Tag Archives: book

Life Cycles by Julian Sayarer

A decent read- Life Cycles by Julian Sayarer

Working in London, I have a number of encounters with London’s bike couriers. Very occasionally I may be moving through our reception when one of their number is dropping something off. More frequently it is skipping out of their way as they purposefully carry straight on through a red light. Such are the streets of this country’s capital.

However, a few years ago, I was pleased to attend a talk to hear of a cycle courier with quite a story, and one well worth hearing. In 2009, Julian Sayarer set off to cycle round the World. He completed 18,049 miles in 169 days, a record at the time. Life Cycles is his account of, as the author puts it- ‘a roadside view of the world and its people, by bicycle‘. I found his book to be an interesting encounter with a young man struggling to find and place himself. His thoughts move at a similar pace to his wheels. Forgive him his naivety as an author, and an angry man’s railing against what he perceives as wrong, at that stage in his life. This book is an everyday man’s account of determination, grittiness and ‘can-do’ attitude, that lacks the polish and refinement of many a well sponsored alternative account. It is all the better for it. Yes, Julian had a young man’s pre-formed prejudices that shaped his motivation, journey and subsequent account, as do we all. The secret is to grow, form and develop as an individual, this account is part journey round the World, and part author maturing.

Julian Sayarer, on the road

Julian Sayarer, on the road

Julian joined me for a beer or two after his talk. We chatted about aspects of his adventures and we shared with each other some of our respective future plans. I looked forward to hearing of his account of courier work, which is recounted in his follow-up book Messengers. However I was more intrigued by his wish to hitch hike across his beloved USA. That 2013 adventure was written about in his book Interstate, that won the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. As to my future Long Walk, he was kind enough to annotate my copy of Life Cycles…

Scan-9_edited-1

Life Cycles, Julian Sayarer. John Blake Publishing. Paperback edition 2014. ISBN 978 1 78219 903 8

Mark Wallington's account of a 1980s walk round, what was then, Britain's longest coastal footpath- 'from Somerset to Devon, from Cornwall to Dorset'

A decent read- 500 Mile Walkies by Mark Wallington

“Was I searching for the Man Within, the Real Me, was spiritual development my goal? Nah, I couldn’t convince myself, and in the end the best reason I could come up with was that I thought I might impress this girl I’d met at a party before Christmas”

Three Points of the Compass is not a particularly doggy type chap, nor is this book particularly well written. It is no ‘how to’ guide and you will gain little, if any, insight into what is now part of the South West Coast Path. What 500 Mile Walkies is, is a diverting, humorous, affectionate and self-deprecating account of Mark’s walk with possibly the worst, and best, canine companion it is possible to borrow from a friend relieved to be shot of his pet for a few weeks.

At first glance 500 Mile Walkies may seem a little ephemeral and lacking in observational muscle, however the author had a perceptive eye for what mattered most and makes light of what must have, at times, been a demanding walk. An enjoyable read.

500 mile walkies, Wallington

500 Mile Walkies, Mark Wallington, First published by Hutchinson 1986, my edition published by Arrow 1987. ISBN 0 09 952390 6

Two Degrees West, an English Journey by Nicholas Crane

A decent read- Two Degrees West, an English Journey by Nicholas Crane

On a mid-August morning, Nicholas Crane set off on his self-devised adventure. To walk two degrees west of the Meridian, from one end of England to the other, from the North Sea by Berwick-upon-Sea, to the Isle of Purbeck on the English Channel, and why not.

The author gave himself some leeway, he permitted himself to stray up to a 1000 metres each side of his line, between grid lines 99 and 01 on the Ordnance Survey maps that he cut and pasted together, giving him a strip route, 577.96 kilometre long, on thirty-six separate maps, folded and slipped into his trouser pocket. For all his two kilometre wide limit, the book wanders far wider, giving snippets of history and social context, though often, not quite enough.

He carried his belongings in a pack and, armed with an umbrella, sallied forth. Sleeping where he can, be-it ditches, woods or beneath motorways, he meets and engages with a hotchpotch of characters and commits to his self imposed parameters with determination. This man knows how to create an adventure, how to carry it out, and, most importantly, how to write about it.

Two Degrees West is a captivating book. It is an England and its people that few bother to go and explore and meet. If ever you want a book to inspire you to look for your own adventure, then this may do the job.

