Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways is Hay Festival Book of the Month for March, continuing the festival's campaign to celebrate and ignite conversation around current and backlist books that have contemporary resonance.
A genre-defining meditation on walking and writing, The Old Ways blends natural history with travel writing, tracing ancient paths, evoking the beauty of a beautiful, underappreciated landscape. Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, he discovers a lost world.
Macfarlane writes in the prologue:
"This book could not have been written by sitting still. The relationship between paths, walking and the imagination is its subject, and much of its thinking was therefore done – was only possible – while on foot. Although it is the third book in a loose trilogy about landscape and the human heart, it need not be read after or in the company of its predecessors. It tells the story of walking a thousand miles or more along old ways in search of a route to the past, only to find myself delivered again and again to the contemporary. It is an exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt ancient paths, of the tales that tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and trespass, of song- lines and their singers and of the strange continents that exist within countries. Above all, this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move."
Robert Macfarlane is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Lost Words, co-created with Jackie Morris. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. The Lost Words won the Books Are My Bag Beautiful Book Award and the Hay Festival Book of the Year in 2017.
First published in 2012, The Old Ways puts aside the notion that walking and writing are solitary acts. Companions, messengers, ghosts stalk the pages. Essential reading for a time when our connection to the land beneath our feet feels frayed.
Run in partnership with Vanity Fair, Hay Festival’s Book of the Month is selected by the festival team in Hay-on-Wye, based on public recommendations, and aims to revisit and re-celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry that reach through time to touch the present.
Titles are sold in the UK through the festival’s online shop, as well as being available in all good libraries and bookshops, with a digital festival of promotion online, including curated streams on the festival’s new Hay Player archive.
Find out more about Hay Festival’s Book of the Month here or explore #HayBookOfTheMonth on social.