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.https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/learning/forteachers/ks2wildlife 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.