Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Icknield Way

As you know last week I had a whale of a time listening to Robert Macfarlane's book The Old Ways which I just thought was wonderful and up there with the best travel writers I've read. Macfarlane began his journey in part as an homage to the Welsh writer Edward Thomas who was killed in World War 1 and who was one of the first old way walker/explorer/writers in England. Macfarlane took with him The Icknield Way where Thomas wrote about his journey on "the oldest road in England" that runs from East to West (or West to East) over the chalk downs from Cambridgeshire to Hampshire. It's a happy coincidence that Macfarlane began his book (where he began following Edward Thomas's route) just a little to the south east of the village of Sawston which is where my novel Falling Glass ends. Like I say this is only a coincidence but a strange one as Sawston is a beautiful, but nondescript, out of the way sort of place.
Just as one book leads to another so reading Macfarlane has led me to Thomas's Icknield Way that my local library did not have but which has been scanned and put online by an archivist from the University of California. Helpfully the archivist provided an embed code so I was able to blog the entire book below. I appreciate that only 1% of the people who chance on this blogpost will be interested enough to read the below book, but that's ok, you're the 1% I do everything for anyway. The best way to read it is to click the full screen button and then the two page option (the two rectangles). The dedication at the beginning is off puttingly dry but, trust me, the rest of the book is charming. If you're interested in British travel writing in the Golden Age (and if you're not you should be) then you'll enjoy this. Other authors worth checking out from this era are: Robert Byron, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Peter Fleming, Freya Stark, Rebecca West and the travel books of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene. Anyway thanks to the University of California, here's Thomas's lovely, eccentric, borderline mystical, Icknield Way: