The Last Wolf

Celumë: Nature as its own Historian

Celumë: Stream, flow in Quenya Elvish.

I’ve long been fascinated by the past. History was my favourite subject in school along and has remained a constant interest throughout my life. I’ve held particular time periods in high esteem in different parts of my life.

The Scottish wars of independence, the Russian revolution, WW2, Ancient Greece and Rome, the European medieval period, Renaissance Italy, Victorian London, the Viking expansion, Vietnam, feudal Japan. All conjure up memories, books I’ve read and even where I was when I read them.

Natural history, however, all though not new to me, is not as ingrained as other historical areas. Vikings, WW2 and Picts I studied at school and most of my undergraduate degree is in history. I’ve never studied natural history or science, not once in all the education establishments I’ve been to, and though I would like to, I wouldn’t even know where to start.

The term has always been a bit baffling to me. Is it not the study of almost everything in the world? And even then some. The search for water in space is the search for nature elsewhere.

Natural history can be grand, huge and even epic, one of my favourite overused words these days. Yet it can also be localised and miniscule, from the study of ants to elephants, seeds to Sequoias, the scope of natural history is enormous

While the study of history is essentially the study of people, natural history is the study of the other things on the earth, regardless of whether people are on it or not and surely it works best when people are not.

However, for as much as I’d love to do another degree in some natural or scientific area, I don’t think I’d be able to choose.

Nature has value in itself, without having to put an importance upon it as we would an impressive building, victory in battle or on the deeds of kings. Much as how history evolves, the way we view nature has changed and will no doubt develop in centuries to come, just as the words of Aristotle were once seen as ‘truths’.

Christianity changed this view, as did the industrial revolution. It’s crazy to think that agriculture, environmentalism, or even gardening wasn’t always a thing.

I like to think of nature as its own historian and this got me thinking of the ways we see the history of the world within it. Trees tell you their age once they are chopped down. Fossils can be found from beaches. We dig up peat for fires that is the vegetation dinosaurs would have eaten. Ancient shark teeth fall through our fingertips when we run our hands through the sand.

Easily visible, Hutton’s section of the Crags in Edinburgh gave us an idea of just how old the earth could be. These things are always there, the only thing that changes is our perception of them, and whether or not we notice them.

In Victorian era Scotland the study of nature was considered to be good for your mental health, now there’s a wholly modern idea.

Live Deliberately,

Barry

Currently listening to Timewave Zero by Blood Incantation

“I love to ponder the natural history thus written on the banks of the stream, for every higher freshet (stream) and intenser frost is recorded by it. The stream keeps a faithful and true journal of every event in its experience, whatever race may settle on its banks; and it purls past this natural graveyard with a storied murmur, and no doubt it could find endless employment for an old mortality in renewing its epitaphs.”

Henry David Thoreau ‘Journal’ 5th July 1852

Aware. Awake. Alive.

What is the number one things people say on their death bed? Possibly, I wish I’d had more time, I wish I had done more? I guarantee it’s not I wish I had worked more. Maybe I wish I’d seen Japan/Australia/ the moon, delete as applicable.

Psychologist William James said that consciousness isn’t simply existing and we must have an awareness of our being. It follows that that stems to wherever we are at the present moment. When we are completely aware of our surroundings we are truly alive, and for many that is most profound when we are outside. Whether it is having our faces beaten and bodies being knocked off balance by mountain winds, the roar and smell of ocean waves crashing around us, or the simple beauty of sitting in the garden on a summers evening, it matters not. ‘Without awareness we are not truly alive.’

Returning to our death bed thoughts, how about I wish I’d spent more time with my eyes open, enjoying what was around me? I wish I’d lived more in the moment. Time goes slow when we’re bored and also when everything is new. Apparently this is why your childhood summers seemed to last forever, because every experience was a new one, and now as cynical jaded adults we feel like we’ve seen it all.

Now as adults we sleep walk through life. We are on auto-pilot. We can drive to work after having dropped the kids of at school, after getting them all ready, after making them breakfast, and we do these things no problem, without even thinking because it’s what we do. How often have you caught yourself three minutes from work thinking, ‘I’m actually driving here’, and have been for half an hour? We haven’t realised because we’re coasting through life. Every morning is the same routine, but routine is good, organisation is key, organisation is freedom, thanks Jocko.

