The Anachronism of the Outdoors

When I first started visiting higher places, I used to look back at views like this and think of adjectives like rugged, wild, untouched, natural. Over the years, I now look at it differently. I still love this land but now look at it tinged with sadness and anger for now I see it for the desert that it really is. This is barren, a wasteland, bereft of even the possibility of the life it could have. This is a place that would have so much promise were it not run for profit and greed by its ‘owners’ who pretend to care for it. They are only caring for their own assets and their own future, protecting their own industry and not the wildlife or natural world they encourage you to be responsible for.

The anachronism displayed in certain parts of our ‘wild’ lands in this country is outrageous. We are told to protect nesting birds from dogs because men want to come and shoot the birds later when they are bigger. We are told to stick to a path by people who have clearly taken a vehicle to the very tops of mountains. Every year, around this time, priority is given over massive sections of the country to a handful of individuals to kill deer in the name of sport. And it is your duty to watch out for them.

In my opinion, this is all unacceptable. The whole thing reeks of an attitude from landowners that may accept access laws, but only because they have to. This is an attempt to control this access as much as they can.

The following images are from an information sign in place in the Highlands, kindly produced by Scottish Countryside Alliance Educational Trust, Scottish Land and Estates (Helping Rural Scotland Thrive), Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust Scotland and the Cairngorms National Park Authority. It explains the variety of wildlife you can find on our moors, as well as their justifications for killing some of it. My favourite bit is the passive aggressive tick warning at the end. It’s almost trying to put you off. If you get one, Lyme disease will teach you not to come meddling in these parts.

The justification of the burning of the heather is an absolute crime against nature. It should be as punishable as is the illegal chopping down of trees. As if nature needs any help with its own regeneration. This is burning for business; to maximise grouse numbers so they can be shot later. This is a monoculture, pretend biodiversity. The more I look at the land, the more it sickens me and am thankful that projects such as the Alladale Wilderness Reserve and the Creag Meagaidh National Nature Reserve are on the right track. Pockets of the public, and certainly the internet, are beginning to be convinced also that this is the way forward.

This is a land in stagnation, in a perpetual state of near death. It reminds me of the guy in the bed in the movie Seven. He’s not dead yet. He is dry and degraded, yet a few scant forms of life remain on him. A horrible metaphor, but I remain hopeful that one day we will jump up and let the audience leap out of their seats.

But don’t just take my word for it, ask the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust about heather burning.

What would happen on heather-dominated heaths?

A: The current landscape of open heathlands dominated by heather is generally perceived as a ‘natural’ environment, whereas in fact it is the product of thousands of years of management by man. Forests were cleared, and vegetation maintained by grazing and burning to produce the heather-dominated landscapes that now exist. If management in these areas were stopped, heather would become old and degenerate and ultimately be lost, bracken would spread, scrub and tree regeneration would gradually occur, and over many decades it would progress to a vegetation community of shrubs, bushes and trees.

‘A community of shrubs, bushes and trees.’ That sounds not bad…

If you’re interested in making this a reality please visit some Rewilding charities and consider supporting them. There are many throughout the world so you can probably find some relevant to your area if you don’t happen to be Scottish.

Some useful links used during this article.

Live deliberately


Currently listening to: Primordial Arcana the new Wolves in the Throne Room album of course.

Rewild Your Soul

Last Wolf is an entity of our own making, and this suits us best. We are therefore perhaps in a privileged position to discuss some of the more esoteric or mythical aspects of the outdoors and not necessarily the need to follow science or current opinion. For this article we shall be exploring the outer fringes of current buzz word ‘rewilding’. Rewilding is important, essential even. But perhaps it begins within us all and is a far more spiritual manoeuvre than we first thought. Bear with me here, and for anyone not wanting any Game of Thrones plot spoilers, cease reading now.

Certainly one of the biggest cultural phenomenon of the 2010s, George R.R. Martin’s novel series A Song of Ice and Fire has shifted some 90 million copies worldwide and the ensuing TV series was a staggering success, despite its staggeringly shite ending. This was watched by millions of people who would have normally scoffed at watching a fantasy series, let alone read something from the SF/Fantasy section of the local Waterstones. Orcs and goblins may be out but plenty of human genitalia is in.

Any excuse to reuse this picture!

