Neil Ansell wrote Deep Country: Five Years in the Welsh Hills, a transporting account of living alone in a remote hut in Wales, which has become a modern classic of nature writing. It was beautifully written, dealing with the choice and personal consequences of human silence and solitude. His descriptions of the nature that surrounded him (and particularly the birdlife) were vivid.
The Last Wilderness addresses many of the same themes. Ansell visits a truly wild area of Scotland in a series of solo trips over a year, and also recalls his journeys all over the world. The silence in this book is not optional. He is losing his hearing. He notices over the year that he can no longer hear the songs of different birds.
He still delights in birds: “I might catch a glimpse of a water rail emerging shyly from among the reeds, or a jewel of a kingfisher driven to the coast by bad weather inland.” His recollections of childhood encounters with nature can also be very funny. A crow lands on his head and he feels very proud, “… and then it drove its beak into the very top of my skull, as if it was trying to crack a nut”. He sometimes reminds me of Chris Packham when he’s talking about this period of his life. Ansell remains engaged with the present, and he reflects as he wanders on the likely impact of climate change on the places he visits. The area explored is around Knoydart, and is remote and wild enough to appeal to anyone with a love of nature and solitude.