But I’m advocating awareness here. Active awareness of oneself and looking in on oneself, regardless of what it is that we’re doing. By all means be reflective, assess, journal, whatever it takes for you to be successful, but let’s try to do this for the majority of our lives. Can we be aware of our surroundings at all times in this world of constant distraction and a million advertisers competing for your attention? Think of an Australian Aboriginal on walkabout. Or a tribesman hunting on the Namibian plain. Awareness is everything. It leads to being alive and not sleepwalking through existence. And may even halt a few death bed regrets.

Live deliberately.

Barry

Currently listening to: The Pale Riders: L’Appel Du Vide

A quick internet search shows me the top answer is I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life others expected of me and, yup, there’s I wish I didn’t work as much straight in at number two.

Last Wolf

In those days, wolves still walked the hills, and the spaces between trees were alive with calls

that echoed across the moorlands and sank into the already chilled bones of the shepherds,

drawing the chill to place hearthfire flames can’t warm.

.

In those days, we were still wild.

The hills were all fever and fable,

the heathers still heavy with magic.

.

Smoke hangs sweet on the skin when it’s laced

With burnt incense and offerings, and sleep comes deep with dreams where the peat fire burns.

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That was the way of it:

Smoke and song, fever and fable, woodlands and wolf-song.

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Green witch of the bog,

Moving softly through the river.

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I want to know where the wolves have gone.

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Where are the wolves who prowled the hills,

Fearsome as the spirit who claimed the land?

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Where are the wolves who howled their songs,

calling all eyes to the moon?

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The land still whispers wolf-fables, and the river hums with magic of the past, still close enough to see when the seasons are high and your eyes are clear.

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Those who listen carefully when they walk across the moors leave with a tingling on their skin,

humming something wild

heard on the wind.

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They carry the wild back into their towns.

They carry the past that isn’t so far away,

and the magic of wild places that wells under the earth,

in that pulling place where it slumbers when it goes long uncalled.

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For so long now the wolves have been gone from this place, where the air arches with the absence of their songs.

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As evening falls, I make my way back toward the cottage,

Something wild is tossing on the wind,

the chill of it reaches my bones.

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In the distance,

I hear howling.

.

Alexa Brockamp Hoggatt

Alexa is a poet and writer you can follow on Instagram @alexa.hoggatt or linktr.ee/AHoggatt

She is currently listening to the audiobook ‘Druidcraft’ by Philip Carr-Gomm

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Where the Giants Live

On a heather mattress sits the peaks; distant and drastic, momentous and unyielding, unworldly. I laugh, remembering those who say a walker’s path destroys the mountain, like the mountain even notices or cares. It is but a hair landing on ten thousand years. I cross this boulder field and it feels like Mars. Or perhaps it’s Tattooine and we are in search of the Jawas who sold us R2 and 3PO.

Ever mindful of the dryness on the dogs paws but he’s far more careful and balanced than I am. Its humans who come to injury here, not animals. The tors, if that is what they are, rise up like misplaced giants, though this is exactly where giants should be. The places where giants live.

But why are they here? Is this Arizona? It sure looks like a John Ford movie. I can’t recall a mountain top as enjoyable as this before.

I climb, the stone on my hands and under my feet. How many people have stood up here? Four or five today, maybe the same tomorrow. Into the tens at the weekend. Then maybe none for a few weeks depending on the weather. How many people have stood here in total? 10,000. Less. More. No one could possibly know. I am at least seven miles from a road and more like 10 or 12 from one that isn’t a single track. This is the way I walked, who knows how far the other way.

This is why I do these things.

Live Deliberately

Barry

Currently listening to: Volkolun: Only Trees Remember Centuries, black dark/pagan metal from Russia.

https://volkolun.bandcamp.com/album/only-trees-remember-centuries

Your Memory Sucks, Do Not Rely On It!

Memory sucks, do not rely on it. At least mine does. Recently I returned to a remote mountain range I had camped at some twelve years ago, possibly more. I thought I had remembered it well, but I hadn’t, which led to some unnecessary worry and some mistakes. I do a lot of walking and camping with Thorin for company and being a dog, he’s not very good at reading maps, sharing his opinion on routes or whether we’re in the correct car park. Though he is very good at finding his own route to water and easy paths around rocky scrambles.

