Along The Di­vide: Walk­ing The Wild Spine of Scot­land

Scottish Field - - COVER TO COVER -

BY CHRIS TOWNSEND SAND­STONE PRESS £9.99 ★★★★ De­scribed as pos­si­bly the world’s most ex­pe­ri­enced long-dis­tance walker, Chris Townsend re­turns with a new me­moir de­tail­ing his jour­ney across Scot­land’s Wa­ter­shed, which runs be­tween the At­lantic Ocean and the North Sea, a dis­tance of 1,200km or 745 miles. Townsend, au­thor of 22 books on the out­doors in­clud­ing the award-win­ning TheBack­packer’s Hand­book, is no stranger to wa­ter­shed hik­ing. Twenty-eight years ago, he slogged 4,800km along the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide Trail which starts in Canada and ends in Mex­ico. Rather than put him off it left him with a long­ing to ex­plore more coun­tries in the same way. The me­moir makes a great point of bring­ing us back to a po­lit­i­cal con­text. It is a very self­aware ac­count of how the tides of one’s time can­not be es­caped. Townsend’s walks and re­flec­tions are strongly marked by po­lit­i­cal up­heaval, which is largely due to the fact that his jour­ney be­gan be­fore the In­de­pen­dence Ref­er­en­dum of 2014, while he was writ­ing the book af­ter the EU Ref­er­en­dum of 2016. There is also a strong theme of eco­log­i­cal con­cern which runs through the book, which prompts Townsend to ed­u­ca­tional yet in­ter­est­ing ru­mi­na­tions on the changes he sees in the land­scape. His nar­ra­tive weaves to­gether the his­tor­i­cal con­text of the past and the shift­ing present, re­mind­ing us of our place in his­tory, while also pay­ing trib­ute to those who have shaped the land in the past. Townsend has an im­pre­sive mas­tery of de­tail, but rather than bor­ing or side­track­ing read­ers, he em­ploys minu­tiae to hold our at­ten­tion. There is a nat­u­ral and cap­ti­vat­ing flow in his sto­ry­telling, while his pal­pa­ble pas­sion for his ex­pe­ri­ences trans­ports read­ers into shar­ing his gru­elling jour­ney. A highly rec­om­mended read for those who en­joy a bit of ad­ven­ture.

Townsend’s walks and re­flec­tions are strongly marked by po­lit­i­cal up­heaval

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