Cornwall: Plen-an-gwarry

The plen-an-gwarry (or plain-an-gwarry) is where several of my interests collide: early modern drama, Cornwall, (more or less) ancient sites, and language. What are they? The plen-an-gwarrys are circular earthworks - amphitheatres - where, among other communal events, medieval dramas were performed. These would have borne a resemblance to the contemporary English passion plays and … Continue reading Cornwall: Plen-an-gwarry

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Zine review: ‘Weird Walk’ #1

A journal of wanderings and wonderings from the British Isles Weird Walk is the brainchild of Owen Tromans, Alex Hornsby and James Nicholls. It's only been available for a few weeks and is on a third print run already, which says something about the appetite for a slantwise look at our countryside. The introduction bears … Continue reading Zine review: ‘Weird Walk’ #1

The Renaissance of Nan Shepherd

Two nature writers, from different countries writing in different eras. Both were long dead and forgotten; their reputations languished, books long out of print. The last decade has seen the profile of each rising beyond what could ever have been expected in their lifetimes. Nan Shepherd and JA Baker: authors of the two finest works … Continue reading The Renaissance of Nan Shepherd

‘How the world sustains’: Kathleen Jamie

I once made a mixtape for Kathleen Jamie. Two, in fact. In my first year at University, Kathleen Jamie was the writer-in-residence. For the weekly writers' group meetings, her and three students (I was one) decamped from her office on Dundee's Nethergate to a nearby café or pub to rant about the Tory government of … Continue reading ‘How the world sustains’: Kathleen Jamie

Review: “Hollow Shores” by Gary Budden (2017)

Some books just don't do it for you first time. Some never will, and you have to acknowledge that. Others leave spore-like traces that may not germinate for months or even years, but will eventually bring you back to them. Hollow Shores is one such for me. Published in 2017 by indie press Dead Ink, … Continue reading Review: “Hollow Shores” by Gary Budden (2017)

Fragile Remnants Buried Deep: “This Dreaming Isle” anthology

Or, Weird Fiction Against Brexit. That's too reductive a description but the timing of this publication - and editor Dan Coxon's impassioned introduction - mean it's not entirely flippant and not entirely inappropriate. Coxon was angered by Paul Kingsnorth's right-wing reading of Paul Wright's stunning 'Arcadia', a reading which "moves away from the weird, unsettling … Continue reading Fragile Remnants Buried Deep: “This Dreaming Isle” anthology

Mike Tomkies: Wilderness(e) man

"No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe" wrote Donne. Well, Mike Tomkies tried his damnedest. Tomkies's books sold in their thousands in the 1980s, but in today's Nature Writing Revival he is nowhere to be found. Both my Dad and cousin Colin (with whom I went birdwatching in my teens, chugging around Fife … Continue reading Mike Tomkies: Wilderness(e) man

King Coal’s Graveyard: a walk in Midlothian mining country

"Collieries where a thousand men had laboured for a hundred years became silent fields around a concrete shaft-cap." Neal Ascherson, Stone Voices I've lived in Midlothian for 13 years. The visual signifiers of the county's industrial heritage are largely gone: demolished or overgrown. It wasn't just coal: shorelines on either bank of the Forth once … Continue reading King Coal’s Graveyard: a walk in Midlothian mining country

Every fertile inch: Derek Jarman’s “Modern Nature”

Dungeness occupies a peculiar place in the English psyche. If the more overtly symbolic Dover cliffs can be read as embodying England's stance toward Europe - aloof, haughty, withdrawn - Dungeness, whose geography is far less confrontational, is more ambiguous. It is an English wilderness; one of the largest expanses of shingle in Europe. It … Continue reading Every fertile inch: Derek Jarman’s “Modern Nature”