Sunday book review – Wild Winter by John D. Burns

This is the second of John D. Burns’s books I have reviewed here, but whereas Sky Dance was fictional (although it read pretty true to life to me) this is a story of walks by the author, sometimes with friends, in the mountains of Scotland, in winter. I’m going to read his other two books now – I like his style.

There is a lot of nature in this book from a Hen Harrier near the beginning to Mountain Hares, Beavers, eagles, rutting Red Deer and more. I think this book would appeal to many interested in wildlife, the debates about grouse shooting and land reform, landscape and walking. And, in fact, anyone who wants an easy but engaging read, as one grows fond of the author as one reads his self-deprecating stories and his conversations with friends and strangers. No offence to the author, but the star of this book was his friend Martin. I liked Martin a lot, and after a recent conversation with someone near and dear to me about what some might call my bolshy behaviour when it comes to ‘the rules’ I was able to read out Martin’s thoughts and actions as a form of ‘look it’s not just me’-ism.

But aside from the admirable Martin, this book introduces us to other characters and places such as northern Sutherland (a couple of times), the Monadhliaths, the Cairngorms and Ardnamurchan.

The first few pages are really gripping, not because of the suspense but because they are so beautifully written and include wise words on experiencing dawns. There are many wise words in here, and some funny ones, and some great descriptions of places and the feel of walking through those places. But there is a lot of nature and a little bit of the politics of nature conservation in here too.

A thoroughly engaging book with a simple but attractive cover (8/10 for that).

Wild Winter: in search of nature in Scotland’s mountain landscape by John D. Burns is published by Vertebrate Publishing.


4 Replies to “Sunday book review – Wild Winter by John D. Burns”

  1. Re you being a bit bolshy Mark, friends of mine were visiting a RSPB osprey place in the north of England a while ago where they happened to get into conversation with a couple of staffers. When the conversation turned to grouse shooting a certain M Avery was mentioned. My friends were told ‘he was a bit bolshy even when he was with the RSPB’ – so there you go. A lot of us are very glad you are a bit bolshy, because there are far too many who go the other way, there must be terrible problems with repetitive strain injuries from incessant hand wringing in the conservation sector.

  2. Sounds like a book for me better for my BP than the Mary Colwell book I am currently reading and finding exasperating. We are bolshy because we care! in conservation as in many things if you don’t care you shouldn’t be there.

  3. A few years ago I was interviewing for a job with two colleagues. As we got to the decision point one, the HR man, said of the outstanding candidate ‘but he’ll be disruptive’. My other colleague and I turned on him and in one breath said ‘that’s just what we want’. I’m glad to say the successful candidate went on to rise rapidly from a fairly lowly start to play a key role in rejuvenating a failing operation.

    Never has conservation needed that sort of person more – but more and more there seem to be people who should know better decrying initiatives like Wild Justice or Knepp Wildlands as ‘disruptive’ – and in the next breath wittering about how we need radical change to save the planet. It doesn’t square. Radical change is radical change, not verbage that heads for cover the minute the going gets tough.

    So bolshy is good (excepting your nearest and dearest, of course !!) so keep it up, Mark

  4. Thanks! – I wrote some of those words. If anyone wants an editing service please get in touch because I’m getting into nature when we can’t go backpacking! (got a proof reading diploma so it’s OK).

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