I had a very different picture in my head of the layby I left my car in twelve years ago than the one I ended up at, and therefore spent the night convinced we were starting off in the wrong place and a morning move would be necessary. This turned out to be not true and I was actually in the right place. I had no memory of the four mile or so walk in, which ended up in us taking the wrong path and walking for the first twenty minutes the wrong way. Only when it turned to the right through some trees and cross another river did I stop to check and found my mistake. The 4:30am alarm was hardly worth it.

My recollections began roughly around that four mile mark by the ruin of an old shieling. For some reason I had tagged it in my failing memory bank as a possible site for a future campsite. Why here and not the vastly superior beach about 200m away I have no idea. The beach I don’t remember.

The things I mostly remember about the first trip are having no dog and squeezing two grown men into my tent, one of us knocking over the stove spilling the pasta, stupidly carrying a massive book on mountaineering in Scotland as my reading material, and not getting any views on top of the biggest mountain in the area because of the weather. My biggest memory is of the wind whipping up across the loch, the whole area being really boggy and being lucky to find the only dry patch late in the day, which was so close to a river it was practically in it.

This is a really remote part of the country sandwiched between two of the roads that go north and is well worth the long walk in for a camp. But this time we were heading for the two mountains that are most easily accessible, and I wasn’t planning on taking too long about it. Hence why I was so annoyed at the morning detour. But we made good time and I wanted to get some height in early which had the effect of making me feel really crap.

I got quite emotional walking up the first mountain and there was a number of factors playing into this. Erratic sleep patterns at the best of times, tiredness, an early rise, a long walk, a steep climb, no food and no coffee made it hard work. Gruelling almost, and I admit I struggled. The ever present cloud came in. I felt worse. I couldn’t see. I got into a spiral of negative ‘how come this always happens to me’ thought; ‘give me a break for once’ and ‘let me just see for a few seconds where I am going’. This was weird. Even ‘what the fuck am I doing this for’, this isn’t fun!

I missed my home, my family, wife, kids. Funny how I’d only been gone just over twelve hours or so and these were all the thoughts I was having. At this same time my friend was spending two weeks in a tent on a crazy cross Europe cycle race and I’m feeling this balls over a walk that should take me less time than a day’s work! All these mad feelings combined into one giant shitty whole.

In order to pull myself through this I stuck on the headphones and continued listening to my audiobook of The Fellowship of the Ring read by Andy Serkis which is absolutely fantastic. The descriptions of the hardships faced by the hobbits journey I imagined mirrored mine. I perked up. At least I could turn back, didn’t have the fate of the world around my neck and I wasn’t being pursued by nine black riders.

And so we continued, still not seeing anything but managing to find the cairns that marked the summit of the two mountains we had aimed for. After coming off the second mountain we could not find the path and came too far down the wrong side. It meant we had to go back up to a bealach that separates the mountains and I just about gave up then. The thought of ascending again was awful, I was just so tired, lost, confused, and discombobulated from being in the cloud. I was fed up that was it, fed up and needed a break from not being able to see a damn thing.

A glimpse of sun can be all you need to find that route. But of course, like Sam and Frodo, we had to keep going; to give up would be to die. Here at the end of all things. Well not quite, but still a hell of a long way from home. An endurance athlete I certainly am not.

Much later on, about three quarters of the way back to the car, as Elrond is extolling the virtues of Frodo, Bilbo and the others as they accept their perilous quest at Rivendell, I was very nearly crying. Clearly all too much for me that day but by that time I was close to completing my small journey. The Lord of the Rings movies have always comes the closest to making me cry since I first saw ET! The line in Return of the King when Aragorn says “My friends, you bow to no one.” is making me well up just writing it. What a scene! What an effort! The hobbits are the total underdogs for the whole series and yet they have pretty much saved the entire world from evil domination forever. Now that is a lasting legacy.

I was very glad to get back to the car and begin my return journey to my own shire. I could not get home fast enough. Next time I’m checking the weather and eating more food.

