Ramble On – Sinclair McKay

Ramble On

I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler, from Manchester way.
I get all my pleasures the hard moorland way.
I may be a wage-slave on Mondays, but I am a free man on Sundays
. – Ewan McColl

I was brought up as a walker. My parents were not churchgoers on Sunday and so my childhood memories are of being placed on the trig-point of Penyghent aged around nine, by my dad, of summitting Ingleborough for the first time the following year – of reaching the top of Kinder Scout and gazing across at the wild moorland. It’s never left me. Hiking was and is my worship.

Ramble On is part history of the rambling movement, from its early beginnings in the romantic era, through the anti-establishment mass trespasses that formed the stamp of the Rambler’s Association and the gradual opening up of what was private land to everyone with boots and a love of nature. It’s also part travelogue, with Sinclair McKay as an engaging and warm-hearted guide as he ranges over the classic routes like the Ridgeway, the Lake District, Bronte Country and many many others, telling us the tales as he goes.

When it comes to the great clash of private land ownership and ‘No Trespassing’ signs with the dreams of the Victorian and Edwardian walking groups, it’s clear where McKay’s sympathies lie and the book covers all of these developments in a very accessible way, starting with the time of Jane Austen’s characters strolling over Box Hill.  McKay devotes chapters to the great walking evangelists Tom Stephenson and Alf Wainwright, and overall is a lovely, poetically written and windswept love letter to our open spaces, and to the struggles of the past that means we can all now enjoy them. This is a super book for anyone who loves walking and rambling, to read round our peculiar hobby from an author who truly understands how much it means to us.

Ramble On – The Story of our love for Walking Britain, Fourth Estate 292pp.


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