Kendal Mountain Festival 2020

The Best New Books About Walking and Nature

When we’re not out exploring the hills there’s nothing we like more than curling up with a hot drink and a good book to inspire our next adventure or teach us more about the outdoors. The annual Kendal Mountain Literature Festival is a showcase for the year’s best new nature writing, exploring landscapes, creativity, people and places. The 2020 edition of the festival (which took place between 19-28 November) turned up some brilliant new titles. We’ve picked out a few of our favourites for you to enjoy from the comfort of your armchair or maybe a hammock. 

The Wild Silence - Raynor Winn

In her incredible, bestselling debut, The Salt Path, Raynor Winn walked several hundred miles around England’s South West Coast Path with her husband, Moth, sleeping wild and virtually penniless after their home and business was lost to bailiffs. In Raynor’s new book we pick up their story once again as the couple are given the chance to breathe life back into a beautiful, but neglected, farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills; as rewilding the land an returning nature to hedgerows becomes their new path. Like its powerfully evocative predecessor, The Wild Silence is deeply personal and spiritual in its exploration of the healing qualities of nature.

Diary of a Young Naturalist – Dara McAnulty

Evocative, raw and beautifully written, this very special, award-winning book chronicles the turning point of 15-year-old Dara McAnulty’s world. A vivid exploration of the natural world from the perspective of an autistic teenager juggling homework, exams and friendships alongside his life as a conservationist and environmental activist, Dara describes his encounters in his garden and the wild in meticulous detail and with a sense of awe and wonder. The kind of book we think should be on every school curriculum, it’s lyrical nature writing at its best, with Dara’s depth of feeling illuminating every page of this miraculous memoir.

The Book of Tresspass – Nick Hayes

The vast majority of the UK is entirely unknown to us because we are banned from setting foot on it. By law of trespass, we are excluded from 92% of the land and 97% of its waterways, blocked by walls whose legitimacy is rarely questioned. Nick Haye’s fascinating book argues that the root of social inequality lies in the uneven distribution of this land as he takes us on a journey over walls, into the thousands of square miles of rivers, woodland, lakes and meadows that are blocked from public access. Weaving together stories of poachers, vagabonds, gypsies, witches, hippies, ravers, ramblers, migrants and protestors, and charting acts of civil disobedience that challenge orthodox power at its heart, The Book of Trespass is a refreshingly radical and eye-opening book that will transform the way you see the land around you.

Wanderers: A History of Women Walking – Kerri Andrews

In this beguiling and vital new look at the history of walking, via a series of intimate portraits, Kerri Andrews traces the footsteps of ten pathfinding women who, over the past three hundred years, have found walking essential to their lives. From eighteenth-century parson’s daughter Elizabeth Carter (who desired nothing more than to be taken for a vagabond in the wilds of southern England) to modern walker-writers such as Nan Shepherd and Cheryl Strayed, Wanderers helps guide us in finding our own place in the world via a connection with others who have walked before us – truly inspiring women for whom walking was integral.

Never Leave The Dog Behind – Helen Mort

We live in a world populated by dog lovers, where many of us regard them as members of the family. In this beautifully written book, award-winning poet and fell-runner Helen Mort sets out to better understand the singular relationship between dogs, mountains and the people who love them. It’s also a personal memoir of Helen’s own story of falling in love with a wonderful whippet called Bell during a transformative year in the Lake District. Through the search and rescue dogs and numerous other hounds she meets along the way, Helen captures perfectly the unbridled joy we experience when heading to high places with our four-legged friends.

Losing Eden – Lucy Jones

Movingly told and meticulously researched, Losing Eden is an elegy to the healing power of nature, exploring how and why our increasingly dysfunctional relationship with living world can drastically affect our health. Travelling from forest schools in east London to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault via primeval woodlands and Californian laboratories, it lays out the overwhelming scientific evidence for nature as nurturer for body and soul. A rallying cry for a wilder way of life, reading it feels transformative - a convincing plea for change that might just help us save the living planet as well as ourselves. 

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