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The fall of the wild

Nature writing is enjoying a resurgence, but the danger of mapping any wilderness is that it immediately becomes tame and dumb. Besides, are there actually any untouched places left?

By Kathryn Hughes   September 2007

The Wild Places, by Robert MacFarlane (Granta, £16.99)

This, Robert Macfarlane’s second book, is all about close focus. His first, Mountains of the Mind (2003), told stories of scale and danger, and was a hit with armchair mountaineers everywhere (the professionals, naturally, preferred to sneer). In The Wild Places, however, Macfarlane embarks upon a quieter but more urgent mission—to discover whether Ireland and Britain still harbour any tangled corners of what John Fowles called “old nature.” By this, the late sage of Lyme presumably meant not just the Undercliff, where history and biology make a joyous noise, but any land…

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