Sunday book review – Lakeland Wild by Jim Crumley

I have come late to the works of Jim Crumley as this is the first of his books I have read. It’s wonderful – I have some catching up to do.

This is a book about the Lake District, Crumley’s first venture south of Hadrian’s Wall, I gather. Well, he’s very welcome. Come back again soon!

The language throughout is delicious. Intelligent and cultured, but not flowery or overblown. He paints vivid pictures in my mind of places that I haven’t visited and one feels that one is standing on the hillside with him – it’s a real skill.

But these are not simply delicious descriptions there are also sharp comments on what he sees in this famous National Park and World Heritage Site. Crumley rightly pulls up the National Park for not knowing what Britain is, but also for getting it wrong even if England were substituted for Britain in the misinformation below:

The Lake District National Park is also home to other rare wildlife including red deer, the Peregrine falcon, Arctic Char fish and Britain’s only nesting pairs of Golden Eagles and Ospreys. still present as of yesterday on the LDNP website, 12 June 2021

It’s good that some writers care about the use of words, and also about the truthful use of them. Crumley is one of them. This example is telling but trivial compared with Crumley’s deeper message that nature should be the overriding priority in National Parks and that it is as ‘simple as that’. I agree, and the Glover review failed to make that point (see here and here) and DEFRA has not yet even responded to its limp recommendations. But we do have Boris Johnson counting National Parks in ‘protected areas’ for the purposes of bigging up the UK’s apparent commitment to biodiversity – he should read this book. Indeed, I suspect that our Prime Minister would enjoy the language and quality of the writing as much as I did, but nested in the marvellous prose he would find uncomfortable truths about the state of nature in the UK, and in our National Parks. If we are ever to have National Parks worth the name, we should be taking much larger areas of them into public ownership so that their fate is truly in our hands and not at the whim of thousands of individual landowners (see here).

I’m sorry to wander off from a book review into speaking from my own pulpit, but you too will be drawn into thinking of these things, and being energised by the need for change, by this book – so, blame Mr Crumley!

The short Chapter 1 captured me and meant that I would certainly read every subsequent page. Try it and see if it does the same for you. The two short passages about Peregrines are super, well worth savouring and revisiting.

And the cover by Tessa Kennedy – superb too. 9/10 for that.

Lakeland Wild by Jim Crumley is published by Saraband.

For further reading on this same subject, in this same National Park, have a look at Karen Lloyd’s recent guest blog here, The Cultural Landscape in the Anthropocene.


11 Replies to “Sunday book review – Lakeland Wild by Jim Crumley”

  1. Now I think I too came late to Jim Crumley’s wonderful writing but unlike Mark have read 7 or 8 of his books in the last couple of years and they are all beautifully written and take you easily it the place or situation in that writing. Wonderful is the only way to describe it and all are a very satisfying read. This book is a must for me and on order.

  2. Unusually Mark you didn’t mention the cover. A stunning and evocative painting.

  3. Surely it’s time to put a bomb under the landscape/wildlife split ? And that involves nature conservation as much as landscape. It represents the unquestioning conservatism of current countryside leadership that leaves the Government free to downgrade the Environment Bill and simply ignore the Glover report (which, of course, fails once again to recognise the potential importance of protected landscapes for nature).

  4. Jim Crumley is indeed a brilliant writer, and one who got the whole business of wildness long before most nature writers seem to have thought of it.
    re. the nature deficit: the underlying problem is valuing what we want too much relative to what other living things need. Until we change that fundamental bad attitude (which is written so deep in most people they don’t even know they have it) limited progress will be made.
    Five words to fix the world’s problems: consume less, have fewer children.

  5. Being Scottish probably helped me become acquainted with Jim Crumley’s work earlier than some have so I’m glad for that, he’s a brilliant writer perhaps toe to toe with Richard Mabey. He’s written inspiring books among other things about badgers and having wolves back in Scotland. My favourite so far though was his book on swans, its familiarity to most of the population didn’t stop him from seeing this often taken for granted bird as a worthy subject. He was right and his genuine love for the bird came shining through. He never holds back from making space for the necessary realities, in the case of the swan how its large size and presence in areas with high human populations makes it an all too easy target for the most stomach churning and heart wrenching cruelty.

    This came back to me with a vengeance last year when there was a terrible upsurge up and down the country in the number of swans being killed and injured as thugs were emboldened by the lockdown. This would have come to no surprise to Jim Crumley. At a time when saying anything derogatory about any members of the wonderful great British public is virtually taboo his honesty was a breath of fresh air – when I lived in Suffolk a countryside ranger was officially reprimanded after being interviewed on local radio and referring to ‘people’ who had snapped planted trees as yobs. Not surprisingly JC doesn’t in anyway hold back when describing his feelings for gamekeepers and the whole purpose of their profession. They don’t like him very much.

    There’s still a growing backlog of his books that I’ve yet to read on the seasons, the great wood of Caledon, the beaver and of course now the Lake District. That’s a rather nice backlog to contemplate dealing with.

  6. “…I suspect that our Prime Minister would enjoy the language and quality of the writing as much as I did, but nested in the marvellous prose he would find uncomfortable truths about the state of nature in the UK…”

    Unfortunately, the Prime Minister’s comfort appears to be little affected by whatever may or may not be true. Including the National Parks within the reckoning of the total area of protected sites is certainly an egregious piece of creative accounting but if it yields a figure that makes the PM look good then I guess that’s all that matters.

  7. Hello Mark,
    I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for your generous and thoughtful review of Lakeland Wild. I could not have asked for better.
    I was particularly taken with your observation that I’m welcome back in England any time. My thanks too for such positive comments from readers of your blog. I was quite apprehensive about how a book on Lakeland by a Scot would be received; I feel better already.
    Once again, thank you.

    1. It was very good indeed Jim. Has had me out to places I’d bypassed.
      I enjoyed the clear sense of you rather being somewhere else, but finding worthwhile places to further explore.
      Great book for the backpack, and felltop tea breaks.

      PS Beautiful cover – but an off day in a badly packed rucksack has eaten part of it.

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