02/07/2024
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Across a Waking Land

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  • Across a Waking Land: A 1,000-Mile Walk Through a British Spring by Roger Morgan-Grenville (Icon Books Ltd, 2023).
  • 368 pages.
  • ISBN: 9781785789762, Hbk, £18.99.

In this, his seventh book, West Sussex-based author and campaigner Roger Morgan-Grenville diarises a collection of vignettes of hope and conservation optimism gathered from a 970-mile walk across England and Scotland.

Setting out from Lymington on the Hampshire coast, Roger explains that his vision was to progress north to Cape Wrath Lighthouse in Scotland at a pace of 20 miles per day, mirroring the rate of oak-leaf emergence as spring makes its way gradually northwards across the country. As well as being a fantastic way to experience the birth of a British springtime there was also a purpose to the walk, as the author raised £17,000 for Curlew Action, the charity he co-founded with Mary Colwell and others to help boost the fortunes of this iconic but rapidly declining wader. 

Over the course of 57 days, he encounters all manner of interesting folk, many of whom are dedicating their lives to improving their natural surroundings in whatever way they can. Some are planting trees and wildflowers, while others are re-wetting peat bogs and restoring traditional farming techniques.

What comes across throughout is the passion and enthusiasm that Roger has for conservation in general and, as he freely admits, his lack of knowledge of just how much there is to see and experience in this country ("… a little part of me finds myself wondering why anyone would want to be anywhere else"). There is also plenty of humour as various anecdotes are imparted in self-deprecating fashion. Roger's dedication to the spirit of the walk is unwavering, as he repeatedly turned down offers of lifts and even returned to Gloucestershire weeks after reaching Cape Wrath, to walk a 60-mile section he had been forced to miss due to an unwelcome run-in with COVID-19. 

This book is an enjoyable read that beautifully captures the essence of a British spring, as well as countering the admittedly terrifying scale of biodiversity loss with heart-warming nuggets of positivity from people who care so much about making the UK more wildlife-rich for future generations. In the author's words: "Hope is why forests are planted by people who will never walk through them … Hope is threaded through the fabric of the entire conservation world."

Written by: Matt Phelps

Matt Phelps works in conservation and is a patchbirder and all-round nature enthusiast based in Sussex. Follow him on Twitter: @mostlyscarce