Live Deliberately,

Barry

Currently listening to Otta by Solstafir which appears on the Last Wolf Outdoors Spotify Playlist

Posthuman

As much as I like the outdoors, nature as it is and should be, and am a supporter of rewilding in many of its various forms, I find the human imprint on the natural world fascinating. And also how the human world is taken over by nature and dominated once again. The most obvious and well known example of this is probably Chernobyl.

It is amazing that in the years since the disaster nature has reclaimed it so rapidly. I vaguely remember it happening on the news. A lot of high profile disasters seemed to happen around that time in the 1980s. We watched the Challenger space shuttle explode at our local youth club, the famine on Ethiopia was still very clear in peoples consciousness, a small town in south west Scotland was to become famous for all the wrong reasons. Piper Alpha was not far off. Hillsborough.

In Chernobyl in 2022, animals thrive. Brown bears, wolf, lynx, roe deer, elks, foxes and wild boar roam freely through the Ukrainian villages. Wolves are, as always, of particular interest and they hunt deer, catch fish and even eat fruit from orchards. Horses, having been introduced to reduce the risk of wild fires by grazing the overgrowth, have adapted to the environment and live in the exclusion zone. The abandoned buildings are used as animal shelters. Small mammals tested show no ill effects of radiation. Amazing.

“In the world I see you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockafeller Center. You’ll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You’ll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Towers. And when you look down, you’ll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying stripes of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighways.” Tyler Durden.

There is a town not far from where I live that doesn’t exist anymore. A scattering of houses yet are nearby, yet there is plenty of industrial remains if you look closely at the landscape. An extremely successful ironworks and prosperous town once stood here but nothing remains except contusions in the ground, a chimney stack, and perhaps unsurprisingly in Scotland, the ruin of a pub. Quite literally the last building standing.

Nature has reclaimed this land. Yes there are some paths and a few monuments and guides, very tastefully done, to the industrial heritage of the area and the human achievement that came from there. But there is long grass, burns, woodland, big trees, shrubs, bushes and you would never guess the population or the output of this place several hundred years ago.

Live Deliberately

Barry

Currently listening to: The new single from Destroyer 666.

https://burnrecords.bigcartel.com/product/destroyer-666-guillotine-death-in-berlin-7-ep

Trees break up the pavements

Roots come through the concrete

And take over older roots

Wrapped around, entwined forever, eternal.

A building left alone

Succumbs to moss, to weeds

And crumbles back to the earth

It came from. Goodbye home.

I worked here once, here everyday

With heat sweat muscle noise, smoke and fire,

friends and relatives,

And now. Nothing?

Aurë

It was after being in the deepest part of the wood for the best part of the afternoon that I had my revelation. We had been walking for well over an hour and had actually circled back and were on our return journey. I searched and found a spot- a clearing in the pines- I had been to many times before so we could have something to eat. Nobody ever goes down there, to that part we were at, except the deer and some pretty large rabbits, badgers, foxes or whatever it was that made those huge holes we found but we were done with that and needed food. So we had headed back up to the centre and found the place for lunch. I sat on the ground with my back leaning against an old tree stump. Most other parts of the woods were heavy with water due to the recent rainfall but the pine floor here had dried out nicely if it had ever gotten significantly wet at all. This would be the driest area in the whole woodland.

I poured my lunch from my flask; my wife’s amazing lentil and vegetable soup. While enjoying my first small cup, I realised I had not been here, to this clearing, or even this woodland in quite some time. I couldn’t actually recall the last time I was here. There was a time I would come here two or three times a week. Now it wasn’t even once a month. I was needing something; a spiritual moment perhaps, a sign maybe to reconnect, to let me know all was well and I was heading in the right direction. Something, but what it was, I wasn’t sure.

The sun parted the trees in front of me a shone on me like God’s torch. It cracked the gap in the trees that were not yet fully leafless in the distant foliage. In this late October afternoon the sun shone on me directly. Like a beacon. This was the sign I needed, the comfort, the reassurance even. Like a semi-permanent lighthouse, I enjoyed the best lunch I had in ages, basking in the light and warmth of the after…voices!

