Review published on February 19, 2018.
Neil Ansell likes being alone left to his thoughts and musings, preferably in a place where he can absorb the tranquillity whilst being outdoors. It hasn’t happened as much as it used to as he now has two daughters and the responsibilities that come with being a parent.
His chosen wilderness is the West Coast of Scotland. This landscape offers the heady mix of islands, white beaches and blue seas, temperate rainforests (yes, really), undisturbed lochs and majestic mountains. He has chosen this part of the UK to take long walks across the terrain in each of the seasons, aiming to immerse himself in nature and become part of it rather than just an observer. The interplay of light across the rolling hills as the weather changes almost minute by minute. Being so remote, the chances of coming across other people is unlikely and as he treads softly across the landscape and his solitary presence means that he gets to see far more of the animals that inhabit here. The joy of watching otters slipping into the sea lochs, seeing stags silhouetted on the skyline and seeing golden and sea eagles soaring above is tempered by a profound change in the way that he senses the world around. Almost deaf in one ear, he had relied for years on his other, but now that is fading from the highest frequencies down and the bird songs that once delighted him now inhabits his memories only.
Ansell is widely travelled; five continents and over fifty countries is quite a record. He has lived in a forest in Scandinavia, hitchhiked across countries, seen the wild animals of the Amazon, lived in squats in London and spent five years in a cottage in Wales with no running water or electricity. By returning to the same part of Scotland, it feels like a spiritual journey and he connects deeply to the landscape each time he visits, but it is tinged with the remorse that he has of no longer being able to hear the birdsong. It is a beautiful book to read, he has a knack of teasing out all that he sees around him into the most exquisite prose. I think that the writing is as good as Deep Country, which if you haven’t read then you should. Another excellent book from Ansell.
Paul Cheney 5/-
The Last Wilderness: A Journey into Silence by Neil Ansell
Tinder Press 9781472247117 hbk Feb 2018
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