Whilst we currently find ourselves with perhaps a little more time on our hands, we’ll be sharing our top picks – books, films, podcasts, records – in the hope that we can bring some entertainment, joy and points of conversation. Here in the first of our Rohan Recommends series, we list our Favourite Walking Books, though we’d love to hear your recommendations too, so do tweet us @rohantime or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. The Old Ways – Robert Macfarlane @RobGMacfarlane
As part of a series about the landscape (Mountains of the Mind and The Wild Places are the others), Macfarlane conjures up ancient tracks, drove roads and sea paths that twist across Britain. Thoughtful and poetic – it will transport you to familiar and unfamiliar parts of the UK – without having to put your boots on – handy right now!
2. A Walk in the Woods – Bill Bryson @InterestingFol1
A book that can be read over and over and still make you smile. This is a tale of Bryson and his mate Katz attempting the Appalachian Trail. A 2200-mile route that has been frightening sensible people for three hundred years. Facing savage weather, merciless insects, unreliable maps and a fickle companion whose profoundest wish was to go to a motel and watch The X-Files, Bryson gamely struggled through the wilderness to achieve a lifetime's ambition - not to die outdoors.
4. Kinder Scout - The People’s Mountain – Ed Douglas @calmandfearless & John Beatty
In 1951 The Peak District was designated the UK’s first National Park. It’s home to Kinder Scout and this is the story of the mountain. Douglas takes us through the local history of the mountain from a visit by Queen Victoria to the Kinder Trespass, a mass demonstration by 500 people in 1932 to secure access rights to open Countryside from wealthy landowners. The book is brilliantly illustrated with images from John Beatty, an award-winning photographer who reminds us readers that Kinder Scout is always changing from gentle walking country in summer, to treacherous white outs in winter.
5. The Living Mountain – Nan Shepherd
The Robert Macfarlane quote on the book sums it up nicely: “Most works of mountain literature are written by men, and most of them focus on the goal of the summit. Nan Shepherd’s aimless, sensual exploration of the Cairngorms is bracingly different. ”Remarkably, The Living Mountain was written towards the end of WW2 and lay unpublished for 30 years. Nan (Anna) Shepherd was born near Aberdeen in 1893 and died there in 1983. She is a true inspiration for local discovery.
6. Map Addict – Mike Parker @mikeparkerwales
A brilliant geeky read by Radio Four contributor Mike Parker who, as the title suggests, revels in every quirky detail to be found in any number of maps. A potted history of cartography this is not. It is however an amusing romp through quirky map facts. Map Addict visits the most boring map square according to Ordnance Survey and spend the Summer Solstice in Milton Keynes to test the theory that the city was built to a pagan alignment!
7. Wanderlust: A history of walking – Rebecca Solnit
The first general history of walking, Solnit’s book finds a profound relationship between walking and thinking, walking and culture, and argues for the necessity of preserving the time and space to walk in a world increasingly dependent on speed. Featuring some of the most famous walkers in history and fiction – from Wordsworth to Gary Snyder, from Rousseau to Argentina’s Mother of the Plaza de Mayo, from Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet to Andre Breton’s Nadja – Wanderlust offers a deep view of the physicality, imagination and world that surrounds the walker.
8. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
A sweet and uplifting fictional tale of a man on ‘an unlikely pilgrimage’ which saw Rachel Joyce pick up the National Book Award for best New Writer of The Year, 2012. Harold Fry, newly retired and getting on his wife’s nerves, pops out to post a letter to a lady he hasn’t seen for over 20 years. A chance encounter convinces Harold he should deliver the letter by hand – some 600 miles away. He has no map, boots and not even a Rohan jacket or mobile phone, just a compulsion to walk to save someone’s life.
9. A Coast to Coast Walk - Alfred Wainwright
OK, so we had to include a classic from the granddaddy of walking books. Passing through three national parks, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk details the trail from St Bees Head to Robin Hood’s Bay, a length of 190 miles, from one side of England to the other.
10. The January Man: A Year of Walking in Britain – Christopher Somerville @somerville_c
With the lightest of touches, Christopher Somerville conjures up the landscapes and seasons of the UK. Inspired by the song ‘January Man’ by Dave Goulder, he sets out on a year of walks. Following the loss of his father, he also attempts to gain a better understanding of his father, a man he shared a love of walking with, but who was closed off in many ways to him after the experiences of WW2 and a career at GCHQ.