A dog barks! No yelps, that was no bark, a Jack Russel or similar. They were still a while off yet but I heard it and so did my dog. He’s alert, ears up, tail wagging, eyes and nose towards the intruders. My meditative moment had been broken so I went back to enjoying my soup and took the opportunity to snap a few pictures of the view. Not that it was much of a view and the pictures, like all pictures when compared to the human senses, don’t do it justice. The sun streamed into my face, in lines, cutting through the trees like a thick hot laser. The voices, still too far away to hear what they were saying, passed but they never noticed me, or the dog and I was too wrapped up in my own thoughts to want to talk or even care about strangers right now. They disappeared as quickly as they came and the beacons remained on me.

Where is this taking Last Wolf? Where is it taking me, or where is it telling me to go? The answer I came to realise then was quite simple. Here. Right here. This is where I found my sign and this is where I need to find my inspiration. At home with books, music, the internet; research whether its academia or Wikipedia, all that is fine but this is where I need to be. Right here, in this present moment and it has to be. Out here in the open spaces, or spaces forgotten, unused and unnoticed. My homemade soup tastes like ambrosia from Calypso. An old tree stump on a forest floor is as comfy as sitting on countless cushions, and I wouldn’t trade anyway. A light shines, beckoning to me. To show me what? The path, the light, the way. Last Wolf is the way. This is my inspiration. Where do you get yours?

“I’m a heathen, searching for his soul.” Primordial: Gallows Hymn

Live Deliberately

Barry

Currently listening to: Wolcensmen, Songs From the Mere E.P. Lady of the Depe is one of the most beautiful songs I have heard in some time.

Where’s Your Place?

There’s a place I used to sit back home. Sometimes me and my friend would sit there, other times it would just be me on my own. I only think I shared that place with one or two other people.

It involved a bit of climbing and I don’t know how I came across it in the first place. I only ever went there on the way home late at night, like really late. 3 or 4:00am, those kinds of times, pitch dark or sunrise kind of times. Stop, climb, contemplate.

You accessed this place by a ladder, but you didn’t climb up or down. What you had to do was go through the gap, there was a waist high pole between the harbour wall and the building next to it, which possibly belonged to the church. The gap allowed access to the beach and this pole acted as a breaker to the nothing ness.

A rusty ladder went down to the rocks below. They’re called skellies here, they run out to sea, it’s not a beach that you can build sandcastles and have a picnic on. You have to start by climbing down the ladder in the normal manner although you climb to the immediate left and up and you will find yourself on a beautiful little ledge just big enough for one or two people to sit on. Your back is hidden by the tall harbour wall behind you and someone could probably climb down the ladder without even noticing you if you were quiet. As long as they didn’t look up, and to the left.

Often the coolest places are where you least expect it. Open the eyes of your spirit and look at things differently. Where’s your place?

Live deliberately

Barry

God Loves a Selfie

I’ve found this article hard to write, to get any sense of ‘sense’ out of it! It’s a ramble and a bit of a moan so apologies in advance. I don’t really have any answers, though I do welcome opinions, ideas and maybe even answers, if indeed there are any. My thoughts the other day, as they regularly do, turned to accessibility of the outdoors as we tried to find a piece of natural and historical interest in the hills.

We were on our way home from a day out and took a detour for a reccy of a place we knew to be nearby. This is not an overly famous place, but somewhere I have never been, in an area I only know a part of. I was therefore immediately curious. Unless you’re a long distance cyclist or a local, you need a car to get to it.

I noticed the signs of overcrowding almost immediately as we got closer to our destination. The handful of rural houses nearby had put out directional sign posts, no access and no parking signs. Half a mile up the single track road, cars were parked on verges and in gaps in the fences. There were lots of people walking in the same direction, children, dogs, flip flops. The ‘official’ car park, space for maybe 10 cars, was of course full. People were everywhere, cars abandoned at the side of the road. We struggled to reverse and went out the way we had come in.

And here we are, trying to promote people using the outdoors. I am genuinely pleased that there is such an enthusiasm for these kinds of places. But we need to remember that these kinds of places were never meant to deal with mass numbers of people. In particular in dealing with visitors who have been indoors for months due to a global pandemic. I get that. It was also early afternoon, possibly the busiest time of the day, it’s a Friday in the summer holidays… I understand that if we went at 9:00am and on a dreich Tuesday in November it would be quite different. You’re not going to get the Eiffel Tower to yourself in July!

