March 16, 2012 9:03 pm

Little adventures close to home

A charming and intelligent guide about exploring the local landscape
 

The Natural Explorer: Understanding your Landscape, by Tristan Gooley, Sceptre, RRP£16.99, 368 pages

The world has been mapped; there’s nowhere left to go that can’t first be called up on Google Earth. So where next for the explorer?

If Tristan Gooley, vice-chairman of the travel company Trailfinders, is to be believed, the future of exploration lies close to home, discovering and sharing the modest joys of the local landscape. Where his first book, The Natural Navigator, covered how to get from A to B using only the sun, moon and stars, The Natural Explorer is altogether more esoteric. With explorers such as Humboldt, Leichhardt and Darwin for company, he sets out on a short circular walk in Sussex. The plants, the smells, a distant hill all transport him to faraway places and long-ago times.

While Gooley’s book is charming and intelligent, he rather oversells his central thesis. Perhaps we should all learn to read our landscapes more closely, but whether that really marks the start of a new golden age of exploration is doubtful.

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