Two Degrees West- Constrained by his self-imposed line of longitude, Nicholas Crane prepares for a crossing of the River Tyne

Two Degrees West- Constrained by his self-imposed line of longitude, Nicholas Crane prepares for a crossing of the River Tyne

Two Degrees West, an English Journey. Nicholas Crane, First published 1999. This edition 2000, Penguin Books

Sorting through the trip piles

Still sorting out…

Have you noticed how maps, guides, books and notes can begin to accumulate into little, and not so little, piles of ‘important planning resources’ over time.

My attempt at sorting out some of those piles has continued into a second day. Once Mrs Three Points of the Compass is happy with how much the accumulated ‘stuff’ has been reduced and sorted, I’ll try and get round to a post or two on a couple of these little adventures. One from earlier in the year, one still to come.

The New Naturalists books make excellent reading. Especially when loaded onto an e reader if visiting an area

A library- leafing through the pages…

Three Points of the Compass encourages anyone who hikes or ventures into the countryside to not only look around and take notice of the surroundings, but to seek answers to questions. Buy a book, a Field Guide, try and remember a new name each trip out, each season, every year

Three Points of the Compass encourages anyone who hikes or ventures into the countryside to not only look around and take notice of the surroundings, but to seek answers to questions. Buy a book, a history, Field Guide, reference work, try and remember a new name and identification each trip out, each season, every year

Over the past few weeks Three Points of the Compass has been pulling a few books off his shelves to share with you. Every single one has given me pleasure, been of interest, has answered questions, acted as occasional expert reference or frustrated me in my ignorance.

I have featured 178 books with another 83 complimentary volumes also illustrated and touched upon. All have been purchased by me or have been gifts from family or friends. In a lot of cases there have been subsequent and possibly glossier editions, some I have purchased, others I have not. Usually it is the edition that has resonated with me most that I have shown on these pages.

Books can be expensive. However if something is of even passing interest, there is usually a cheap little volume available from someone who knows their subject, available and knows how to put it across. The online sites such as eBay and Amazon can turn up well priced second hand books at reasonable prices

Books can be expensive. However if something is of even passing interest, there is usually a cheap little volume available from someone who knows their subject and knows how to put it across. None of the small books above cost me more than a couple of quid and all of them answered a question. Online sites such as eBay and Amazon can turn up well priced second hand books in good readable condition. But do your research first, there is a lot of dross out there

I love books, much to the frustration of Mrs Three Points of the Compass (who happily neglects to mention her own fine collection of fiction). E-versions are often available and I have no problem with that. Like many others, I like the solid feel of a book, find flicking through the pages not only an ascetic pleasure but usually more convenient. However I well recognise the value of actually having a book with you instead of at home on the shelves. That is why I have also shown five e-books in these blogs. Books that, with others not shown here, have accompanied me on my walks and travels at no more than the weight of the e-reader itself.

Though I well remember that sickening feeling when I leant back on my backpack at a rest stop on the fells once, and heard a loud crack from within the pack’s depths. Sure enough, when the Kindle was pulled from the pack later, a series of cracks crazed the face. I now use my android phone instead and the replacement, and now apparently obsolete, Kindle ‘Classic’ escorts me on family holidays.

New Naturalists have been published since 1945 covering a wide range of British Natural History subjects. There have been cheaper editions published of many of these, eschewing the lovely dust jackets artwork and replacing any original colour plates with black and white

New Naturalists have been published since 1945 covering a wide range of British Natural History subjects. There have been cheaper editions (three shown on the lower row here) published of many of these, eschewing the lovely dust jackets artwork (above) and replacing any original colour plates with black and white

So, to finish- buy books. Read them, learn from them. Fill your shelves with them. A good guide can only make your time in the wild more enjoyable and fulfilling. A little knowledge fills the voids and with luck, will make you ask further questions, that all need answering. Now where’s that book…

... and along with a book comes the associated paraphernalia. Who can read any book about bats without wanting a bat detector too!

… and along with a book comes the associated paraphernalia. Who can read any book about bats without wanting a bat detector too!

Books in featured image:

Brecon Beacons, Jonathan Mullard. William Collins, 2014. Source ISBN 978 0007 3677 02, Ebook edition- ISBN 978 0007 5312 57

Yorkshire Dales, John Lee. William Collins, 2015, Source ISBN 978 0007503698, Ebook edition- ISBN 978 0007 5037 11

 

 

Journey through Britain by John Hillaby

A library for those who hike in the shadow of giants…

Journey through Britain

John Hillaby

Shouldn’t everyone have two copies of their favourite book? Perhaps an e-copy as well as the physical one kept lovingly on the bookshelf, or one to be kept pristine and the other battered, well-travelled, thumbed copy? Of course they should.

