Robert Macfarlane

Award-winning author Robert Macfarlane follows-up his highly successful 'Mountains of the Mind' with new book 'The Wild Places'.

 

I wanted to write a book that was as strange and exciting to read as those wild places were to move through.

Robert on The Wild Places

What makes a wild place wild?

Somewhere that reminds us of a world beyond the human. Wind is wild, night is wild, snowfall is wild. But so is a London railway cutting – thick with self-seeded sycamore, elder, bracken...

Why should we care about them?

They're a reminder that the world need not be wholly humanised. Wallace Stegner brilliantly put it, wild places comprise "a geography of hope".

Almost all conservationists trace their passion for the land back to a primary experience of some kind.

Robert on the influence of wild nature

Of the places in your book, which do you think about most?

Swimming at night in a bioluminescent Irish Sea. Every stroke provoked a burst of colour – lilac, magenta and tangerine.

Or a long winter's night on the summit of Ben Hope, raked by snow showers and moonlight.

The Inuit word, ilira, suggests the mixture of fear and awe that landscape can provoke. Both these places were iliric, if I can coin that adjective.

Outside Britain where are your favourite wild places?

The Canadian north-west's true boreal forest wilderness. But the flies, the flies...

Do we undervalue Britain's wildernesses?

Undoubtedly. A boom-culture of promiscuous flying has sent us abroad in search of wild landscapes – blinding us to the local, the nearby.

That said, I think change is underway brought about by climate anxieties, in part.

There are no lands less well known to the British people than those self-same British islands.

Robert quoting Victorian travel-writer George Borrow

What do you see as the greatest threats to wild places?

The large-scale neglect of climate change, which will leave no inch or acre of the world untainted by human activity.

What should we do to protect them?

I'm interested in conservation and the 'wilding' movement afoot in British culture. Following the Dutch example, efforts are underway to create wild areas.

Wild areas will allow nature to range more freely and develop more dynamically.

Robert on encouraging our wild side

Would you encourage others to go to the wild?

Aldo Leopold wrote we "caress our most precious landscapes to death". It's a difficult one, but I'd like to see as many people as possible walking, climbing and exploring.

The transformative power of contact with wild nature has been proved in study after study.

Robert on contact with nature

How would you describe your book?

A book that celebrates, wanders and wonders, but also warns. More in the North American tradition of writing, which mixes science, travelogue, cultural history and ethics.