In the world of Westeros and beyond, those who live beyond the wall are called ‘wildings’, meaning ‘savages’; the uncivilised. They are to be feared and kept out, whilst all amount of debauchery goes on at Kings Landing, the centre of civilisation. Royal lines are kept by an incest so secret that everyone knows about. But as we know, the real battle was never against the feared wilding invasion, or the wilding of the civilised world. It was against the white walkers, the Others, vacant deathly spirits whose only motive is death and the real ‘rewilding’ of the known world.

Over a thousand years before Game of Thrones, though part of a similar literature, came Beowulf, the hero of the Old English poem named after him. Beowulf kills Grendel, a monster local to the great hall Heorot, home of the Danish King Hrothgar. Grendel keeps eating the king’s warriors because they are partying too much and enjoying themselves far too often. Beowulf hears of this and leaving his home Geatland, goes off to help the Danes purely to further his own personal mythos and reknown. When they eventually meet, Beowulf tears off Grendel’s arm at the shoulder and Grendel subsequently dies from his wounds.

Picture by Eileen Budd

Quite rightly, this angers Grendel’s mother. Seeking revenge, the next night she attacks Heorot and kills a favoured warrior. Beowulf again hears of this and finds the monsters family cavern deep underwater where they battle fiercely. Grendel’s mother is a much trickier foe but Beowulf eventually chops off her head with a giant’s sword. He finds the corpse of Grendel and removes his head from his shoulders and presents both to King Hrothgar.

The ‘wild’ has been suppressed; the meres and marshes are safe. Strong bonds between the Danish and the Geats are created. Heorot becomes an actual refuge rather than a symbolic one, where light and warmth and culture can continue. The Danes are free to go about their business without this horrendous outside threat and party like its 999. The story is not over for Beowulf though. He becomes a king himself in his own land and fifty years later from the Grendel story, he battles and kills a dragon. But Beowulf himself dies as a result of their encounter.

“The world period of the hero in human form begins only when villages and cities have expanded over the land. Many monsters remaining from primeval times still lurk in the outlying regions, and though malice or desperation these set themselves against the human community. They have to be cleared away. The elementary deeds of the hero are those of the clearing of the field.” Campbell. Pg. 285.

But dragons do not exist. These fantastical ones anyway. More importantly what about real animals that have suffered the most at the hands of man and the death of the wilderness. It is hard to argue against the suffering of the wolves, enemy of man for centuries, if not longer. I wonder where dogs actually evolved from because even going by tales as modern as Disney’s Frozen, beady eyed wolves roam the forest waiting viciously for any passing traveller to harass and presumably eat. Or a snowman with a sausage for a nose.

What are traditional tales really about? Could they really be about the taming of the forest; the loss of the wild. The wild becomes a civilised place for little girls to walk happily to their grandmas. Whilst evil old wolfie will even go as far as wearing grannies clothes to lure the hapless girl who clearly forgot her glasses that day to her doom. Why he has to go to such subterfuge, we’ll never know, but he’s clearly hungry. Is it possible that when the woodsman hero of the story isn’t chopping of wolves heads, he’s busy chopping down the trees, ridding the wolf of its natural habitat and forcing it into the human domain? Sound familiar?

The wolf is the ultimate bad guy. He is devious and manipulative, he attempts to outsmart the humans. He is a threat, and this mind-set has continued into the present day. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, the boy who cried wolf, The Big Bad Wolf. The fear of nature. The fear of the wild. Fear is our natural defence mechanism developed over millennia to ensure our survival and the fear of animals is still in our genes.

I believe we still have a genetic hangover about our very human attitudes towards rewilding. Imagine living in a world in the not too distant past where being prey for a bear, a wolf, or a lion was a reality and being lost in an unknown, pathless forest a likely possibility. Have these Hansel and Gretel type stories made us fear the woods and the wild more than we should?

So learn from this

and understand true values. I who tell you

have wintered into wisdom.

Beowulf. Pg. 119.


Campbell, Joseph. “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, Abacus: Sphere Books, 1975.

Heaney, Seamus. “Beowulf: Bilingual Edition”, Faber and Faber, 2007.

Live Deliberately


Currently listening to: Sentenced’s first album, ‘Shadows of the Past’, 1991