But I found this at odds with my own thoughts and beliefs that the outdoors is for everyone. It is, and we can’t expect kind hearted people local to areas like these to produce a bigger car park or empty the overflowing bins.*

It seems the days of going up a munro and having the entire mountain to yourself are gone. Driving through Scotland you can spot the starting point by the amount of cars in a layby or on grassy verges. Good luck finding somewhere to stop your camper van. And this popularity, again something we are trying to encourage, comes with a more worrying aspect. There is always the possibility of attracting ‘the wrong crowd’. The camping party goers. The litterers, the fires, the feeding of stags for Instagram selfies.

There is a local spot near us that I have not visited before though I have known of it for several years and had made a note to go there one day. It is quite awkward to find despite its location in central Scotland and is a fairly good walk through mostly private land. There is parking for exactly two cars safely and the site itself, is actually quite dangerous. This place has been inundated with people this summer, so much so that the police have had to go there regularly. This was previously a private and secret place.

Although I’d quite happily share any knowledge of places with any one asking, putting it blankly on social media is enough to spoil it and will attract the kind of people that will possibly abuse the site. There is nothing secret, nothing sacred. I have a hope that once initial interest wains, these are the kinds of people that don’t go on repeated visits. Once is enough, never again, especially if it’s strenuous. But there is that snobby attitude again that these spots are only for me because I found out about it ‘organically’. I wore the correct boots to access it and not a pair of Air Max or flip flops. I didn’t throw my banana skin and bag of Wotsits away when I was there.

Some social media groups I’ve noticed make a big deal of not sharing details of the place but just sharing the pictures. This is good practice, though I question the need to share the pictures at all. I guess that doesn’t make for a very interesting post. And the comments section are full of private messages anyway, promising to tell the asker where it is.

This issue does seem important to folks as I’ve seen it discussed a lot recently. Perhaps things will calm down once people can go off to Spain or elsewhere next year and there will be more space for the more socially conscious among us. I have seen calls for a ranger/police service like in American national parks, but I can’t see there being much support for that outside the serious outdoors community, or even a budget for it. The ranger service has been vastly depleted over the last ten years or so. When damage is done, littering etc. it’s a police issue anyway. Is policing and more bylaws really even an answer? I don’t know.

So here I am nearly 1000 words in and still not found my point. I guess it is this, are we, in popularising the use of outdoor space, contributing to the slow and ultimate destruction of these places? More people means more cars, more space and amenities needed, more potential business opportunities to exploit customers. And are we comfortable being a part of that?

On the other hand, why should places only belong to the culturally aware or the snobby outdoors elite? I don’t know, and I’m torn. Maybe I just wish people wouldn’t blindly share every single thing they do on social media with 25 detailed pictures. Or maybe I just wish people would think a bit more before asking on social media where the best places to go or things to see are. Do at least a bit of leg work and research of your own back. Look at a map and go. Or don’t bother with the map. Is it even a sense of adventure when someone else has told you not only how to do it, but what to do? And technology not only introduces you to it, it takes you through the experience and even in some cases, is the sole reason for it. God loves a selfie after all.

Those confused should write to us at lastwolfoutdoors@gmail.com.

*At least there was a bin!

G.W. Harlan

What’s an outdoors enthusiast anyway?

Being an outdoors enthusiast is a blanket term we use that has an unlimited amount of meaning. For me it generally means walking, hiking in particular, long walks and many hours through woods or up hills and mountains. But it also means spending time in our local country parks with the family, dog in the river, daughter collecting sticks. It also means my dad throwing stones for the dog at the beach while he runs into the sea, daughter collecting shells. It means her putting on her wellies and waterproofs and walking around our local area, touching trees, inspecting leaves, saying hello to sheep, horses and cows, collecting daisies.

For everyone else it’ll mean different things. My friend thinks nothing of dropping a 70 mile cycle on a Saturday. This absolutely blows my mind, and is not for me, though I never completely dismiss an idea! Last year for some reason or other canoeing/kayaking entered my thoughts as a potential new hobby. I have always enjoyed the times I have done this in the past and am keen to get into it, though in the future, as new hobbies are not something I really have the time for.

