Want to read more?
At the start of the pandemic in March we took the decision to make online access to our news free of charge by taking down our paywall. At a time where accurate information about Covid-19 was vital to our community, this was the right decision – even though it meant a drop in our income. In order to help safeguard the future of our journalism, the time has now come to reinstate our paywall, However, rest assured that access to all Covid related news will still remain free.
To access all other news will require a subscription, as it did pre-pandemic. The good news is that for the whole of December we will be running a special discounted offer to get 3 months access for the price of one month. Thank you for supporting us during this incredibly challenging time.
We value our content and access to our full site is only available with a subscription. Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device. In addition, your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.
Just want to read one issue? No problem you can subscribe for just one week (or longer if you wish).
John D Burns is familiar with the Highland landscape, having spent more than 40 years walking its mountains and moors.
However, in Wild Winter he begins to perceive there could be much more to that world than he has previously seen.
Over the course of one winter, Burns decides to go searching for Highland wildlife: whales, beavers, hares, otters and pine marten are all on his list. From the outset, he states he is no naturalist, although I do think he is overly hard on himself. His knowledge of animal tracks is fascinating, he is keen and attentive and he walks in landscapes he knows well.
Laced throughout are his memories of the mountains and the people he has shared them with. Also evident are brief touches of lives once lived in what is now defined as remote. His imaginings of the Highlands before humans are lovely, especially when placed amidst his images of the world as he sees it today.
Burns reflects on the changes that humans have made, focusing on grouse moors and shooting estates. Against that terrain and his own concerns about aging, he balances the passion and knowledge of the younger walkers he meets and the places that have set out to restore biodiversity through rewilding.
His need for freedom in the land is palpable but, as the book was written in the winter that preceded Covid-19, so is the rapid shift from freedom to lockdown. Reading this a year after lockdown began is a tonic, a mental stretching of the legs across snow-covered hills.
Where this book really shines is when the author has his boots on. The writing that describes the winter landscape is beautiful. Winter may be a time of darkness, but Burns’ sensory descriptions bring you right into the elements of that world and into the warmth of bothy fires.
Some of his attempts to tick off his wildlife wish-list are successful, some are less so. What he gets instead is a world changed by unexpectedly wild weather and an environment changed by humans. This is a wild winter that leaves you with the open question of what might happen next.
Wild Winter, by John D Burns, published by Vertebrate Publishing is out on April 1.