Anyone who has read the opening page of Three Points of the Compass will know where I am coming from with my choice of John Hillaby’s Journey through Britain as a book for a library for those who hike in the shadow of giants.

Journey through Britain records John Hillaby's spring walk the length of Britain from Land's End to John O'Groats. Journey through Europe was his account of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Nice via the Alps. These are the best accounts of his walks

Journey through Britain records John Hillaby’s spring walk the length of Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Journey through Europe was his account of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Nice via the Alps. These are the best accounts of his walks

His Journey through Britain book, published in 1968, appeared as A Walk through Britain in the U.S. for some reason. A similar re-titling occurred with Journey through Europe. John Hillaby, 1917-1996, wrote and edited a number of books but it his ‘Journey’ volumes that resonate with Three Points of the Compass most for a number of reasons. Not only have they pushed forward my own ambition to cross my country on foot, but they also revealed to a young man the necessity of being aware of my surroundings. The author encouraged my burgeoning interest in natural history and his books were probably what first made me aware of an ecology; the joined-up’ness and inter-dependence of the natural world. And not least, I enjoy his writing. I could identify with the author’s empathy for his subjects. He is, was, unafraid to reveal his shortcomings and mistakes and looked for answers, often finding it in the history of cultural and social history, mixed up with a laudable appreciation and understanding of botany, entomology and natural history in general. Much of this obviously stemmed from his earlier career as a journalist, becoming zoological correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, later, European science writer for The New York Times and in 1953, biological correspondent for the New Scientist.

A Journey through Britain- the beginning

A Journey through Britain- the beginning

Journey to the Jade Sea– is an account of a thousand mile walk from Northern Kenya to the Jade Sea, accompanied by his retinue of camels and hired bearers.

Journey through Britain– was a ‘considered impulse’ walk the length of Britain attempting to experience the minimum of metalled roads between.

Journey through Europe– a trek through Europe elaborating on the people as much as the natural history

Journey through Love– is a difficult book, wonderful accounts of walks are included, but it is also the story of a man suffering inner turmoil and grief

Journey Home– across England from Ravenglass in Cumbria via the Lakes and Swaledale and indirectly to London

Journey to the Gods– his journey from Athens to Mount Olympus via the Pindus mountains

The 'Journey' series of books from John Hillaby can still be picked up in acceptable paperback form very cheaply

The ‘Journey’ series of books from John Hillaby can still be picked up in acceptable paperback form very cheaply

Anyone who has walked, alone, for many miles, for many days on a hike knows that any romantic image it can be cracked up to be is often far from the truth. It can be dirty, difficult and, frankly, unchanging for mile after mile. It is then that the ability to distance one self from boredom and doubt is most required. John Hillaby was estimated to have walked the equivalent distance of five times the circumference of the globe and his books, especially Journey through Britain, are each an instruction manual on how an inquisitive mind should be both encouraged and drawn upon. In his obituary in The Times on Monday 21 October 1996, a pearl from Hillaby is recorded-

“the naturalist is able to put a great deal between what he sees and that portion of his mind where boredom lurks”

We would do well to learn from this.

Two further volumes from John Hillaby, neither of which enjoyed large sales yet make good reading. within the streams was the author's first published volume and is the story of a fisherman, people of the river and a byegone age. John Hillaby's London was his publishers suggeston, that stymied the author's ambitious wishes to return to far off lands or explore new ones, but instead gave us an excellently researched and personal guide to a London experienced by few

Two further volumes from John Hillaby, neither of which enjoyed large sales yet make good reading. within the streams was the author’s first published volume and is the story of a fisherman, people of the river and a bygone age. John Hillaby’s London was his publishers suggestion, that stymied the author’s ambitious wishes to return to far off lands or explore new ones, but instead gave us an excellently researched and personal guide to a London experienced by few

In the early 1970s, mourning the loss of his second wife, Thelma ('Tilly'), John Hillaby walked the northern section of the Appalachian Trail. Here, he is shown on his final day on the trail. This walk was recounted in his book Journey through Love

In the early 1970s, mourning the loss of his second wife Thelma (‘Tilly’), John Hillaby walked the northern section of the Appalachian Trail. Here, he is shown on his final day on the trail. This walk was recounted in his book Journey through Love

 

 

Book in featured image:

Journey through Britain, John Hillaby. Constable, 1968. ISBN 0 09 455780 2, Hardback

Journey through Britain, John Hillaby. Paladin Grafton Books, 1986. ISBN 0 586 08019 8, Softback

The Cerne Giant

A library for geologists…

 

Lost Gods of Albion

Paul Newman

Yes, you are correct, that is a picture of a man that seems to be very pleased to see you. And he has been that way for a very long time, since 1694 at least.

