Ghost paths

Deep and dark sunken paths of south Dorset in England
Ghost paths
Ghost paths

This is one of the strangest travel books you will ever read. I suggest you read it aloud, for there is wonderful music and poetry in just the names of what constitute the travelled land. The Holloway is an ancient, deep, sunken pathway in south Dorset in England, which has now fallen to such disuse that in its current state it is composed as much of darkness as of tree-tangled dreams. Why should we care about a holloway in Dorset Because it is an archive, marked gently but surely in stone, of contact between a land and its travellers. When you are done with the book, by all means dream of misty Dorset, but above all, think of the thousands of walkways that have timelessly woven together the world as we know it, and go out and find a bit of earth to walk on.

The book is a record of travels in Dorset by three friends &mdash writers Robert Macfarlane and Dan Richards, and artist Stanley Donwood, who has produced record covers for Radiohead. In 2004, Macfarlane and the environmentalist Roger Deakin had set out to explore the holloways of south Dorset, and the two had fallen into such adventures as had made boys of the men. Five years after Deakin&rsquos death in 2006, Macfarlane, Donwood, and Richards return to Dorset. Holloway&nbspis the book that comes out of this foray a brief, brilliant, beautiful collection of tiny and barely sequential essays and pictures that tell of an old, forgotten footpath and its three visitors. Macfarlane talks of the softness of malmstone, greensand, sandstone and chalk &mdash land that is soft enough to be marked but hard enough to endure. Richards tells of the fragility and denseness of rain and birds in the tunnel of trees that Donwood draws us haunting sketches of. All three allow themselves to be gathered exquisitely into their memories. Their greatest collective achievement is that they not only recreate a remarkable ancient pathway, they give the sense that the path itself is so deeply alive that even hundreds of years after feet have stopped treading it, it can think up such travellers.

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