In the Western world, the majority of people have become remote from the natural world. Rather than walk the paths and see the vistas from the hills, inhale the smell after summer rain. Or listen to the wind rustling the leaves and hear the sound of water running over rocks, most opt to stay inside, bathed in the blue-white light from their screens rather than absorbing the vitamin D from the sun.
The concept of rewilding in terms of adding the top level predators back into wild has been expertly covered in George Monbiot’s book, Feral. Baker does touch on that at the beginning of the book, but this primary focus in here is getting you out into the forests and on the moors and giving tips to maximise your enjoyment of the places you visit by using all your senses.
The capability of enhancing your senses lies within all of us, something that Baker realised when he had a close encounter with a bear in Alaska and in that moment all his senses came alive. He has various suggestions that will aid you in improving the way that you perceive the world around you. Some of them are sensible, learning to really see what is there, starting to use your ears to hear the myriad of sounds that surround you, even in what most consider to be silence. Not seeing is equally important; spending time in the twilight as it gets dark and letting your eyes adjust, gives a very different perception of the landscape around you; it also heightens your other senses. There are chapters on the senses that we tend to omit when we do venture outdoors, touch and taste.
He recommends walking barefoot along a woodland path and taking time to feel the texture of the things around. Taste is one sense that you rarely use outdoors; something that Terry Pratchett. Summed up in his quote when he said: All fungi are edible. Some fungi are only edible once, but this applied to real life as people generally aren’t willing to take the risk trying things when out in the wild. He does recommend it, tasting different leaves in a sensible and controlled way, but I really wouldn’t recommend slugs as he tried on one trip!!
It is not a bad book overall, he has some useful ideas about how to make ourselves more open to the natural world by using all of our senses as we walk through a glade or up a Tor. The writing is uncomplicated, making it fairly straightforward to read, but it doesn’t sparkle. The addition of the accident that his family suffered from was almost a superfluous addition to the text, it felt like it was shoehorned in. The points he was making were covered elsewhere. Not a bad read, and adds to the collective that getting out in the natural world is good for your soul.