Some may wonder why I include a book on chalk hill figures in a blog about books on geology, but it is due to that very geology, and man’s interaction with it, that such wonderful artefacts exist. People have identified a hill, an aspect, its underlying soil and used these to tell a story, to advertise a fact or possibly just to show off.

Regimental Badges at Fovant, Wiltshire. Cut into the grass by soldiers stationed in the district during the 1914-18 war. In 1951 the badge of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was added

Regimental Badges at Fovant, Wiltshire. Cut into the grass by soldiers stationed in the district during the 1914-18 war. In 1951 the badge of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was added

Almost exclusively peculiar to England, the majority of chalk hill figures are of horses with some lovely exceptions, which include crosses, the 180 feet (55m) high Cerne Giant shown on the cover of the book above and even a Panda.

Lost Gods of Albion only looks a few of the hill figures to be found and virtually ignores anything modern, preferring to concentrate on any perceived spirituality associated with some chalk hill figures. It does make interesting reading though.

The 231 feet (70m) Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex was passed by Three Points of the Compass on the Wealdway. Still just visible in the light snow

The 231 feet (70m) Long Man of Wilmington, East Sussex was passed by Three Points of the Compass on the Wealdway. Still just visible in the light snow on the hill, the hill figure is designed so as to appear proportional when viewed from below . It dates from the 16th or 17th century.

This little book from Kate Bergamar is an early Shire Publication from 1972. I don't think I bought it as a niper, it was much more likely to have been one of my parents. It went some way to explaining the hill figures we would see from the car on holidays. A number of errors are present in its text though

This little book from Kate Bergamar is an early Shire Publication from 1972. I don’t think I bought it as a nipper, it was much more likely to have been one of my parents. It went some way to explaining the hill figures we would see from the car on holidays. A number of errors are present in the text though

Reaching Ivinghoe Beacon on my final day on the Ridgeway, over my right shoulder could be seen the huge figure of the Whipsnade White Lion

Reaching Ivinghoe Beacon on my final day on the Ridgeway, over my right shoulder could be seen the huge figure of the Whipsnade White Lion. It measures 483 feet (147m) across

I defy anyone, when striding across the chalk hills of England, if presented with one of the fifty plus chalk hill figures to be found, to not stand and give it more than a casual glance. And while you do admire it, consider that you are seeing the product of show-offs, an earlier people that had something to say and they stood on their hill and cut the turf to do so, using the very geology of their land to shout their message across to you.

Just about the worst place to see a chalk-hill figure is standing next to it. Three Points of the Compass passed the top of Uffington Horse, cut into White Horse Hill, on the Ridgeway in 2016

Just about the worst place to see a chalk-hill figure is standing next to it, even when it measures 360 feet (110m) nose to tail. Three Points of the Compass passed the top of Uffington Horse, cut into White Horse Hill, on the Ridgeway in 2016. However you can see how those who constructed it, over 3000 years ago, looked out at their vista and said- ‘this is the place’

Another two books to consider are White Horses and other Hill Figures by Morris Marples, or Ancient British Hill Figures by Rodney Castleden

Another two books to consider are the 1991 second edition reprint of the definitive White Horses and other Hill Figures by Morris Marples, or Ancient British Hill Figures by Rodney Castleden, published in 2000, which concentrates on the older chalk figures

Book in featured image:

Lost Gods of Albion, the chalk-hill figures of Britain, Paul Newman. Robert Hale, 1997. ISBN 0 7509 1563 3

If you want to look for a cheaper option than Lost Gods of Albion, then Gods and Graven Images was simply an earlier (1987) version of the book by the same author

If you want to look for a cheaper option than Lost Gods of Albion, then Gods and Graven Images was simply an earlier (1987) version of the book by the same author