Deep Country

Deep Country by Nigel Ansell 

Introduced by James Roberts, a writer based near Hay

I’ve had Deep Country by Nigel Ansell sitting on my bookshelf for several years now and have only just got around to reading it. The past few nights I’ve been sitting in front of the wood burner not noticing the flames. The book has me totally entranced, perhaps because the subject matter, the valley he writes about is not too far from here, but perhaps not. The very best writing makes the familiar extraordinary and Deep Country does that in spades. I can only think of a couple of other nature books with such an intense focus on what is actually there.

I recently heard Stephen Jenkinson speak about how some languages have no word ‘I’ and how the indigenous peoples that speak these languages see themselves simply as what surrounds them, something very difficult for a western ‘individual’ to comprehend. But reading this book helps me to understand how such thought ways can develop and how, when we see ourselves in this way, it becomes impossible to degrade our place. It also made me question again George Monbiot’s description of our ‘sheep-wrecked’ hills. The uplands are actually teeming with life if we’re humble enough to just sit, watch and wait.

Ansell’s stories about crow wakes, goosander group fishing and hidden goshawks are just magical and the writing fits Robert Bringhurst’s credo perfectly:

Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.

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