Vanishing Landscape by Raja Shehadeh

Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas by Matthew Hollis

Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples, 8000 BC-AD 1500 by Barry Cunliffe

The Idea of North by Peter Davidson

Lines: A Brief History by Tim Ingold

The Annotated Collected Poems by Edward Thomas

The South Country by Edward Thomas

The Drove Roads of Scotland by A. R. B. Haldane

In Pursuit of Spring by Edward Thomas

Under Storm's Wing by Helen Thomas

Eric Ravilious: Imagined Realities by Alan Powers

The Vintage Book of Walking: A Glorious, Funny and Indispensable Collection by Duncan Minshull

Edward Thomas: The Last Four Years by Eleanor Farjeon

The Icknield Way by Edward Thomas

Saints, Seaways, and Settlements in the Celtic Lands by Emrys George Bowen

Shadow Sites: Photography, Archaeology, and the British Landscape 1927-1951 (Oxford Historical Monographs) by Kitty Hauser

The Pocket Book of Poems and Songs for the Open Air by Edward Thomas

Togail Tir, Marking Time: Map of the Western Isles by Finlay MacLeod

Distance and Proximity by Thomas A. Clark

The Childhood of Edward Thomas by Edward Thomas

Ravilious at War - The complete work of Eric Ravilious, September 1939-September 1942 by Eric William Ravilious

Landings by Richard Skelton

Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews by Ben Tufnell

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Epigraph
Much has been written of travel, far less of the road.
Edward Thomas, The Icknield Way (1913)
My eyes were in my feet...
Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain (1977)
Dedication
For Julia, Lily and Tom,
and those who keep the paths open
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Two days short of the winter solstice; the turn of the year's tide.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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