Because it’s there
- Thursday 6 May 2021
It may come as a surprise to many of you, but years ago (before the climbing) I had an education. I studied Environmental Management in Manchester (Business Studies for vegetarians) and, amongst other tree-hugging fun things, we decided to see what could live in the polluted rivers of the North West. This was the era of acid rain, untreated sewage, Angel Delight, simpler times. I do believe, at a push, you could recycle aluminium cans. There were all the usual jokes about falling in the Irwell and dissolving in it instead of drowning. So it came as something of a shock to find many species of fish, birdlife and rich flora making a go of it in the waterways of a rapidly declining industrial Britain. I also believe that it was knowing nature could come back – and come back quickly – that was often all the motivation conservationists needed to roll up their sleeves. But that’s not what I have to say here.
I spend a lot of time on the South West coast of Ireland, mostly sitting on a clifftop with a pair of binoculars watching the serene Fin Whale – the second biggest animal to ever exist in the universe (as far as we know) – feeding in pods a kilometre or two offshore. We’ve also got Minke, Humpback, Basking Sharks (big animals with very small brains – a bit like Range Rover drivers), dolphins, seals, and otters. Every now and again a local will come over and ask if I lost a loved one at sea (touching). Once they came over with a whiskey and told me it was time to move on. Many that I meet have no idea of the rich life around them viewable from my clifftop perch. A lot of people just don’t know what they’ve got. It’s changing, of course, and for the better. A long-distance trail along the headlands is being proposed, otters are making the news now in the local town, and a couple of enterprising fishermen run boat trips out to the pods of whales and, perhaps more significantly, campaign about fishing. But again, that’s not what I want to say.
This is what I want to say.
Last week we posted pictures of a new book on Instagram and received lots of positive comments before a couple of trolls got involved telling us we were ruining places by encouraging people to go there. I think about this a lot, especially over the last year. Let’s be honest: I sell books because I need to, I have a ridiculous trainer-buying problem, I’ve got staff, printers, and doughnuts to pay for, so yes, we promote books – that’s what we do. We’ve been careful over the last year not to over-promote places where it’s clear our readers would have to travel a long way to get there (say Scotland and Wales for example). We’ve also scaled back some promotional guidebook activity and focused instead on proper ‘reading-books’ (or ‘narratives’, as we call them in the trade). But – and yes, here is the point – I do sincerely think we are better off going for a swim, a walk, a run, or a climb, even if it does mean we are perhaps parking in someone’s usual spot or splashing about in someone else’s bath water. I’d rather be the person to tell people what they’ve got and trust them to explore it themselves as responsibly as they can than cover it up. It’s better folk are exploring our fantastic footpath network, watching Salmon swim up the Mersey or finding their way to your secret swimming spot, because if they know what is there, then they are in a much better position to look after it.
So I’m not done yet. There are more inspiring books to come – why?
Because it’s there.