Peter Wright’s Walking with Wildness: review

Linlithgow-based Peter Wright has launched his new book, Walking with Wildness (Luath, RPP £7.99), a guide to walking the Scottish watershed. 

He produced his first book, Ribbon of Wildness in which he explored the Scottish watershed, in 2010.  It was, for Scotland, a geographical experiment, a review of the topography, the history and the wildlife of this small country’s great divide, the line running from the Border to Caithness which splits Scotland in two, with every bog, stream and river to its east flowing into the North Sea and all to its west into the Atlantic.  When he wrote Ribbon of Wildness, Peter Wright had walked the 745 mile watershed from end to end: not continuously but nonetheless a mammoth task.

His develops the watershed theme by providing a series of manageable, largely circular, walks, all of them on or immediately around the watershed.  These walks take anything from six hours to two days and one of the real strengths of this guide, unlike many walking guides, is precisely the variation of the types and distances of walk on offer.

For Peter Wright the watershed is more than a geographical concept.  It is a continuing route which offers a largely uninhabited and unspoiled introduction to Scotland’s wild places.  There is one exception: the watershed inevitably crosses the central belt and in doing so it wanders through Cumbernauld.  Observations on the intrusive presence of wind-farms and radio-masts pepper the book but it is essentially a guide to both getting to walks and doing them.

That notwithstanding, there might be some debate on the blanket condemnation of wind-farms.  What is worse: the spoiled views of the wildness which some see as the visual result of wind-farms or the destruction of the atmosphere and the ecological imbalance created by carbon-producing power sources?

An introductory chapter on safety neatly synopsises the all the golden rules for walkers and reminds them of the imperative of respecting the rights of other users of the countryside, including farmers, shepherds and stalkers.

Each chapter then describes a specific walk on and around the watershed, including at the outset of each exactly how to reach the starting point.  Wise warnings on barriers and dangers pepper each walk.  In his original work, Peter Wright divided the watershed into five marches (or boundary areas), the Reiver March in the Borders, the Laigh March starting south of Biggar the Lowlands, the Heartland March (roughly from Loch Lomond to the Great Glen), the Moine March, from the Great Glen northwards into Sutherland and the Northland March, heading eastwards through the Flow country, finishing at Duncansby Head.

In this new work, the final walk, takes the watershed northwards and is set on Orkney.  Academic geographers may cavil at this inclusion but Peter Wright makes the point that the Orkneys, now an archipelago, were once a peninsula, continuing from the present mainland.

The wildness of Scotland offers something special to walkers, nature-lovers and indeed, to any thoughtful, reflective human-beings.  Peter Wright’s first book played a magnificent part in opening that wildness to a new generation and a new audience.  Walking with Wildness  provides the practical means to accessing that wildness.

Walking with Wildness: Experiencing the Watershed of Scotland is  available here from Amazon.

Published by

Alex Wood

Alex Wood has had a varied career in education. He started as an English teacher at Edinburgh’s Craigroyston High School in 1973 and completed his school-based work as Head Teacher at Wester Hailes Education Centre in 2011. In between he worked in community education, was a Learning Support teacher, headed a behaviour support unit, was Head of a special school and worked in Edinburgh’s Education headquarters. He is a member of the Education Committee of St George’s School. Alex is now an Associate at the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration (SCSSA) at Moray House and is Secretary of the Scottish Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (SELMAS) as well as being a free-lance writer. His experience however ranges well beyond the worlds of schools and education. For seven years in the 1980s he was an elected member of Edinburgh District Council and he retains a keen interest in the political world. He has a long involvement in genealogy and family history, as a researcher, teacher and writer. He is a member of Edinburgh Common Purpose’s Advisory Group and of the committee of Linlithgow Book Festival. Although he has lived in Linlithgow for over 20 years, and in Edinburgh for the previous 18 years, he remains a loyal fan of his home town football club, Brechin City.

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