The classic idea of an outdoors person has to do with carrying an axe over your plaid work shirt, beard looking resplendent as you build a cabin for your young family, deer skin hanging on the walls and the food on the table is what you caught that day. Or your eyelids freezing and snow collecting in your moustache as you climb the face of that mountain, alpine axes in your hands, rope and carabineers around your waist, cursing the day trippers who took the easy route. Bullshit. We have been sold this ideal for too long, your life and your pursuits are just as relevant.

Who can claim to be more outdoors in this completely fictional scenario?

The old guy who walks his dog three times every single day of the year. Each morning he is up at six, sees the sunrise for most of the year and set again in the evening. He sits for a good part of his afternoon on a bench, talking or reading if no one’s around. He feeds the ducks.

Or the self-proclaimed rugged outdoorsman, with the heavily manicured beard. He spends an inordinate amount of money on gear and expensive clothing, so he can sit in his office job day in day out with the occasional Saturday trip to the mountains or river. From here he posts pictures on his social media account of how outdoorsy he is. #livinglifetothefull

Why do I care? Well in actual fact, I don’t, each to his own. Life’s too short and too busy to be worrying about that and it makes no difference to me what your plans are or how you spend your time. But my point is that there is an unlimited amount of things you can do that enables you to qualify being an outdoors enthusiast. So go and grab your book and sit outside on a bench or under a tree and read. Take your lunch outside if you’re at work, wrap up if it’s cold. Take a walk along the canal, the shore, whatever is close to your area. Plant a tree, or better yet plant many. Buy that bike you were always going to get, or those running shoes, kayak, walking boots or jacket, whatever you need.

Take that first step into getting outside, you’ll be glad you did. And say hi to that old guy.

G.W. Harlan

Photos by R.K. Hughes of his wife. She would walk all day.

Anail a Ghaidheil, air a mhullach.

The Gael’s breathing Space is on the summit

Our land offers the chance to connect with our ancient past. 

Not just imagine it, actually find it.

My obsession with ancient Scottish history has been with me for as long as I can remember.  As a child travelling up to Inverness visiting family, my brother and I would spend hours, staring out from the back seat windows at the glens, lochs and forests as they slowly moved into view.  The magnitude of the Highlands sparked our imaginations.  We talked about clan warriors and chieftains of the hills as if they were still alive and re-enacted battles they might have fought at nearly every rest stop.

As I got older I read as much as I could about the Caledonians and the Picts but it became frustrating because most of the information available perpetuated the pro-imperialistic, pro-Roman myth that these ancient people, our ancestors, were nothing but barbarians. 

It’s a myth that’s being challenged, as more and more archaeological evidence is discovered and traces of their ancient civilised culture is unearthed. 

For example, we now know the Picts had waterwheels and kilns for drying grains to make beer and recently, evidence of book production has been found, during excavation of a Pictish monastery at Portmahomack. 

We are closest to our ancestors when we’re in green spaces.  Climbing mountains, exploring the forests, swimming in the sea, battling through rain or fending off midges.  The land was a huge part of their lives and they have left their mark upon it and within it for us to find.

Prior to the battle of Mons Graupius Tacitus quoted one Caledonian, Calgacus (meaning swordsman) as saying to his army, “on then into battle and as you go, think of your ancestors and your descendants.”

Each member of the Highland army before going into battle would say “Is mise mac Oengus, mac Ronan, mac Iain…” meaning, “I am son of Angus, son of Ronan, son of Iain…” and some could recite up to 20 generations.

So enjoy the wild spaces and treasure them. 

For your ancestors and your descendants.

Eileen Budd is an illustrator and writer, currently writing and illustrating an ancient Scottish saga.  You can find her on Instagram: @eileenbudd.

Pictures show the Tap o Noth Hillfort, Aberdeenshire, view from above.

A pony cap found in Torrs Loch in the 19th century, dates to around 250 BC. Illustration by the author Eileen Budd.

Excavations at the Hillfort, led by the University of Aberdeen. As recently as last week it was found to be inhabited by around 4,000 people, which is akin to being a big city, something unheard of in Scotland until the 12th century.