The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World - Apsley Cherry-Garrard
The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Worst Journey in the World has been on my reading list for a long time.

It’s Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s account of the 1910-13 Nova Terra Expedition to Antarctica, where he was part of a three-man scientific research team that undertook the harrowing Winter Journey to collect the first specimens of Emperor Penguin eggs. This is The Worst Journey in the World of the title.

However the Nova Terra expedition is better known for the explorations undertaken by its leader, Captain Robert Falcon Scott, together with Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Lawrence Oates, and Edgar Evans, who succeeded in reaching the South Pole on 17 January 1912, only to find that Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten them to it. All five men died on their journey back from the pole.

I had hesitated to embark upon The Worst Journey in the World, fearing that Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s autobiographical  analysis of the expedition would be a heavy going account reflecting the attitudes of Empire and the Edwardian era.

Sara Wheeler‘s introduction to the Vintage Classic edition I read dissolved my concerns, and I found this to be a fascinating and heart breaking read.

I’ve added Sara Wheeler’s biography of Apsley Cherry-Garrard – Cherry: A Life of Apsley Cherry-Garrard – to my reading list.

Publisher page: The Worst Journey in the World – Apsley Cherry-Garrard

The Peregrine – J. A. Baker

The Peregrine - J. A. Baker
The Peregrine – J. A. Baker

One Essex winter (or was it ten?), John Alec Baker carefully, methodically, calmly, found and followed the peregrine falcons that made the Chelmsford countryside their home for six months of the year.

Wonderful writing.

“A cock blackbird, yellow-billed, stared with bulging crocus eye, like a small mad puritan with a banana in his mouth.”

(And I am a bit squeamish about birds and dead things.)

This is the book that convinced me I needed to add Nature writing as a new genre category to SparklyTrainers. It’ll be broad, covering wildlife and the countryside.

Publisher page: The Peregrine – J. A. Baker

(Sort-of)Author’s page: J A Baker & The Peregrine – a website about the author, his writing and his Essex environment.

Reviews and related writing

Essex rediscovered: ghosts and falcons on a rural ride – Carol Donaldson, The Guardian, 28 January 2018

Violent spring: The nature book that predicted the future – Robert Macfarlane, The Guardian, 15 April 2017

A precise and poetic paean to the peregrine – Charles Moore, The Telegraph, 24 May 2010


Landmarks – Robert Macfarlane

Landmarks - Robert MacfarlaneSuperb writing on language, landscape and living on the land.

Lots of new words to use (well, to try and remember); lots of new books to read…

Looking forward to fuddling next time at Forty Acres, and to the accuracy of describing my Dolpo Expedition river crossing photos as “Crunching across the frozen mud and skim-ice to wade through the waters of the upper Barbung Khola”.

“Other places” isn’t really the right category/genre for this but it’s the closest I’ve got (other than “Too tricky to categorise” – so I’m going to tick that too….)

Publisher page: Landmarks – Robert Macfarlane

Ring of Bright Water – Gavin Maxwell

My reading of Gavin Maxwell‘s account of his early years at Camusfeàrna alternated between delight at his descriptions of the place, the wildlife and his relationships there, and irritation at the sense of entitlement and privileged displayed in London and on his travels; with Wilfred Thesiger to live with the Marsh Arabs of Iraq and to bring back a wild otter, to Sicily to write a book.

No mention of his relationship with Kathleen Raine whose poem provides the title of the book.

I had borrowed the trilogy but stopped at the end of this, the most well known book.

Publisher’s webpage: The Ring of Bright Water Trilogy – Gavin Maxwell