4 out of 5 stars
A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.
It has been a long time since I went to the Lake District, but I remember loving the landscapes and the hill when I was there. We never went to the Eden Valley when we were in the area either, mostly because this was the first time that I thought that I had heard of it. Or so I thought… Turns out that I had read about it before as this is the same location that my favourite artist, Andy Goldsworthy, had constructed his sheepfold art. I was now intrigued by this book.
This blend of art and landscape is a theme that runs all the way through Dick Capel’s books. He is a man who has had many jobs in the past, but in his post as Countryside Manager for the Eden Valley, he has been able to ensure that others can enjoy the landscape in many different ways now.
He begins his journey in this book at the source of the river in the wonderfully named Mallerstang where the water rises from Red Gill and State Gutter. He visits the source every year as a form of personal pilgrimage, and in that March, winter still gripped the land with snow over the moor and ice over the pools. He next heads to the place where the first of the sculptures that he commissioned, Eden Benchmarks, is located. These are by a number of different artists and were raised to celebrate the Millenium in 2000. They do function as benches, but their primary aim is art that interprets the local landscape. It was a project that was to take four years to complete and from the pictures that I have seen online, they are beautiful.
Next, he heads to Pendragon Castle, then Little Ormside, Temple Sowerby and Fiends Fell. I think these are all magnificently named places. Even though he is not particularly religious, he is often drawn to the churches along the river. They fill a spiritual hole for a lot of people like the neolithic sites that are still visible in the landscape.
I really liked this book about a tiny part of Britain that I knew almost nothing about. Capel would not be considered the most lyrical of writers, his style is more matter of fact and ensuring that all the details are covered, What is evident though is his deep love for the landscape of the place and the joy and reaction as people come and see the artworks along the valley. It does what most good books do and that is to make me want to visit the locations. Strongly recommended. You can see the places in the book here.